THE NSW opposition says the government is favouring Sydney at the expense of Newcastle with the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust having an “open door” to the office of Sports Minister Stuart Ayres while “the Newcastle show cannot even get a phone call returned”.
That was the opening salvo from Labor MLC Lynda Voltz on Friday when she quizzed Mr Ayres on the government’s plan to redevelop the Broadmeadow sports precinct, which involves moving the Newcastle show away from the showground.
Show organisers want to stay at the showground but Mr Ayres told Friday’s budget estimates committee hearing that Venues NSW was considering “moving them from the showground to conduct the show in the immediate precinct of the Newcastle stadium or McDonald Jones Stadium [which] might be about 300 metres” away.
Mr Ayres said no one had “raised those issues directly” with him but Mr Voltz said that while the organisers had been trying to meet the minister, he had “not been happy to” meet them.
Saying he was “more than comfortable to meet” the show association, Mr Ayres said Venues NSW was still working on its master plan for the Broadmeadow precinct and would show it to the public for consultation once it was finished.
“We have been out engaging with the Newcastle community and with the Newcastle council about the development of a long-term master plan for that site,” Mr Ayres said. “I am more than happy to meet and deal with any of the issues that arise from that.”
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said after the hearing that the showground was an “iconic space” that Venues NSW had “run into the ground”.
“The show has been prevented from using the site for all but a few days a year, again we have been told what we can and cannot do with this space by an office in Sydney,” Mr Crakanthorp said. “We need to look at existing land before flogging off public space to developers.”
New show president Peter Evans said the association had tried for weeks without success to get a meeting with the Minister.
He said Venues NSW might have title to the land but it “doesn’t have the total say”.
“They can’t move us on while ever there is a continuous show in place on the showground,” Mr Evans said.
“If we stop having shows we would forfeit the ground and I suspect that’s why they have put so much pressure on us, to force us out of business, because it suits them for us to go.”
“The year before Venues NSW took over we had 50 functions that produced income for the trust,” Mr Evans said. “It was hard then but it’s much worse since they took our income.”