NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has told Parliament that the $12 million Riverina Conservatorium of Music project stage one in Wagga will be completed next year.
Mr Harwin spoke in response to questions from Labor MLCs, who asked for updates and contractual details on the $30 million, two-stage project that is now subject to an anti-corruption investigation.
The NSW government grants to the conservatorium in 2018 are now part of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings, due to start next week, into allegations against former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Ms Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the matters being investigated by ICAC, which include claims that she had a conflict of interest while overseeing grants that would benefit her secret boyfriend at the time, then Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
On Thursday, opposition arts spokesman Walt Secord asked Mr Harwin about the project in NSW Parliament's upper house.
"What is the current status of the funding for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music and will you respond to community concerns in Wagga that the project is now in jeopardy due to your government's handling of the project?" Mr Secord asked.
Mr Harwin responded that the government-owned site at 1 Simmons Street in Wagga, was "undergoing a $12 million refurbishment to provide a new home for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music".
"These works are the stage one works for the conservatorium and once completed, the premises will be leased to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music."
Mr Secord moved to ask a supplementary question after opposition MPs yelled out 'What about stage two?"
The NSW government announced in February 2018 that it has allocated $10 million to relocate the conservatorium from Charles Sturt University's old South Campus site off Hely Avenue to the former Roads and Maritime Services building on Simmons Street.
That was followed by $20 million, announced in August 2018 during the Wagga by-election triggered by Mr Maguire's resignation, to build a recital hall for up to 300 people, an exhibition area for large events and a specialised early childhood music education centre at the new location.
The conservatorium has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the grants.
Mr Secord asked Mr Harwin when stage one would be completed and asked for further details on the contractual arrangements.
"Early works have been completed and refurbishment works will start on site in September 2021 with completion forecast in mid-2022," Mr Harwin responded.
Labor deputy upper house leader John Graham asked "what was happening" on stage two.
"You announced it; where is it?" Mr Graham asked.
Mr Harwin responded that there was a "conditional commitment" for stage two in the form of a $20 million recital hall and ancillary facilities for the conservatorium.
"Stage two was subject to a formal project cope and costings. This process is being led by the Department of Regional NSW, and thus falls within the responsibilities of the Minister for Regional NSW, the Deputy Premier [Paul Toole].
"Create NSW is not involved in stage two. Regional conservatoriums are independent, not-for-profit organisations that received operating funding through the Department of Education and fall within the responsibilities of the Minister for Education [Sarah Mitchell]."
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