City councillors expressed support for an ocean discovery centre in Nanaimo, but weren’t ready to pledge tax dollars toward the project just yet.
A delegation from the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association asked the City of Nanaimo for $100,000 for feasibility studies and other pressing costs, but the request was referred to the city’s finance and audit committee.
“We’re going into summer, clearly we need to get these studies underway now if we’re going to have any chance of getting into September with some clear answers for you about what is the actual cost and what it is we’re actually going to do,” said Lorne Hildebrand, association president, at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
Tim Tessier, association vice-president, listed some of the ways the project has advanced. He said the association has a written commitment from ocean explorer Phil Nuytten that his collection would form the basis of the ocean discovery centre’s exhibit.
Tessier said his association has received guidance from elected representatives on how to pursue provincial and federal funding, and has recently met with members of Snuneymuxw First Nation band council around a potential partnership and link between the ocean discovery centre project and Newcastle Island/Saysutshun plans.
The deep discovery association said it would use the $100,000 for a few items including a feasability study, market assessment, architecture work around incorporating one or more entertainment/educational attraction, fundraising support, and a promotional video.
Mayor Bill McKay made a motion for the city to provide matching funds, up to $127,575, with the Nanaimo Hospitality Association, and Coun. Diane Brennan and Coun. Ian Thorpe also expressed support for offering financial support.
“I am not aware of anybody who has said to me, ‘Don’t support this,’” Brennan said. “The overwhelming feedback that I’ve had is, ‘This is great; this will be great.’”
Thorpe said the ocean discovery centre is “a wonderful project” that he wants to see move forward, and suggested council should support the deep discovery association’s request.
“I think the onus is on us, not on the hospitality association, not on the realtors, and if they want to get on board and help support, good for them and I hope they do,” he said. “But I would like to see the city take the initiative and show leadership.”
Coun. Jim Kipp and Coun. Jerry Hong expressed concern with accommodating a funding request “on the fly,” and Hong made the motion to refer the request to finance and audit committee. The motion passed with only Brennan opposed.
“Now that staff is aware of this ask, we would look into providing [city council with] options as to where the money would come from, if there’s money available,” said Sheila Gurrie, city clerk.