Wagga City Council will review turning public art reserve into a fund for other community works

FRESH concerns have been raised over whether Wagga’s public art reserve has been allowed to collect too much money, as the green light was given to review its merits.

On Monday night, Wagga City councillors considered a motion, put forward by Councillor Paul Funnell, to review the option of opening up the art reserve to other community projects.

Since 2008, one per cent of all public works funding has gone into an untouchable piggybank, used for the creation of public art works.

The reserve, which currently sits at $239,309,  has attracted controversy due to the cost and selection of certain art pieces. 

Cr Funnell said he had supported council’s introduction of the public arts reserve program, however,  the report was about questioning whether “the pendulum has swung too far”. 

“It is not about dismantling it," he said. "It is about curbing it."

Another councillor also questioned whether the art reserve had been allowed to gather too much money.

Councillor Julian McLaren said there was a possibility the fund was operating “under the law of diminishing returns”. He said there was public frustration over art being erected in sparsely-populated areas, and then community work being delayed in other areas. 

“It is spent on artworks because the money is there,” Cr McLaren said. 

“In the community’s mind, they see lots of money being spent under the law of diminishing returns.” 

But Public Art Advisory Panel member and Councillor Kevin Poynter fired back, and said the claims were “completely inaccurate”.

He also accused Cr Funnell of trying to “create a bucketful of money that we just dip into on an ad-hoc basis”. 

“[Cr Funnell] actually likes the model, but wants it spent on something else,” Cr Poynter said. 

Support of public art was needed to create a lasting memory for Wagga’s visitors alongside other civic attractions, such as galleries, Councillor Greg Conkey said. 

“What do people remember when they come to this city,” he said. 

“Dare I say, they remember our public art.”  

Despite an attempt by Cr Poynter to amend the motion to look at wider funding options for public works besides the art reserve, council resolved to request the review.  The report on whether it should be turned into a fund for community works will be tabled for councillors in the coming months.