Chester promises to fund arts centre

The long-awaited Latrobe Performing Arts Centre will be built if the Coalition Government is re-elected next month, sitting Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has announced.

Mr Chester has promised the $10 million federal contribution needed to fully fund the project which will feature a new performing arts building on the corner of Church and Grey streets in Traralgon.

Latrobe City Council and the State Labor Government will each contribute $10 million to the $30 million project.

It comes after almost a decade of discussion about the need for a new performing arts centre and debate about its location, with a recent collaborative campaign of community and theatre groups to ‘Get It Built’.

“‘Get It Built’ has worked productively with all three levels of government to make this project a reality,” Mr Chester said.

“The Latrobe Performing Arts Centre will help create local jobs in the hospitality and arts sectors and provide new opportunities for growth.

“The new centre will also attract more people to our region and provide a state-of-the-art facility for local residents to enjoy.”

Dubbed a ‘creative precinct’, the overall project is expected to include meeting and training spaces and the refurbishment of the existing adjacent Little Theatre and Town Hall. 

Get It Built spokesperson Dan Clancey said the group was “delighted” with the commitment.

“It’s good that people see it’s not just an arts project, it’s an economic project and infrastructure project which brings dollars to the area, brings people to want to come and work here in the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Clancey said.

He said the current arts building, made up of the Little Theatre and Town Hall was limited by 220 seats and was ageing.

“With the new theatre, 760 seats… it becomes a hub of people wanting to come and work here and develop new work here…artists, audience members, as well as the community who will use the place.”

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said a new performing arts centre in Traralgon would ensure the region was no longer bypassed by people travelling to shows in Sale and Warragul.

Traralgon Community Development Association acting president Bronwyn Kerr said the group had “worked long and hard” to see the project come to fruition.

“The little theatre, while it has served its purpose in the past, the population has grown, demand has grown and we think the region is entitled to an adequate performing arts centre as other regions have,” Ms Kerr said.

Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash said regional towns needed access to high quality community centres that rivalled those in the big cities.