WHAT value tradition?
That’s one of the central questions in the state government’s plans to modernise and develop much of the Broadmeadow sports and recreation precinct, which are welcomed by many, but criticised by others because of their likely impact on the annual Newcastle show.
To fund much of the work, the government is proposing to sell much of the showground land. While the heritage-listed show ring oval and its grandstand would likely remain, the rest of the site, including the stables area used for the Sunday farmers’ markets, would become housing.
At a budget estimates committee hearing on Friday, Sports Minister Stuart Ayres confirmed a proposal to move the show to an unspecified area near the McDonald Jones Stadium, an idea we reported last month when new show president Peter Evans went public with his concerns that the show was being snatched from the community by decision-makers in Sydney. Although Mr Ayres said he was happy to meet show organisers, Mr Evans says the board has been trying without success for weeks on end to set up a meeting. Friday’s hearing must have provided a circuit-breaker, because Mr Evans said late on Monday that a meeting had been set down for the end of the month.
While the future of the 2019 show is assured at the showground, Mr Evans and the association know they will need a well-defined and financially viable plan if they are to save their home in the long term.
To that end, they have rejuvenated the board, and have begun to look at ways of rejuvenating the agricultural and horticultural side of the show that was the reason it was established in the first place.
While it’s up to the show board to rebuild an attraction that will justify a decision to keep the show at its traditional headquarters, the government also needs to make public a final version of the concept plan it unveiled in draft form more than a year ago.
While there was much to like in the original draft version, there must be alternative ways to fund it that do not involve such a threat to the show.
Large areas of open space – like railway transport corridors – can never be retrieved once they are given up. The time has come for the “transparent conversation” Mr Ayres promised in June last year when he launched the Broadmeadow blueprint.