THE Broadmeadow "sporting precinct" including the historic Newcastle Showground have been given the new name Hunter Park, with the NSW government pushing ahead with major development plans that include a four-star hotel, a new entertainment centre and more than 3000 apartments.
Planning and Open Spaces Minister Rob Stokes confirmed the plans last week when he spoke by online video hookup to the annual general meeting of the Committee for the Hunter, the body formed two years ago with public and private sector figures to provide a "representative voice" for the region.
Mr Stokes is scheduled to speak in Newcastle today at a lunch run by property lobby group Urban Development Institute of Australia or UDIA.
A spokesperson for the minister said that while there was no formal announcement today about Hunter Park, Mr Stokes would take questions about the project, as he had when asked by the Committee for the Hunter members.
Although the government is yet to unveil its latest plans for the site, a promotional video taking the viewer through a "flyover" view of the 63-hectare site has been quietly posted on social media, carrying the title "Hunter Park, Broadmeadow, Newcastle" and bearing the logos of the NSW government, the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation (HCDC) and Venues NSW.
As well as apartments, the entertainment centre and a hotel, the video shows a potential show area, retail spaces, a sports oval, bike paths, an adventure playground and a sideshow alley area showing a rollercoaster and merry-go rounds.
Images are also displayed by an advisory firm, Urban Apostles, which describes itself as working with Venues NSW and HCDC to turn the Broadmeadow precinct into "a new 365-day-a-year destination within the Hunter region".
Plans for the redevelopment were unveiled in mid-2017 and soon generated controversy when it was realised they entailed removing the horse trotting/pacing track adjacent to McDonald Jones Stadium, and moving Newcastle Show from its heritage-listed showgrounds to another, unspecified, part of the site.
BATTLE FOR BROADMEADOW:
A draft concept plan went on display for three months back in 2017, but as the Newcastle Herald reported earlier this year, there has been very little information available publicly since late 2018, when the plan to move the show was confirmed in budget estimates hearings.
The Herald has reported sporadic strains between Venues NSW and the Newcastle Show board since 2017, the latest of which was the decision by Venues NSW to ban former Newcastle Show board member Daniel Wallace from the showground under threat of arrest for trespass until the end of next year.
The Herald understands the show board has been unable to speak publicly about the redevelopment plans, because much, if not all, of the information it receives from Venues NSW is marked "commercial in confidence".
The government has made it clear from the start that it intends Honeysuckle-style land sales to fund its part of the redevelopment, and Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp says the opposition has been stonewalled by the government when it comes to obtaining information on the precinct.
"I'm disappointed to hear that private briefings are being provided to the Committee for the Hunter but that same courtesy is not being extended to the local elected representatives," Mr Crakanthorp said last night.
"I don't have enough fingers and toes to count all the questions I have asked of this government on the progress of this precinct, only to receive Buckley's in response.
"It's becoming very clear that they have chosen to not be forthcoming, and it's becoming very hard to trust their intentions moving forward.
"This is Newcastle's next major redevelopment site.
"The government needs to be upfront and honest with the community about what they've got planned."
Committee for the Hunter chair Richard Anicich said last night that the planning minister, Mr Stokes, had spoken in general rather than specific terms about the Broadmeadow precinct.
"He was asked where the proposal was up to and he confirmed it was one of a handful of major projects or key priorities for the region," Mr Anicich said.
"The others included the Williamtown aerospace precinct, the university and the John Hunter Hospital redevelopment."
Another person at the meeting said Mr Stokes described the Broadmeadow precinct as "the envy of any government around the world".
Venues NSW would not provide any detail on the Broadmeadow project yesterday, other than to say that work was under way on the International Hockey Centre and the Newcastle Knights Centre of Excellence.
A spokesperson said both facilities would be finished by 2023, with McDonald Jones Stadium being one of the Australian and New Zealand venues hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup between July 10 and August 20 that year.
The spokesperson said the precinct was one of 11 "catalyst" areas in the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036.
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