The Busselton community remains divided over plans for a multimillion-dollar performing arts centre as the council forges ahead with construction plans. This month the City of Busselton council voted 7-2 in favour of the hotly debated Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre in full in a bid to continue its push to make Busselton the events capital of WA. Plans for the state-of-the-art facility, which is set to become the City’s biggest-ever capital expenditure, have divided the community in recent years, with concerns raised about the financial impact it could have on ratepayers. Friends of the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre spokeswoman Lisa Massey said the council had made the right decision to move forward with the plan, given the benefits the project would bring would outweigh the initial cost. “Although people not involved in the performing arts think it’s not very big, in reality it’s huge in Busselton and it’s been a real wave outwards from this area into other regions over many, many years, particularity in dance and film,” she said. “We could become the centre of the film industry, music or performing arts — just look at how successful CinefestOZ is every year — so a facility like this would just build on that and bring opportunities for the town. “It would also add a lot to the town centre. There’s not much activity in between the restaurants and cafes — there’s no movement. We believe the performing arts centre will draw people into town, hang around, take the opportunity to gather with loved ones, not just for a show but then ultimately take their business to local restaurants, bars and cafes before and after. “I do think that once the building is started, once it’s finished, all the naysayers and negative feelings around the facility will fade away and we will realise what we now have for our future.” Ms Massey said the arts centre cost was a one-off project, unlike the growing sporting facilities which were supported without question over the years. The debate surrounding the facility heated up in June when tenders for its construction blew out by $13 million, more than 50 per cent of the original budget. The new $38m construction price tag became the centre of contention, with Bay to Bay Action Group acting president Gordon Bleechmore warning the price would continue to soar, placing undue pressure on rates. “The council seem to want to build at any cost. We’re seeing other performing arts centres fully funded by the State Government and it’s unfair for us to be burdened with significant debt,” he said. “This is not a $38m project — between the landscaping, fit-out, and everything else that comes with a project, it’s likely to top $50m. “In addition, from the City’s own survey, it’s clear a majority of the community do not want this facility and do not want this debt. “Never before has the city had such a heavily ratepayer-funded project. “I appreciate people have passion about wanting a performing arts centre, but they don’t understand the impact of what’s going on and the long-term impact this financial decision will have on us all, councillors and ratepayers alike.” Since the council’s decision, the City has contacted pre-qualified tenderers to review their tender pricing of the centre, allowing them to provide alternative construction and material options without compromising the project’s functionality. It’s anticipated the tender process will take about three weeks, with early indications showing some of the tenderers are interested in providing revised tenders.