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Briefing sought on gallery plans

HOPES of a Liberal government commitment to the Newcastle Art Gallery development have been revived, but the party’s candidate says she wants a detailed briefing on the project to ensure it stacks up before making any promises.

Under the Baird government’s plans to lease the ‘‘poles and wires’’, a $600million ‘‘cultural infrastructure’’ fund would be set up, opening up a potential funding pool for Newcastle’s gallery redevelopment after past attempts to secure state support failed.

Cathy Tate, part of the Save Our Cultural Institutions Committee, said the project now needed $14million, after a $7million federal grant expired and had to be handed back when the state government failed to match the support.

Without wanting to debate the merits of electricity privatisation, she said such a cultural fund, if on offer, should include a slice for Newcastle.

‘‘If the money is there, we want it,’’ she said.

This week the government also pledged $12million towards a Central Coast performing arts centre.

Mrs Tate said she expected it would be a ‘‘no brainer’’ for Liberal candidate for Newcastle Karen Howard to back the project, after pledging her support as an independent candidate for the October byelection.

But Ms Howard said on Friday she would seek a detailed briefing from gallery supporters about the status of the plans before committing to a position, and that the previous pledge had involved lending her support to the city’s cultural institutions rather than the gallery specifically.

‘‘I think I would be encouraging the Baird government to support anything that could encourage the city’s revitalisation,’’ Ms Howard said.

‘‘However, I’m conscious of the history with this proposal and the wildly varied cost estimates that are floating around.

‘‘I want to understand the facts before going further,’’ MsHoward said.

Labor has previously committed the $14million.

Despite questions about any part former lord mayor Jeff McCloy’s had in torpedoing state support for the proposal, a parliamentary inquiry found this week that the Liberal government had ‘‘never committed’’ to provide any funds.

The inquiry ‘‘did not consider that there has been any undue influence’’ on the state government’s position, and no evidence had surfaced to substantiate claims otherwise.

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