Dear POAC Members,
I must apologise for the delay in providing members with an update on what your committee has been up to lately. Rest assured we've been busy!
You may recall we believe the two main potential sources of funding for this project are the ACT Government, by virtue of the tourism potential of a public planetarium and observatory, and the Federal Government due to the educational and scientific merits. Our 2009/10 ACT Government budget bid for funding wasn't successful, despite our actively lobbying a number of MLA's and the provision of comprehensive documentation explaining the merits and financial viability of the project. However, we won't be discouraged by this, and intend to submit another public bid for the 2010/11 budget round later this month.
In parallel, we have been lobbying the Federal Government. In late May I managed to briefly discuss our project with the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The meeting was quite impromptu, and the outcome at the time very positive with an assurance that the planetarium relocation would be going ahead, and that it would come under the auspices of the ANU. However subsequent discussions with her staff raised doubts that this was the case and on the 10th of July Ms Gillard responded in writing, advising that she had written to Ian Chubb, Vice-Chancellor of the ANU to ask that the ANU consider funding the project.
The ANU has advised that Federal funding made available through the 2009-10 budget and additional nation building stimulus funding have already been fully allocated, and that they are unable to fund the planetarium relocation. A shared funding arrangement may however be possible.
Shortly after my conversation with the DPM, while we were unclear of the Government's position in relation to the funding of this project, our association wrote to the Prime Minister in an attempt to resolve the situation. To date we still haven't received a response.
Seeking bi-partisan support, we have also approached Liberal and Greens MLA's, and Federal Liberal members. In particular, Senator Humphries (Liberal Senator for the ACT) has been very supportive. After writing to Senator Carr on our behalf asking that he again consider meeting with members of our association, Senator Carr responded in writing on the 16th of June saying that DIISR isn't able to fund the relocation, and that the IK-6 telescope that is owned by Questacon and loaned to the Canberra Space Dome and Observatory is ample contribution toward the exercise.
But don't despair! We have had a number of very encouraging discussions with ACT Government representatives from Territory Venues and Events, Department of Territory and Municipal Services in relation to the next phase of the Stromlo Forest Park (SFP) development. If you haven't already done so, have a look at the Draft Master Plan at www.stromloforestpark.com.au. The ACT government is keen to commercially develop and expand the SFP to include a gondola to the summit of the mountain, budget style accommodation at the base, and other recreational activities including a bobsled and café at the top of the mountain. These would compliment a tourist facility such as the one we're proposing, and both Professor Butcher (Director, ANU's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics) and our association are hopeful a public outreach facility incorporating a planetarium and observatory can be incorporated into this commercial venture.
We recently met with Rob Docker, CEO of the Tradies who has informed us that he is keen to have the buildings and equipment off their land. Hopefully, with the assistance of the ACT Government we will be able to remove all the salvageable equipment, and have it stored at Mt Stromlo in the near future.
You may have heard last month that the Federal Government has contributed $88.4m toward the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). This is exciting news indeed, guaranteeing Australia's participation in building the world's most powerful telescope. The ANU has lead the Australian contingent of the GMT Project, and Stromlo now needs more than ever before a public outreach facility where it can showcase their involvement in this project, how it is progressing and ultimately show the results of this significant investment.
On the 30th of April you may have seen a story that went to air on Channel 9 during their evening local news. If you missed it, follow the link on our web site.
Get ready to mark your calendars! To help raise public awareness of what we're trying to achieve, and raise money for our association, we're planning on having a very special event up at Mt Stromlo. With the theme “Pyjamas for the Planetarium”, we're inviting people to come along in their pyjamas (perhaps over warmer clothes!!) to listen to a number of highly respected people in their field. We hope to have Dr Fred Watson, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Prof. Penny Sackett, and Prof. Harvey Butcher talk to the audience about astronomy, and members of the Canberra Astronomical Society show visitors the night sky (weather permitting). We hope to have politicians and the media represented too. The date hasn't been confirmed yet, so we'll make an official announcement closer to the day. Admission will be adults $10, children free!
Finally, we're also thinking laterally about ways to raise sufficient funds to make this project come to fruition. One suggestion is that we seek expressions of interest from the public around the world to donate $1,000 each (or more if they would like). This would buy a tile in the foyer of the planetarium with their name inscribed on it. With 1,000 pledges we would be in a very good position to negotiate a shared funding arrangement with the Federal and ACT Governments. With 3,000 donations we could build the entire facility. Let us know what you think of this idea on the POAC Forum, just follow the link on our web site.
Thanks for your ongoing support. As you can see, we're making small steps toward achieving something we strongly believe in, and are committed to achieving.
Planetarium and Observatory Association of Canberra
Page last updated:
3 September, 2009