21 October 2022

State Government put on notice about 'unfair' price tag for historic building

| Chris Roe
Start the conversation
Ambo station

Work continues on Wagga’s new creative hub. Photo: Riverina Arts.

Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr is putting pressure on the State Government to refund the city for the purchase of the old Wagga Wagga ambulance station.

The heritage building on Johnston Street is in the process of being transformed into a creative industries hub called ‘The Ambo’ after it was purchased by Wagga Wagga City Council for $610,000.

However, when it came to light that other councils had been handed similar buildings for the token fee of $1, WWCC asked for an explanation.

READ ALSO The ‘Ambo’ will connect the Riverina’s arts and business for a creative future

Dr Joe added his voice in parliament this week giving notice that he would move that the house acknowledges three things.

“One, that the Wagga Wagga community in the 1920s gifted the former Wagga Wagga ambulance station to the state government, which used this building until a new one was opened in December 2017,” he said.

“Two, acknowledge that the Government has sold the building back to the Wagga Wagga City Council at a considerable cost, despite similar buildings in other communities being gifted back at virtually no cost.

“And three, calls on the Government to give Wagga Wagga the same consideration and treatment it has given to other communities which have been gifted surplus government buildings at almost no cost.”

Dr Joe Mcgurr

Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr wants a refund on The Ambo. Photo: NSW Parliament.

Eastern Riverina Arts (ERA) is in line to take over the building and executive director Tim Kurylowicz has backed Dr Joe’s motion.

“It does seem right and fair for this building to be made available to the community,” he said.

“Because council’s had to pay a high price for this building, they’ve had to pass that on and we are currently being expected to pay a commercial rent to run a community venue.”

While he was confident that The Ambo would be an important connection point between the arts and the community, he said the extra costs impacted the scope of what they could achieve.

“It just limits what we can deliver for the community as a not-for-profit organisation,” he said.

“Were council able to get that money back, I’m sure they’d have more leeway to make this building available to the community at a community price.”

READ ALSO Griffith painter who fought off cancer commissioned to do artwork for cricket World Cup

Work continues on the Johnson Street premises, which had been sitting empty since the opening of the new ambulance station.

With its central location overlooking Wollundry Lagoon, ERA will offer affordable artist studios, exhibition and market spaces and digitally-connected suites to facilitate webcasting, online meetings and broadcast opportunities.

Riverina Murray Business is also involved in the venture and the Wagga Business Chamber will set up shop in the new hub to help creatives connect with commerce.

“Plans are well and truly afoot for a really exciting launch in the first quarter of next year,” Mr Kurylowicz said.

“We’ve been talking to artists and potential users, surveying them and finding out exactly what they’re looking for to make sure that we can offer a whole bunch of services and spaces that help our creative community in making amazing art and establishing some amazing art businesses.”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.