Millewa locals say a new light show near Lake Cullulleraine could be “phenomenal” for the region, as final funding is sought for the project.
British visual artist Bruce Munro, who designed the Field of Light display at Uluru, visited the lake 55 kilometres west of Mildura on Monday, where he plans to install 12,000 solar-powered “stems of light”.
A second exhibition — featuring lights activated simultaneously with music — is also planned to be built on a farm west of the New South Wales town of Wentworth.
Mildura Regional Development chief executive Brett Millington says funding is still required for the $9.5 million project, and he hopes the exhibitions are operational by September 2023.
Mr Millington said the light display would be located near a walking track on the north side of Lake Cullulleraine on a mixture of Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and council-owned land, and the exhibitions would be in place for at least five years.
Mr Munro said he envisioned the light show as a place for people to “decompress”.
“We’ve just come out of COVID, we’re just in a terrible time with what’s happening in the rest of the world, particularly Ukraine,” he said.
“So, this is an opportunity for people to escape from their busy lives, come out from the cities, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, and also for the locals to come, decompress … and find a more positive side of life.”
Potential gain ‘hard to fathom’
Caravan park owner Philip Harmer said increased visitation from the exhibition “could be huge” for his business and the surrounding community.
“The farmers here, we’ve all had it reasonably tough the last four or five years, and of course with COVID, things being open and shut was hard,” he said.
“But this would be phenomenal.
“It would be great to see a few thousand people in this little area — it’s sort of hard to fathom.”
Confident on funding
Mr Millington said there was “a lot of positivity” from all levels of government about providing funding to supplement private investment into the project.
“Hopefully we’ll have that [$9.5 million] total secured in the next couple of months,” he said.
“[It’s worth] $130 million a year in terms of our tourism economy — that’s based around extending people’s stays who are already visiting the region by one night, and by attracting new visitors as well.
“I think it will also put us on the map as a destination for international tourists.”
Mr Harmer said he was optimistic the project would soon be given the final go-ahead.
“If it doesn’t happen, it’ll be a kick in the guts, for sure,” he said.
“We’re just waiting — if it does go ahead, it would just be phenomenal, for the two caravan parks here and for the little pub up the road.”