Spending big – but when?


2440 Guggenheim Bilbao 1

The Guggenheim museum (pictured) turned Bilbao from a grimy industrial city into super destination for tourists.

As the million and billion (the deficit) dollar announcements keep gushing out in government statements, the detail that is usually unclear is the timing. But with luck, Alice is going to be streets ahead of Darwin this time in the government money stakes.
A case in point is the significant spending for museums in Alice Springs and Darwin.
Museums is a drab word considering their significance to the two towns: National Indigenous Art Gallery (NIAG) sounds a lot grander for Alice Springs as it is likely to have a pivotal role in turning ‘round the ailing tourism industry.
Trouble is, when?
In his “The Year Ahead” speech in February Chief Minister Michael Gunner spoke about the proposed NIAG as “an architectural symbol of remote Australia”. He has mentioned it many times since.
Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss described it as the “next real game-changing project” for Central Australia.
But far from happening this year, it’s not going to start before 2020/21, with nothing allocated in the current Budget.
What about Darwin?
“The Government’s commitment of $100m to revitalise Darwin’s CBD includes a new art museum in State Square and $50 million towards a larger museum project.
“This is a great outcome for the people of the Northern Territory,” says Marcus Schutenko, MAGNT Director.
He says according to a Deloitte study, the art museum is “expected to increase Greater Darwin’s gross regional product by $212m from 2017 to 2030.
“Tourism revenue would increase by about $400m … create an additional 43 full time equivalent jobs [and] by the 2029/30 financial year the museum could attract between $17m and $43.5m in tourism expenditure annually.”
There is an awfully big gap between $17m and $43.5m, but Mr Schutenko says this has been explained by Deloitte, as there are “high, medium and low scenarios”.
He says: “I think it’s fair to have such a range in best case scenario versus worst case scenario.  How much does it cost to buy a house $300,000 or $1m?”
The 2017/18 Budget includes the Cities Deals for Darwin ($100m) and Alice Springs ($20m). On the face of it this seems a fair split as Darwin has a population of 154,000 and Alice, 28,500.
Darwin’s $100 million is inclusive of both of Darwin’s new museums and is in this year’s Budget – at least some of it.
The two proposed galleries in Alice are not.
But Mr Schutenko says one way of looking at it would be to say, in time Alice will be getting $91.5 million: $50m for the NIAG, $20m for a National Indigenous Cultural Centre, $1.5m for the fossil bones facility in Todd Mall and $20m for CBD revitalisation.
“Alice is certainly the winner on a dollar per population basis when it comes to current cultural infrastructure commitments – $100m for 154,000 people versus $91.5m for 28,500,” he says.
However, the dastardly Berrimah Line syndrome may kick in with the timing and the rate of spending, which will be over four years, as best as we can make out.
Who gets the money sooner, that is question. In the Alice, it can’t be soon enough, says the business community.


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