SUPPORTERS of the Orange Regional Museum and Orange City Council representatives collectively breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when the federal government officially locked in the $4 million pledged by the former Labor government for the $7 million project.
But despite the windfall, Orange mayor John Davis has not given up hope of attracting more government funding to combine the project with the Southern Skies Earth and Space Centre planetarium.
The planetarium is expected to cost about $10 million, but if it was incorporated into the museum the cost could be around $2.5 million.
Construction on the grass-roofed museum could begin as soon as June next year after detailed designs, costing $200,000, are completed in February and tenders are called in March.
Cr Davis admits it might be hard for the council to attract more government funds, but believes there is no reason work on the planetarium could not start when the 18-month museum build is finished.
“Some people might say if you’re successful they should handicap you,” he said.
“But by putting the planetarium here as well it would be a huge saving and that might get us over the line.”
He was thankful for member for Calare John Cobb’s “undoubted support” of the project and said it was the responsible thing for the new government to look at the projects promised by Labor before committing the funds.
“Our project got signed off on its merits,” he said.
Council’s Community and cultural services director Scott Maunder said the economic and educational benefits of the museum helped secure the funds.
“We had an independent economic assessment conducted ... and for every dollar spent [on the museum] we’ll generate $7,” he said.
“The same demographic that comes to Orange for food and wine comes to Orange for the cultural venues.”
He said the planetarium would not be part of the museum building but could be integrated into the site similar to the regional gallery if funding was secured.
Museum working party chair Cr Neil Jones said the museum and planetarium would benefit from being located together and the museum’s architects were looking at ways of incorporating the two.
Orange Regional Museum Advancement Association (ORMAA) president Elizabeth Griffin said the museum would make Orange’s history accessible to the public for the first time in years.
Orange and District Historical Society secretary Liz Edwards was also thrilled the funds had been locked in and gave all credit to the council and Mr Maunder.
Orange Regional Museum Fund president Russell Tym said it would now be “full steam ahead” to raise $1.2 million for the museum from the community and corporate sponsors.