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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19921

Mr BAIRD (4:54 PM) —Last summer a major sand sculpting exhibition was held in Cronulla, which is in my electorate. I was very happy to support this particular event because all benefits would be going to charity. Sand sculpting is a particularly Australian summer event which turns beachside communities into virtual museums of sand sculptures, and this was a particularly outstanding one. The event received considerable publicity including photographs on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and the St GeorgeSutherland Leader. Local community leaders were enthusiastic about the staging of this event. In fact, some 91,000 people paid entry fees to get into the exhibition. It took over $304,000 in revenue and was staffed by over 300 volunteers from various charitable groups, particularly the Rotary organisation.

The sand sculptures were impressive, with sand sculptures of the Taj Mahal and of African and Australian scenes. The general quality was outstanding. The Cronulla Rotary Club enthusiastically supported the project and several local companies provided special funding to assist the project. But it was with total disbelief when I recently learnt that this event actually cost the community $30,000, and I would like to recommend that an inquiry take place to determine where the money went and who were the recipients of the amount that was spent. Charities are a very important integral part of our community and need to be supported, but not at the expense of local residents. Surprising to me was the fact that I was told by the organisers, at the opening reception several weeks after opening, that they were about to break even. The exhibition ran for several weeks after the reception, which would have suggested to me that there would be a substantial profit.

The exhibition was held in January at the very popular and heavily used Dunningham Park. This is one of the best areas in Cronulla for families to come to and enjoy the surrounds and a picnic by the water. The location was very kindly donated by Sutherland Shire Council at an estimated cost to the community of an additional $20,000. They provided a separate grant of ratepayers' money of some $30,000 for this, and the sand, which was quite extensive, was provided by a local sand producer, the Holt organisation.

It was quite right for Sutherland Shire Council to support this event if it was to be a charitable event and all of the funds were going to charity. The exhibition was enjoyed by many people in the Sutherland shire and it was much talked about. When funds are being raised for charitable organisations such as Vision Australia and the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales, one would normally be very supportive. So where has all the money gone when so much was given to the event in kind? Why were local artists not used to showcase the event? These are important questions which need answers.

Over $100,000 was given to attract sculptors from overseas. There was a travel bill of more than $10,000, including airfares and taxis, for bringing people from overseas and locally. I think the fact is the organisers simply lost sight of the fact that the simple goal of the event was to raise money for charity. That then prompts me to ask: why weren't Australian sculptors used, as transportation costs would then not have been involved and the cost of underwriting the visits of the overseas sculptors would also not have been involved? The quality of the sand sculptures was excellent, and that is without question. But clearly all the money was going to the organisers, some for their own overseas travel; it was not only the sculptors who were involved in that but those who organised it.

The Cronulla Rotary Club was responsible for organising and providing a big contingent of the volunteers. When the club was told by organisers of the event that the net income would be `about $70,000' Rotary's response was very supportive. Even a Vision Australia spokesperson has been quoted as saying, earlier this year, that the `event surpassed expectations' and `you could say we were very pleased with the result'. Why wouldn't they be when we have seen all these overseas trips going on? This is an issue on which the community demands answers, especially when organisers are considering putting on the same event—can you believe?—next year in the same location. I am pleased to say the council has decided at this stage not to go ahead, but I would call on both the council and the local community to undertake an inquiry into where the money was spent and who was the beneficiary of all these charitable dollars that were put in by the people of the Sutherland shire for other reasons. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

House adjourned at 5.00 p.m.