Councillor Paul Funnell hits out at expenditure of $25,000 on three seats

SCULPTURAL SEATING: Oura Beach's new wooden seating artwork, as displayed by aptly named Wagga artist John Wood. Picture: Wagga City Council
SCULPTURAL SEATING: Oura Beach's new wooden seating artwork, as displayed by aptly named Wagga artist John Wood. Picture: Wagga City Council

A pricey piece of public artwork has drawn the ire of one furious councillor.

Three artistic wooden seats have been installed at Oura Beach at the cost of $25,000 and councillor Paul Funnell, a long-time critic of council’s public art funding, said the project was a prime example of “wasting ratepayers money”.

“We’re borrowing money for all sorts of fundamental services, and yet we’re spending money on public art, it just doesn’t make sense,” Cr Funnell said.

He said the money could have been used in Oura much more wisely.

“They’re screaming out for skatepark or some sort of facility for young people to use,” he said.

“There’s very little for youth do there and yet the best we can come up with is a piece of public art.

“The beach is a great tourist attraction in its own right, but no one is coming to Wagga or Oura to look at art.”

Oura Progress Association president Sue Thomas said that while she held “initial concerns” over how the project would be received, it had drawn a largely positive reaction.

“While we understood that public art comes out of public funding, it was public money which had been set aside for artwork and couldn’t be used for anything else,” she said.

“I’m sure we've got a lot of other things we could’ve used the funding for, but if it's set aside for art, we might as well make the most of it.

“So we focused on making sure it wasn’t going to be art for art’s sake and that it would be something functional.”

The $25,000 project was funded by council’s Public Art Plan, an automatic one per cent of capital works expenditure.

Councillors will finally argue the merits of the controversial public art plan at next month’s meeting, after residents have their say.

Council community manager Janice Summerhayes has stated Wagga has “long been a cultural and creative city” and encouraged people to have their say on the plan.

“Public art is one of the key ingredients in fostering culture and creativity that engages and involves the whole community,” she said.

Public submissions on the plan can be made at www.yoursaywagga.com.au/peoples-panel.