THE organisers of the annual Newcastle Show say its days are numbered if it is pushed off the showground site as part of the NSW government’s plan to overhaul the Broadmeadow sports and entertainment precinct.
They say they support the government’s long-term vision to improve the Broadmeadow sports area but say it should not be funded by selling off most of the showground land for medium-density housing, which they say is the government’s intention.
The concept plan was unveiled in July last year during a visit to McDonald Jones Stadium by Sports Minister Stuart Ayres. No funding details were announced at the time and little has been heard publicly since but the show board says a proposal is likely to go to state Cabinet later this year.
The show board says the parade ring and grandstand are heritage listed but the rest of the showground is slated to be sold for housing to fund the overall redevelopment.
Venues NSW declined to comment on its dispute with the show board beyond saying it was “working closely with a range of stakeholders, including the Showground trust, on a detailed concept plan and strategic business case to transform” the area.
New show board president, Newcastle business figure Peter Evans, says Venues NSW, which controls the showground and much of the Broadmeadow precinct, has suggested the show could move to the area in and around McDonald Jones Stadium but the board do not believe that is practical.
Show vice-president Graham Poole says there is no way that the 117-year-old Newcastle show has “had its day” as some were suggesting.
Mr Poole said the board was working very hard to improve things financially and to rebuild the show as the Hunter region’s premier “agricultural, horticultural and industrial” attraction.
He said this year’s show was the most successful in years with the next show set down for March 1 to March 3, 2019.
“They’ve made it pretty clear they’d be happier if we were out of here altogether,” Mr Poole said.
“They ask us why we don’t move to Maitland, why we can’t amalgamate with the Maitland show association. But this land was given over more than a century ago as a showground and we believe it should continue to be a showground.”
Although Venues NSW declined to comment on the show board’s claim it was being pressured out, it confirmed it was was hoping to have a detailed concept plan and strategic business case ready to go to the government later this year.
What it calls “residential options” – which the trust says is code for selling the showground lands – are still part of the proposal.
In a brochure published on its website, Venues NSW says it is time to think about “hosting the show and using the showground in new ways”.
It says the showground is underutilised, although Mr Evans says this is because it is constrained by Venues NSW, which will not let it lease out its stables or other buildings despite interest from various areas, including specialist horse shows wanting to come to Newcastle.
Using Sydney’s Olympic Park at Homebush as an example, Venues NSW says the show could move into an area near the stadium. Possibilities included hosting animal exhibits on the ground floor of a new multi-level car park planned for near the stadium. Indoor exhibits could be housed in “an indoor sports hall for one week” and the show ring could be moved to “newly created training fields” with a sideshow alley near the stadium.
Mr Evans acknowledged that the show board – known properly as the Newcastle Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Association – had struggled financially over the years but he said there were doubts over the way the government had assumed control of the site.
“The gist of this story is that land granted to and developed by the association was taken without compensation to Novocastrians,” Mr Evans said.
“The association has limped on for a few good years on its reserves, and built up in the good years, but the reserves are gone and our hands are tied. Money once earned from car-parking at the showground, for example, and which was earmarked for maintenance, now goes to Venues NSW, which has accumulated more than $600,000.
“We can see what Venues NSW wants to do but we have a fierce determination to ensure that the show continues for another 120 years, and that it does so where it is at the moment.”
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