St Kilda Festival to continue as planned in 2013

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THE St Kilda Festival will go ahead next year, but may rely on state government funding beyond 2013.

At a marathon council meeting on Monday night, outgoing mayor Rachel Powning said the government would need to ‘‘rise to the challenge’’ to ensure the festival’s survival.

The council recognised the festival as an event of state significance, paving the way for the next Port Phillip council to lobby the state government for funds.

Councillors voted to acknowledge that the festival, in its current form, was not sustainable. It passed a motion that council officers explore other ways to support art and culture in the community.

The move comes two weeks after the council revealed a cost blowout for running the festival, including a forecast of $1.2 million to run the 2013 event – blowing the council’s budget by more than $300,000. The state government currently chips in $109,000.

Deputy mayor Frank O’Connor introduced a motion on September 11 that included the option to get rid of Festival Sunday, the main attraction of the eight-day event, which brings about 400,000 people to St Kilda and $14 million into the local economy.

But at Tuesday’s council meeting, the last before local government elections next month, councillors voted unanimously to keep the festival for at least another year.

Port Phillip mayor Rachel Powning said the festival would be a ‘‘challenge for the incoming council’’.

‘‘It’s now costing us $1.2 million for one day. That’s close to our total spend to childcare in the city. I can’t see how that is acceptable for one day,” she said. “We need to put it on the table for the state government to rise to the challenge. If we could just get $1 million from the Grand Prix, how significant would that be?”

Fourteen speakers, including representatives from local traders groups, the St Kilda Live Music Community and the St Kilda Tourism Association board, were among those to address the council last night on the importance of retaining the festival.

They criticised the council for a lack of consultation over the proposal to scrap next year’s flagship Sunday event.

However, Cr O’Connor said it would have “been more irresponsible to ignore fiscal responsibility”.

‘‘It was not until July 24 that we found out there was no sponsorship money. I make no excuse for raising this in the way I did two weeks ago … at the last minute.”

He said proceeding with the 2013 festival in its current form was not the preferred option but ‘‘one I can live with”.

“We’ve got a product that people don’t want to put money in. Hence we need to rethink and reshape it to get value for ratepayers’ money,’’ he said.

Catani Ward councillor Serge Thomann said he was pleased the 2013 festival was going ahead and that it would have been a ‘‘slap in the face’’ to the community to cancel it without consultation.

He said the council should ask the Melbourne community for financial support, raising crowd funding as a possible solution. ‘‘Hopefully we will find a saviour in the next two to three months.’’

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