A proposal to build a new Warrnambool art gallery at Cannon Hill has been backed by a majority of city councillors despite a warning the site would be "heavily opposed" by the public.
Going against a recommendation from council officers to develop a business case for the current site, Cr Debbie Arnott put forward an alternative motion for Cannon Hill which passed in a 4-3 vote.
Cr Debbie Arnott called on fellow councillors to "be brave" and forward thinking on the site, while Cr Max Taylor said relocating the art gallery to Cannon Hill was a "once in a lifetime opportunity".
Cr Arnott said a survey and community consultation did not give a definitive answer on which site was preferred.
But she said Cannon Hill would offer outstanding views across Lake Pertobe and the coastline and the location would be a huge point of difference from all other regional galleries.
Cr Arnott said it would be single-storey with an environmentally sympathetic design which would connect well with Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum, Lake Pertobe and the holiday parks. "It becomes a major tourism hub," she said.
She said it would be the cheaper option because they wouldn't have to pull down the old gallery. Costs have been estimated at $40 million. "It has also been identified as the preferred location with First Peoples," she said.
"With something like this we need to be forward thinking. We need to be able to create something unique for Warrnambool and something that will see our city as a huge tourist attraction. We want our city to grow.
"Let's be brave, let's be forward thinking and let's choose Cannon Hill as our preferred site for a regional art gallery."
She said the views were important and Warrnambool could be creating something "totally new" and "totally different".
Cr Taylor said the views at Cannon Hill were "second to none" and could help put the city on the tourism map nationally and internationally.
He said the current site didn't have much going for it.
Cr Taylor said Warrnambool was struggling from a tourism point of view because it didn't have a tourism board and the city wasn't promoted and marketed as much as it should.
Cr Otha Akoch also backed the Cannon Hill site saying it would save money and become a tourist attraction.
Mayor Vicki Jellie said the business case wasn't saying the gallery was definitely going to be built at Cannon Hill. "Council doesn't have to commit to an outcome," she said.
"Cannon Hill would provide a point of difference to all other regional galleries," Cr Jellie said.
"I think we've got to have aspirations."
But Cr Richard Ziegeler said the loss of the space at Cannon Hill would be something that would be sorely missed and "probably fairly heavily opposed by a fair proportion of the community".
Cr Ziegeler said the space at Cannon Hill was largely underutilised. "I think the last time I saw a picnic there was 1967," he said.
However, he said Cannon Hill was the wrong place and suggested a business case be made for the empty space at Flagstaff Hill to help revitalise that facility.
"Cannon Hill's open spaces are too precious to lose," he said.
Cr Angie Paspaliaris said consultation showed there was a strong inference that most people did not want a gallery at Cannon Hill.
She said sweeping views were not a prerequisite for an art gallery.
Green space was so vital to the community, Cr Paspaliaris said, and at Cannon Hill they would be building in another green space area.
She said consultants who proposed the Cannon Hill site did not live in Warrnambool.
Cr Ben Blain said the current location had a better connection to the centre of town and new library.
He said Cannon Hill was "a very special piece of grass to the city".
"Leaving our gallery where it is is an exciting opportunity for Warrnambool because it could be a real centrepiece to our CBD and the centre of our city," Cr Blain said.
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