Arts champion suggested to lead the way

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Concept plans of the Invercargill City Council's proposed arts centre development for lower Esk St. Image: Supplied

INVERCARGILL Licensing Trust chairman Alan Dennis believes the arts sector is in desperate need of a leader to take charge of a potential arts hub in the city.

Invercargill City Council (ICC) long-term plan submissions were presented last week with an arts versus sport-type narrative attached to it.

ILT Stadium Southland officials are searching for an extra $300,000 annually from the ICC to help maintain its current operations and the current standard of the venue.

An additional pool at Splash Palace has also been suggested to cater for the growing number of users.

Meanwhile, the ICC has floated the idea of a new $16 million arts centre in Invercargill. Included in the debate is what to do with the Southland Museum & Art Gallery (SMAG) and Anderson House.

At the submission presentations, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt asked Mr Dennis about his thoughts on the perception from some that sport got a better deal than the arts.

Mr Dennis doubles as the ILT chairman and chairman of the Southland Leisure Centre Charitable Trust, which owns and operates Stadium Southland.

He acknowledged sport did get a bigger percentage of the ILT funding pie, but said that was not because of any sort of preference. He felt a collective approach was needed from the various arts groups, including a leader in charge to help make a arts hub work.

“Wearing my licensing trust hat, I can say straight-faced the arts miss out on very, very little.

“Sports are very well organised. Sports are strong and they represent large numbers in the community. They have had a history of being successful with their applications.

“Anyone involved in the arts can correct me, but I don’t know anyone from the arts who has been given shorter amounts for whatever reason.

“We want to be involved in those arts projects as well, as a partner.

“I think as far as SMAG, and all the groups concerned, there has been lots of good people involved. But we haven’t seen anything concrete come out.

“My personal belief is we need to work with SIT (Southern Institute of Technology) and others that have got funding packages – and the arts groups. But we badly need a leader, we need someone to put the stake in the ground that we can wrap around.

“Like it or not, when the stadium started it was the Ray Harpers of this world that suited the time and the place.”

Stadium Southland was initially set up in 2000 as a sporting complex, largely to provide a new home for the champion Southern Sting netball team.

However, stadium officials said it was now multipurpose and offered much more to the community than just sport.

In 2000, 12 sporting events were staged at the stadium. Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt said it now attracted about 70 events annually, with many of those for entertainment or other purposes.

Mr Dennis stressed the stadium provided an economic boost to the city. He pointed to Venture Southland’s numbers where it suggested the 2017 World Sheep Shearing and Woolhandling Championships brought between $6.2m and $7.2m into the province.

Cr Lindsay Thomas asked if other Southland councils had been asked to increase their funding.

“Believe me from my heart, we have squeezed the lemon. We have tried our very best,” Mr Dennis said.

“In our fundraising, we made it very clear that about 50% of the users for shows – according to [TicketDirect] – were rural, and we couldn’t move [those councils].”

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