$47 MILL: SDRC divided over botanical gardens’ whopping cost
A MASTERPLAN for the Stanthorpe Botanical Gardens has divided Southern Downs councillors, who were shocked by the project's $47,000,000 price tag.
The eight-stage proposal was presented to SDRC in today's ordinary meeting, detailing the community's initial wants for the gardens.
Mayor Vic Pennisi was hesitant to disregard the project too quickly, weighing up the hefty cost with the extensive work undertaken by designers.
"I think it's up to the community to advise us if they really want one of these or not," Cr Pennisi said.
"I know there's been a passionate group of people who have done this, and I commend their work.
"However, there is a huge budget implication to us. It's a lot of money, it's a whole heap of money and as I've said in these chambers before - is it our core business and should we be focusing on it?"
Councillor Jo McNally was in agreeance, believing further community consultation was the only way to move forward with the 38-hectare gardens.
Under the current plan, the gardens would include eight unique areas: a cultural precinct, cultural building, village green, Jean Harslett Wetlands, event precinct, Indigenous story gardens, community hub, and Anzac memorial gardens.
Councillor Stephen Tancred suggested SDRC should take more time to consider whether the gardens were a truly necessary investment.
"Under the current financial circumstances, we need to send a message to our residents, CEO, his officers and proponents of the gardens that the time has come for us to prioritise needs and not wants," Cr Tancred said.
"$47-million botanical gardens is a really big want and I would love to see the whole plan approved, funded, and built, as I know everyone at this table does.
"But, I would suggest it's time to hit the pause button on this project."
While Cr Pennisi was understanding towards responses from around the table, he remained firm on the council's purpose in serving the community.
"I am loathe to disempower communities, it is absolutely critical that we empower them to come forward with their aspirations," Cr Pennisi said.
"Killing it right here and now will send a message to the community that irrespective of what they bring to us, we're going to say no."
An eight-week community consultation will be undertaken after councillors Pennisi, McNally, Marco Gliori, Andrew Gale, Cameron Gow, and Sheryl Windle voted in favour of the motion.