Funds shift finishes terminal talk

Jackson Lavell-Lee and Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

The campaign to build the Busselton-Margaret River Airport passenger terminal is all but dead, with the City of Busselton seeking to shift $9.5 million in State Government funding for its own proposed arts and entertainment centre instead.

The State Government has withheld the terminal funds until Jetstar flights from Busselton to Melbourne are proved successful after a three-year run.

The $30.3m Busselton Entertainment Arts and Cultural Hub project has already secured $10.35m in Federal funding and a further $10.45m from a low-interest loan taken out by the City.

Mayor Grant Henley said the City had worked with the State Government to explore other funding options to meet the $9.5m shortfall.

“The repurposing of terminal funding is a potential outcome that the City has asked the State Government to consider,” he said.

“The City has suggested that the $9.5m originally earmarked for the terminal construction be repurposed to the BEACH, noting the economic benefit associated with the project, particularly in the post COVID-19 environment.

“However, it will be up to the State Government to determine if and where the funding will be repurposed.” Busselton ratepayers have voiced concerns about the prospect of cost overruns and an upward pressure on rates from the project.

“The City claims the BEACH will have in year two over 100,000 visitors each paying $65 per person, but the costs are underestimated, and it could lose $2m er year based on the same pro rata stats as the BREC (Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre),” ratepayer Michael Jones said.

Similar concerns have plagued the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s redeveloped Heart venue, with the full annual running cost of the centre still unknown, but — prior to the pandemic — projected at about $1.1m in its first year.

Shire president Ian Earl said the BEACH would complement, not compete against, the Heart.

“I will be happy for the money to (go to) the BEACH project if that gets off the ground first, as it probably will,” he said.

“The Heart and the BEACH will be able to work together to bring shows to our region, as they will with the Bun-bury Regional Entertainment Centre.”

Mr Henley confirmed that construction of the centre could result in a rate increase.

“Construction of the BEACH and ongoing operations will have an impact on rates as modelled in the long-term financial plan,” Mr Henley said.

The 600 seat entertainment centre has been proposed since 2008.

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