Canowindra's Age of Fishes Museum needs a $1 million upgrade

RICH HISTORY: Former Australian Museum palaeontologist Dr Alex Ritchie (left) and one of the world's most famous broadcasters and natural historians Sir David Attenborough at the Age of Fishes Museum in 2013. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.
RICH HISTORY: Former Australian Museum palaeontologist Dr Alex Ritchie (left) and one of the world's most famous broadcasters and natural historians Sir David Attenborough at the Age of Fishes Museum in 2013. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Cabonne councillor Cheryl Newsom was unsuccessful in her attempt to convince fellow councillors that a $500,000 grant application for the Age of Fishes Museum in Canowindra should be put on hold until a business case has been made available.

Council general manager Brad Byrnes is midway through the application, which seeks $500,000 from round five of the federal government's Building Better Regions Fund to update and upgrade the popular museum.

The overall cost of the project is $1 million, with the other $500,000 slated to come from the Canowindra Town Improvement Fund.

"Obviously it's quite a substantial amount of money that is to be contributed from the Canowindra Town Improvement Fund," said Cr Newsom.

"I'm just wondering what the business cases is for this, the return on investment for spending $1 million?

"What's the expectation in relation to increase in numbers of people attending?

"Is there a possibility we could defer this until we've seen the business case?"

Councillor Newsom also asked whether the $1 million museum upgrade had been discussed with members of the Canowindra community, and whether it was among the community's top four priorities.

ROCK HISTORY: A selection of fossil fish slabs. Photo: SUPPLIED.

ROCK HISTORY: A selection of fossil fish slabs. Photo: SUPPLIED.

Mr Byrnes told councillors that he would take direction from council on whether to continue with the application, and said any application was due to be submitted by mid-March.

"The business case is being prepared, along with the project brief and the DA, so we haven't completed that information as yet," he said.

He said that council "has a policy in place to go back to the community if we are successful with the grant".

He said council would "consider" any community objections to funds from the Canowindra Town Improvement Fund being used for the museum, but also stated that the museum - including accessibility - needed to be "brought up and augmented to today's standard".

Councillor Peter Batten was one of a number of councillors to speak in favour of the motion to proceed with the grant application.

He said that to attract children to the Age of Fishes Museum it needed to modernise its displays, as they were no longer attractive to younger generations.

Mayor Kevin Beatty said that if the funding application was successful but the community rejected the spending proposal, the grant money would be returned to the government.

He said that visitor numbers at the museum were up, despite the dearth of tourism buses during the pandemic.

The motion was passed and the grant application will be submitted.