STATE government agency Venues NSW has banned senior Hunter union figure and a leading light in the resurgence of Newcastle Show, Daniel Wallace, from entering the showground.
Venues NSW has also threatened to have Mr Wallace arrested for trespass if he entered the showgrounds, and Newcastle police confirmed he had been spoken to at least once in recent months by officers in this regard.
Mr Wallace - until recently head of the region's peak union body, Hunter Workers - was vice-president of the show board, working with other directors including lawyer Peter Evans, and vigneron businessman Brian McGuigan.
Mr Wallace has taken leave from the board and his position as vice-president has reverted to its previous incumbent, retired financial adviser Graham Poole.
The Newcastle Herald understands that Venues NSW and ASM Global - which manages the Newcastle Entertainment Centre and the showgrounds for Venues NSW - both lodged formal complaints with the show board alleging "aggressive" behaviour by Mr Wallace.
The Herald understands that Venues NSW said it would have "no further dealings" with Mr Wallace from February this year, after he allegedly accused the government agency of not looking after the showgrounds properly.
BATTLE FOR BROADMEADOW:
The show board was told by Venues NSW that Mr Wallace's conduct was "unacceptable" and in breach of various policies.
In July, Venues NSW told the show board that it still had concerns about Mr Wallace's behaviour, as did ASM Global, and it had decided to ban Mr Wallace from the showgrounds, giving him until early August to remove his belongings.
He was banned until the end of 2021, when Venues NSW would review the situation. ASM Global also apparently endorsed the ban.
It is understood the ban followed a dispute over asbestos in many of the showground's old heritage buildings, including a horse stables.
Saying he had notified Venues NSW and ASM Global (known as AEG Ogden until late 2019) of the asbestos situation soon after he joined the board in 2018, Mr Wallace apparently took matters into his own hands in July this year by putting up his own hand-written "asbestos danger" warning signs in at least one building.
Venues NSW has since removed the signs and installed its own, but has denied neglecting the asbestos situation, or delaying its response.
Venues NSW has declined repeated requests from the Herald to answer questions on the issue and Newcastle Show directors say they are unable to comment because virtually all correspondence from the agency - including letters pertaining to the ban on Mr Wallace - are marked "commercial in confidence".
The board is concerned that speaking out could result in it in losing COVID stimulus grant funding awarded in June - money which remains unspent, apparently because of concerns from Crown Lands.
Mr Wallace said he did not want to prejudice the situation but he believed Venues NSW and the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation were farther along in the residential redevelopment of the showgrounds than they had told the public and "they wanted me removed because I asked some tough questions".
Mr Wallace said he had taken leave of absence from the board at his own request and intended to return in January.
Mr Wallace defended the behaviour that Venues NSW cited as reasons for taking action against him, saying the supposedly "aggressive" way he had behaved in negotiations with them was no different to the "usual sort of argy-bargy in these things".
He said the asbestos dangers in some of the old buildings were "real" and that he would "always" take whatever action was necessary to ensure the relevant work safety legislation was adhered to.
The Herald has reported occasional tensions between the show board and Venues NSW after the state government unveiled plans in July 2017 to redevelop at least part of the site for housing.
Until then, the show had struggled financially, but a rejuvenated board, led by Mr Evans and a new general manager, Gabe Robinson, are credited with improving the 120-year-old show's financial position.
Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp said Venues NSW needed to be upfront with the public.
"It's business as usual for the NSW Government to stamp the word 'confidential' on anything they don't want to talk about," Mr Crakanthorp said.
"The more they obfuscate on the showgrounds grant, the more it smells to me like something fishy is going on. If everything they were doing was above board, why wouldn't they want us to know? Let's just hope the relevant documents haven't been through a shredder."
The police became involved after Mr Wallace apparently ignored the ban and entered the showgrounds again after the ban began in August.
In a statement to the Herald, the police said Newcastle officers "were alerted to reports of a trespass incident at a business on Brown Road, Broadmeadow".
"Police spoke to a 41-year-old man and following inquiries, no fines or warnings were issued, and no police action is required," the police statement said.
Police media confirmed the statement related to the showground and Mr Wallace.
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