Bunbury City Council has deferred a decision on Bunbury Regional Art Galleries’ future following heated comments at its meeting this week.
The council was on Tuesday set to receive a governance review of the art facility, vote on continuing to own and operate it and support forming a foundation to generate funding for the galleries.
Before the agenda item was even moved during the council’s meeting, Cr Michelle Steck put forward a motion to defer any decision saying it was “premature” and councillors needed to be “very careful”.
Mayor Gary Brennan was forced to seek advice from council staff after Cr Steck and Cr Karen Steele questioned Mr Brennan’s attempt to get the agenda item on the table before the motion to defer it was considered.
Cr Steck’s motion was accepted and the council voted 7-3 in favour of deferring its decision to the end of July.
The in-depth and independent governance review reveals some startling comments about the facility including concerns around bureaucracy, the way the previous art galleries board was dismissed and limited funding opportunities.
The council stopped funding the galleries’ board and took control of management in February 2014.
The facility is even described as “dead and unwelcoming” in one submission of the review.
Mr Brennan told the South Western Times the review was a timely and routine periodic review and he had no concerns with how the facility was governed or its funding opportunities.
Mr Brennan said he acknowledged the concerns about how the previous board was dismissed, but that it was “ancient history now”.
“That was a decision the council of the day made more than five and a half years ago and the current governance model is working very satisfactorily,” he said.
He also said he did not believe the galleries’ reputation had been adversely affected.
“I think based on the number of exhibitions, activities and attendances, that’s demonstration enough that BRAG is operating really well,” he said.
“Notwithstanding some are of the view that it’s not and I respect that, but I don’t agree with it.”
In debating to defer the matter, Cr Steck questioned how a proposed foundation – recommended to the council to provide funding opportunities such as acquisitions, art prizes and events – would work.