5 July 2024

‘Three-quarters pregnant’: Leeton Council to kick in $800,000 to continue $13 million Roxy Theatre redevelopment

| Oliver Jacques
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Roxy Theatre front on shot

The new Roxy Theatre is set to open by March 2025. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Leeton Shire Council will kick in $800,000 of its own funds to progress the redevelopment of its iconic Roxy Theatre, after the Federal Government rejected its application for a $2.2 million grant.

The 1930-built art deco structure is being redone to include an enhanced foyer, two cinemas and a performing arts school. After many delays and setbacks, the revamped facility is scheduled to be reopened in March 2025.

The request to source additional council funding was made by the Roxy Project Management Office after the project did not make the Federal Government’s final cut under its Growing Regions program funding in May.

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Deputy Mayor Michael Kidd brought the request to council for a vote at its June ordinary meeting – which narrowly passed four votes to three.

Along with Mr Kidd, Mayor Tony Reneker and councillors Tracey Morris and Paul Smith supported the motion.

Councillors Tony Ciccia, Matt Holt and Krystal Maytom voted against it, while councillors George Weston and Sandra Nardi were not in attendance, with Cr Weston having declared a conflict of interest and Cr Nardi an apology.

The extra $800,000 in council funding will be made up of $532,000 already sitting in current council reserves, while $268,000 will be sourced from anticipated developer contributions for 2024/25.

The decision brings council’s total investment in the project up to $6.51 million or 51 per cent of the total project cost. The rest (49 per cent) is funded by grants – meaning the total cost will be just under $13 million, substantially more than the original estimated cost of $4.45 million when the project was conceived in 2018.

“This is not talking about borrowing money, it’s about accessing money that is sitting in reserves; it’s sitting in mum’s milk purse,” Deputy Mayor Michael Kidd told the meeting.

“If we leave it for 12 months, costs will go up 30 per cent.”

Councillor Tracey Morris agreed.

“It’s like if you’re three-quarters pregnant – are you going to have this baby or are you going to keep time?” she asked.

“We’ve gone too far to get cold feet … we have spent a lot of time and effort on this; this is a 90-year intergenerational asset.”

Construction site inside the Roxy building

Work being done on the Roxy Theatre interior. Photo: Leeton Shire Council.

While ultimately supporting the proposal, Mayor Reneker expressed some concerns.

“It’s a worthwhile project, but there’s a lot of other projects in town that aren’t as glamorous as the Roxy that also need funding,” he said.

“We are spending money before it arrives; I don’t do that at home.”

He said the decision was very difficult to make, with councillors feeling like they were over a barrel.

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Leeton Council General Manager Jackie Kruger said the additional $800,000 was still short of the $2.2 million goal. However, it would bring the Roxy II theatrette, upstairs dressing room, management office and rehearsal (green) room to a useable, “warm shell” stage.

“Council staff will continue to look for grant opportunities for discrete elements of the remaining projects and the Roxy Redevelopment Committee has mobilised a subcommittee to help raise additional funds locally,” she said.

She said completion of the first stage of the project was well on track with the painting of the auditorium nearly finished. The floorboards over the new concrete base will be laid soon, followed by the dress circle carpeting and seating installation.

Ms Kruger said the launch of the new Roxy Theatre was planned for March 2025. A video tour of the latest progress will be released within a fortnight.

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