Funding for three local projects in Wakefield Regional Council get the green light

IT’S lights, camera, action at Blyth Cinema after its proposed expansion was announced as one of three successful projects in the Wakefield Regional Council (WRC) area to receive funding from the Federal Government’s Drought Communities Program Extension.

The Blyth Cinema expansion will receive funding of $350,000, which will see a second cinema added to the already popular venue, and a sealed carpark for patrons.

Chairman of Blyth Cinema Ian Roberts, was thrilled to learn the funding was approved, and said there were several reasons for wanting a second theatre.

“We can ask for movies on the same date as Adelaide releases, which is especially important in school holidays when some movies are denied our facility until at least four weeks after release, when we have a popular movie, and we will be able to give patrons a choice of movies, particularly from Fridays to Sundays, so families with different movie preferences can all attend,” Ian said.

“We will also be able to continue to screen popular movies for as long as people want to keep coming, as presently we have to stop once the next weekly movie takes its place.

Ian expects this move will not only offer more screenings, but will help the cinema employee at least one full-time employee, who will be able to better attend to patrons and bookings.

The cinema is big business in the Mid North, with 15,000 people visiting each year, and about 140,000 visiting since it opened back in 2005.

“Blyth Cinema has become a jewel in the crown of entertainment in the Mid North – popular with visitors and locals alike,” WRC mayor, Rodney Reid said.

“The investment in a second cinema is not only a great boost for the town and the Wakefield region but also country South Australia as it shows that small communities, by working as one and persevering, can enrich the quality of life for all.”

Other projects to receive funding were Owen silo artwork project, $100,000, and Hamley Bridge and Balaklava main street project, $550,000.

Owen silo committee chairman, Graham Duncan, said the committee was ecstatic with the funding, with a project they hope will put Owen and Balaklava areas ‘back on the map.’

The original concept for the painting of the town’s silos has changed considerably from the initial draft, but is still in keeping with the historical theme of ‘Wheat bags to Sand bags’.

“We have included popular responses from the community, that include Anzac, agriculture, women and children, with artist Alf Hannaford to supervise the painting of the artwork,” Graham said.

Graham said pretty much everything ‘is ready to go’, however current border closures are proving to be difficult for artist, Cam Scale, who lives in Queensland.

“We can’t access him as yet due to border lockdown, and Viterra will be using the silos for harvest from September, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens in regards to starting the project, which would take around six weeks to complete.”

The total cost of the project is around $130,000, with another $20,000 required to be set aside for maintenance.

Graham also said live streaming will keep everyone up to date once the process starts.

WRC will contribute an additional $450,000 to the grant funding of $550,000 for a $1 million project to ‘activate the centres of both Hamley Bridge and Balaklava, as meeting places for people.’

“Consultation on the main streets project was postponed due to the social distancing restrictions but, with the funding confirmed, we will look to kickstart town engagement soon,” mayor Reid said.

WRC is meeting on May 27 with Michael McKeown (Jensens Plus) to consider his recommendations for both main streets.

“These projects could be game changers: they will attract people to the area, engage local contractors (where possible) and stimulate the economy,” mayor Reid said.

The COVID-19 restrictions may have an impact on the timing of the projects but WRC will continue to work with the communities and the Federal Government to ensure work can be delivered in a timely way.