The proposed plans for a stage in the Marie Bashir Park have been amended by the Narrandera Shire Council, with the Council voting to instead apply for a grant to purchase a portable stage.
Considerable debate occurred over three options for the stage; option one was for the corner of Twynam and Adams Streets; option two, the south east side of the park oval, and option three, a portable stage. The staff recommendation made to Council was to adopt option one. An initial attempt was made to pass the recommendation, but it lapsed.
Mayor Neville Kschenka moved to change Council proceedings to a meeting style, so that councillors could discuss the issue more freely and not be bound by formal Council proceedings.
“The stage has been on for at least 18 months,” said Cr Tracey Lewis.
“I feel that the Council has listened to the community and have acted according to what the community wants,” Cr Lewis said.
Cr Lewis has been very vocal at past Council meetings in her support for option two.
“I think if you will look at these more recent surveys, option three is now the more popular option,” said Cr Narelle Payne.
Cr Payne made the point that while the stage has been in the works for a while, the feasibility and reliability of a portable option has only been a recent development.
“I think in terms of value for money, you get far more value in a portable option. Once option three came up as a viable option, I believed it was the right option.”
Cr Wesley Hall voiced his disapproval of a portable stage, saying that a recent petition suggested over 200 people wanted a permanent stage.
“I understand the portable stage is an option. I’m happy to have option two. I do think that if we build a permanent stage then option two is the most popular,” Cr Hall said.
Cr Barbara Bryon refuted Cr Hall’s claims about the survey results.
“The petition that came through was similar to the letter that came through – they were more about wanting a stage. I believe the petition is invalid.
“I’d like to speak against the stage on the fence. It breaks up the line of the park. Shade is an issue. I think it would be an ugly addition to the park,” Cr Bryon said.
Cr David Fahey made the valid point that the portable stage would be able to appease many groups.
“The great thing about the portable stage is that it is a means to test the waters. It’s a chance to test those sites, as well as get a bit of social equity around the shire.”
Cr Fahey pointed out that the problem with a large piece of infrastructure like a stage was that the public might not realise its effects on its surrounds until it is built, whereas the portable stage could allow for both the Council and the public to find a better place for a permanent stage further down the line.
“It’s a way to park it in these places to see if it looks all right. It’s a way to test who wants it and where. Look at Rockin’ on East. It was a great festival and there were great bands, but there was a semi-trailer parked across a street. It can be used all around the shire.
“A portable stage, if it’s not being used, we can always sell it later,” Cr Fahey said.
“But who’s responsible for it?” Cr Bryon said. “Do people pay for it? What about power? Who backs it into funny corners?”
General Manager George Cowan weighed up the possibilities.
“It could be set up and removed by Council staff, or suitably trained people representing a community group,” said Mr Cowan.
Other Councillors pointed out that a portable stage could be hooked up to any power source, or even a generator.
“All these smaller places around the Shire are farming towns,” Cr Payne pointed out. “You’re telling me a person can drive a $400,000 header and not this?”
Cr Tammy Galvin said that a portable stage would be able to create opportunities for smaller communities who might only need its services a few times a year.
“I think this is a great opportunity to address some of the issues with our youth. We could get a big name band to come and play in one of our towns. We’re making it too hard, and we don’t need to be,” Cr Galvin said.
“I think we’ve given it a good go,” Cr Hall said. “Up until a few months ago we were all happy with a permanent option. A lot of money has been spent on designs for a permanent stage. Due diligence has been done, and to change our minds at the last minute is poor leadership.”
The motion to buy a portable stage passed the council, although Councillors Hall, Bryon and Kschenka wanted their votes against the motion recorded.