Funds taken from the environment levy to prop up a regional arts gallery has drawn the ire of some Highlanders.
The proposed 2020 Operational Plan and Budget revealed that the council planned to use $94,000 from the environment levy to fund the operational cost of the regional gallery.
The regional art gallery is part of the National Trust and Wingecarribee Shire Council has committed $500,000 for five years to help support the gallery.
Environmental activist Clive West has rallied support for a petition urging council to rethink its position with regards to funds taken from the environment levy. The push gained momentum at a community meeting held at the East Bowral Community Centre on May 9. The meeting was attended by more than 100 people.
"We are concerned that the use of these environment cash reserves for the gallery will reduce council's environmental work," he said.
Mr West said that there were other ways the council could fund the art gallery without touching the environment levy and he "didn't like to see two good causes pitted against each other".
Many who attended the meeting were united in their anger about the decision to take money from the levy, with some accusing the council of "stealing" the funds.
Lyn Opie who was involved with the Goulburn regional art gallery before moving to the Highlands in 1988 said she was angry with the council
"[In Goulburn] we did this with volunteers and hard work, not through council handing us money taken from the environment or anywhere else," they said.
"I don't know how you can justify a gallery, which I love, over the extinction of a koala. We can't forfeit the environment, which is something they [council] have done."
Councillor Gordon Markwart who co-chairs the environment committee encouraged residents to make a submission to state their case to council before the end of exhibition period on May 27.
"That is the best thing you can do."
"For the record, I voted against the gallery for two reason. One, there was no funding source identified, it's bad financial practice to buy something with no funding identified. The second point is, there was no public consultation."
Mayor Duncan Gair said that cuts had been made to accommodate the funding, including the reduction in hours at the Resource Recovery Centre, reductions in the Arts and Culture program and cuts towards internal projects.
"What other area will we take it from? Because somebody else will have to miss out," he said.
"In the 2019/2020 financial year, council will generate $1.284 million from the environment levy which will be used directly for the delivery of programs and projects identified in the levy."
Mr West believes that a viable option for funding the art gallery is to set up a tax deductible charity fund, which is something the Central Coast Council has successfully implemented in the past.
He said he hoped to sit down with Cr Gair and the General Manager, Ann Prendergast to discuss various alternate funding options and to find a solution.
Mr West has since been advised by Cr Gair that he is willing to sit down and talk about it.
The regional art gallery will be located at Retford Park.