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Justifying funding

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April 22, 2017

Shepparton’s growing Botanic Gardens will only ever be finished if it continues to be allocated funding, the site’s committee chair says, in welcoming a further $100000 contribution in next year’s Greater Shepparton City Council draft budget.

Former mayor Jenny Houlihan stressed the project was getting significant value out of each cent allocated to the project and that the further $100000 investment into the gardens for the next financial year would enable the committee to move the project forward.

At this week’s council meeting, where a gardens annual report was endorsed, with councillors highlighting benefits of the site and the road leading to the gardens changed to the more appropriate Botanic Gardens Ave.

‘‘The gardens will be completed when enough is allocated,’’ Ms Houlihan said.

‘‘It’s a matter of funding.

‘‘It’s not a matter of planning or time, it’s a matter of budget,’’ the former mayor added.

But some continue to harbour concerns about the long-term funding demands and pose questions about the project’s completion date.

Cr Fern Summer, while stressing the gardens remained a ‘‘fantastic project’’ said questions lingered about the cost of the site to maintain, questioned when construction would be completed and queried whether there were ongoing visitor number projections.

The site needed to be well marketed and hoped for investment to see a return, all in a climate of rate capping and close competition for funding, Cr Summer said.

Ms Houlihan highlighted the gardens’ ‘‘significant development’’ during the 2015-16 year, the site’s positive tourism potential and said visitor numbers — and awareness of the site — was already on the increase.

It was already becoming a tourism destination, she said with regular visitors from around the state now that the site was being promoted and awareness was spreading.

The council has in the past stressed the gardens was a council project, that it would continue to be supported and that the financial contribution would be determined on a year-to-year basis.

After the current financial year’s allocation looked at risk of being halved last year, the 2016-17 draft budget process saw an outpouring of support from the community for the gardens to keep the $100000 allocated to it.

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