LABOR want to separate some of Newcastle’s stadiums from the management of Venues NSW to save the beleaguered Newcastle Show and stop what it says is the flow of funds from the Hunter to Sydney.
During a debate in parliament on Wednesday over legislation to bring control of ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park under the umbrella of Venues NSW, Labor foreshadowed plans to bring forward amendments in the upper house that would re-establish the trust that previously managed the Newcastle Showgrounds.
Labor’s shadow minister for the Hunter Kate Washington said the party would seek to amend the government’s legislation to “excise the Newcastle showgrounds, including the Entertainment Centre, and return it to the care and control of a Newcastle Showground Trust”.
The trust would have five members appointed by the Minister, including one member from the Newcastle Horticultural Agricultural and Industrial Association.
“This will deliver a similar model to the Royal Agricultural Show at Sydney Olympic Park, which has a 99 year lease and control of Spotless Stadium,” Ms Washington said.
The Newcastle Herald previously revealed that the Newcastle Show is cash-strapped and faces being permanently wound up as a result of the former Labor government’s decision to abolish the trust in 2008.
The decision led to the Showgrounds and Entertainment Centre being managed by a private firm on behalf of Venues NSW, and saw the show lost control of its much of its income including from parking at the weekly farmers markets.
“The Newcastle Showground Trust previously controlled the management of the showground and collected revenue from parking, the farmers markets and other events held on the land,” Ms Washington said.
“When Venues NSW took over the operation of the showgrounds it also started taking this revenue down the M1 to Sydney to support Sydney-based projects at the expense of the Hunter, and we see that continuing under this bill.”
Minister for sport Stuart Ayres dismissed Labor’s complaints, saying it was their former government that abolished the trust.
“If you want to talk about the management arrangements in place not being suitable for that community don't look at this government, look at [Labor], all that we have done is continue those arrangements under a stronger governance arrangement in Venues NSW,” he said.
The government’s bill brings ANZ Stadium under Venues NSW after it came back into government control in July last year and paves the way for its $1.6 billion stadium funding plan.
The decision to buy out the final 15 years of the stadium’s ownership contract means the government is likely to pay up to $220 million, and during the debate Labor questioned whether regional centres like Hunter Stadium would “foot the bill”.
“The Sporting Venues Authority Trust structure places the Sydney Olympic Park stadium in a single trust alongside the regional stadiums in Wollongong, Parramatta and Newcastle,” Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said.
“While Parramatta is getting significant funding, Newcastle and Wollongong have not received any investment.”
But Mr Ayres dismissed this argument, saying it was “categorically incorrect that this transaction will somehow take money away from other parts of Venues NSW”.
“The basic premise of this bill is to bring ANZ Stadium into Venues NSW. It is not much more complicated than that,” he said.
“Nothing in this transaction asks Wollongong or Newcastle to contribute funding to Parramatta or ANZ stadiums.
“In fact, I would argue it is the opposite.
“The strengthening of the asset base for Venues NSW and the improvement of cash flow through better quality assets such as ANZ and Parramatta stadiums give us an opportunity to continue our long-term investment in Wollongong and Newcastle.”
He said the management of Hunter Stadium by Venues NSW had led to events like the NRL All Stars game and Asian Cup matches being held in Newcastle.
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