Making quality theatre accessible to the local community

From Agenda of Surf Coast Council Ordinary Council Meeting – 27 August 2019. (Available here)

The purpose of this report is to determine the future use of the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre and outline the conditions that need to be in place for the future use to be established.

The Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre is located on Beach Road in Surf City Plaza, Torquay. It is currently primarily used for indoor sport and recreation.
The centre will no longer be required for indoor sport and recreation in 2021 when Council delivers the Surf Coast Multipurpose Indoor Stadium in Torquay.

Council and community members have engaged in conversations about re-purposing the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre to make it a dedicated arts facility. Feedback received during the development of the 2019-20 budget and recent conversations with community members reveal that there is a strong desire for a community-led arts facility in the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre.

Council has undertaken two arts facility planning studies (2015 and 2018) with the latter demonstrating this building has the capability to be used as an arts facility including a theatre and exhibition space in the future.

Council is now undertaking a planning study into the scope and location of a new cultural facility which has a library as the core element. Council is undertaking stage 2 of the Torquay Jan Juc Social Infrastructure Study and the Torquay Jan Juc Retail and Employment Land Strategy in this financial year.

The Torquay and surrounding population is undersupplied for cultural facilities. A new cultural facility which includes a library is likely to take many years to plan and build and will come at a substantial cost.

Council has allocated funds in the 2019-20 Budget to help form a collective arts group which may be able to manage a community-led arts facility.

That Council:
1. Determines that the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre be used as a community-led arts facility when it is no longer required for sport and recreation purposes subject to the following conditions:

1.1 A multi-disciplinary arts collective capable of managing the facility is formed.
1.2 The arts collective develops a management plan for the facility to Council’s satisfaction, such that a property agreement could be entered into by Council.
1.3 There are no resolutions of Council identifying an alternate location for an arts facility and/or identifying the facility is required for some other purpose.

2. Receives a report before the end of March 2020 with regards to the status of the conditions above.


The Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre will no longer be required for indoor sport and recreation in 2021 when Council delivers the Surf Coast Multipurpose Indoor Stadium in Torquay.

Council has undertaken two feasibility studies in recent years. The 2015 study was received and noted by Council at the 28 July 2015 Council meeting. The 2018 study was noted by Council on 28 November 2018.

This planning work came to the conclusion that the Torquay and surrounding population is undersupplied for arts and culture facilities and that the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre was building that could be repurposed for a theatre and exhibition space.

The 2018 study produced a concept plan and estimated capital costs close to $2 million for an arts space in the centre. This study identified an annual operating cost of approximately $140,000 for a Council run facility.

This report proposes a different way to meet the needs of the community by pursuing a community-led approach. There is a great deal of new infrastructure needed across Surf Coast communities and Council assesses each project relative to other capital and operational requirements. Council will be faced with future decisions and financial challenges to deliver these facilities.

Members of the arts community have advocated for a community-led arts facility to reduce the time it may take to deliver a Council run art facility. This approach is likely to reduce the capital cost to Council.

After hearing feedback on the 2019-20 Draft Budget, Council allocated $20,000 in this year’s budget to develop governance arrangements for a collective community arts group.
When considering cultural infrastructure in Surf Coast Shire, thought needs to be given to the future of other key facilities, in particular the Surf Coast Library.
Council adopted a Torquay Jan Juc Developer Contribution Plan (TJJDCP) in May 2011. The TJJDCP identified an expanded library as a future project. Levies have been collected from developers for this purpose. This project is a contractual commitment that Council is required to deliver.

Council allocated $65,000 in the 2019-20 Budget to undertake a feasibility study on a future Cultural Facility and Library. The aim of this work is to identify the scope and location of a facility including a library.

The population of Torquay and surrounds requires a library with a floor space of approximately 1,500m2. The current Surf Coast Library is approximately 380m2.

There is enthusiasm and expectation in members of the arts community that Council makes a decision that the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre is an arts facility when it is no longer needed for its current use in 2021.

Council’s 2015 and 2018 arts feasibility studies highlighted the well-researched social and economic benefits of arts facilities. While the population of Torquay and surrounds is undersupplied for arts facilities, Surf Coast Shire has been identified in the top four regions for creative industries in regional Australia (Regional Growth Prospects Research Report – Regional Institute of Australia 2018).

While creative practice is high, there is a great opportunity for more collaboration for local arts practitioners and creative people for wider benefit such as; economic benefit, enhanced place making and improving the artistic offering. A dedicated art facility can help make this happen.

The facility can be repurposed for the arts. However it will not be available before early 2021 – the time sport and recreation activities are intended to be moved to the Surf Coast Multi-purpose Indoor Stadium.

Council’s capacity to make the financial investment and attract other contributions to realise a near $2 million conversion project (as per the 2018 study) is limited. A community-led approach can reduce Council’s capital and operational costs while still helping achieve a community arts facility in Torquay.

In keeping with this revised approach, Council has an opportunity to make a commitment that the facility be used for the arts when it becomes vacant. There are no other alternate uses identified at this time. However, the site is strategically valuable and demands for the facility and/or the land it sits on may change. Indeed, Council may choose to realise the saleable value of the land to fund projects in the future.

In response to public submissions during the budget process, Council identified an opportunity to support the establishment of a representative group of artists and creators that could not only advocate for the creative community but which had the potential to manage an arts facility. No such group currently exists.

Council allocated $20,000 for the purpose of facilitating such a group (an arts collective) to come together.

Several factors therefore combine to suggest Council can take some time reach a final decision on the future use of the facility. These are:

 The centre cannot be used for another purpose until 2021
 It is yet to be proven if an arts collective can successfully form and develop a common purpose and agenda.
 Similarly it is yet to be seen if such a group can develop a workable plan for an arts facility.

Thus this report recommends three conditions attached to a commitment to repurpose the facility for the arts.

With regard to a management plan for the facility, officers consider that an acceptable proposal would address the following questions:

 What is/are the vision/objectives for the arts facility?
 How will this/these be achieved?
 Who will use the facility and how?
 What activities will take place?
 How will decisions about the facility be made?
 How will community/user views be taken into account?
 What resources are required, initially and ongoing?
 How will resource needs be met?

Accordingly the plan would include, but not be limited to:

 Statement of vision, objectives and key actions
 Financial plan informed by reasonable assumptions
 Governance model
 Demonstrated understanding of roles and responsibilities associated with entering into a property agreement with Council (refer to Council policies SCC-033 Use of Council Facilities and SCC-034 Property Use Agreements)
 Facility usage policy and a proposed program of activities/users
 Evidence of community input into and support for the plan
 Marketing and promotions
 Fit-out and equipment

The third condition proposed in this report will help Council to better understand the strategic and economic value of that location as well as if there are opportunities for an arts facility elsewhere.

The Cultural Facility including Library Feasibility Study is about to commence and will look at scope and location for a new multi-million dollar piece of cultural infrastructure. This may uncover that this new Cultural Facility including a Library can accommodate community arts in the future as well as or better than the Sport and Recreation Centre.
The Torquay Jan Juc Retail and Employment Land Strategy may help Council understand the strategic and economic value of the land where the centre is located. This may reveal opportunity costs that need further consideration.

Furthermore, there is a private cinema proposal for Torquay that requires understanding. The scope of this facility may produce opportunities for arts and culture that are not currently being met.

Work on all of these projects will progress over the next 6 – 12 months and there is value in Council checking on progress in early 2019 when more information is available.

The Australian National Surf Museum, Torquay Visitor Information Centre and the Surf Coast Library are adjoining facilities to the Sport and Recreation Centre. The needs of these facilities and their users including access to spaces must be considered if Council pursues a community-led arts facility. Close engagement between a formed collective arts group and representatives of these adjoining facilities must occur. Future plans must not have adverse effects on these facilities and users.

Financial Implications
Council has not factored capital or operation investment for a community arts facility in the Sport and Recreation Centre in the long term financial plan.
External funding for cultural infrastructure is historically difficult to attain. In the lead up to recent elections there wasn’t interest from state or federal politicians to fund the detailed design or conversion of the Sport and Recreation Centre to an arts facility.

Council’s 2018 Feasibility Study identified capital costs close to $2 million and operating costs of $140,000.

While there is a desire for a community-led approach, there may be challenges for a collective community arts group to attract this level of investment and deliver a project of this size. A modified design is likely to be required, at least in the interim. Council may be called upon to advocate for funding or indeed to provide a smaller contribution as well as potentially assist with project management expertise.

The management plan needs to address costs and must include clarity around what is expected finically from Council. One of the core risks for this decision is a plan which has inaccurate costs or lacks clarity about who meets costs or delivers the project.

Council needs to consider the capital and operating costs of an arts facility at the same time as all other costs in its long term financial plan as well as future opportunities and requirements. Council-owned land at the rear of the Surf City precinct is strategically valuable and has a saleable value which could need to be realised in the future.

Council Plan
Theme 1 Community Wellbeing
Objective 1.2 Support people to be healthy and active
Theme 5 High Performing Council
Objective 5.2 Ensure that Council decision-making is balanced and transparent and the community is involved and informed
Theme 5 High Performing Council
Objective 5.4 Ensure the community has access to the services they need

Policy/Legal Implications
A planning permit would be required if the Surf Coast Sport and Recreation Centre was converted to a theatre arts space.

Officer Direct or Indirect Interest
No officer involved in the preparation of this report has any conflicts of interest.

Risk Assessment
There is a risk associated with making this decision in isolation of other topics that Council is currently considering such as; the strategic (economic) importance of the land occupied by the Sport and Recreation Centre, the Torquay Jan Juc Retail and Employment Land Strategy and the Torquay Jan Juc Social Infrastructure Study.

There could be an opportunity costs in making this decision at this time.

If Council doesn’t make this decision there is a risk that this does not meet the expectation of members of the community. There could be a view that Council is taking too long to make a decision when previous planning work has shown this building could accommodate a theatre and exhibition space.

It is worth noting that the centre is not available until 2021. There is time for work to occur that understands potential opportunity costs, provides time for the formation of a collective arts group and the creation of a community-led governance model.

Social Considerations
The social benefits of participating in the arts are well known. A dedicates arts facility can promote and increase participation and bring about these social benefits.

Creative Victoria states that a ‘significant body of research exists on the individual and community-wide benefits generated when people participate in the arts across a range of disciplines. These benefits include better health and wellbeing; social cohesion and self-esteem; less social isolation; civic engagement; community empowerment and determination; better educational outcomes; and increased understanding between cultures’.

Community Engagement
A theatre and dedicated arts facility have been topics that have been the subject of community engagement over recent years. Council’s 2015 study had broad and targeted engagement of over 400 people and a project reference group guided the 2018 Theatre Feasibility Study.

Council received over 60 submissions to the 2019-20 Draft Budget on this topic. Officers and Councillors have held meetings with members of the Torquay arts community between May and July 2019 as the budget was developed and adopted.

Council has allocated funds to establish a collective art group which will require future community engagement.

Environmental Implications
There are no significant environmental implications in considering this decision.

The outcome of this report will be communicated via Council’s communications channels, including Council’s website, social media and media release. Community members who have engaged recently on this topic such as budget submitters and people involved in recent Council studies will be contacted directly. Officers will communicate the outcome of this report to users of the Sport and Recreation Centre.

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