THE "Hunter Park" redevelopment of 63 hectares of state-owned land at Broadmeadow was the "next big frontier" for government-backed development in the Hunter, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, told a property industry lunch in Newcastle yesterday.
Speaking to an audience of 140 hosted by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (NSW) at Noah's On The Beach, Mr Stokes endorsed the thrust of the project as developed by "the landowner", Venues NSW, and brought to public notice by the Newcastle Herald.
Mr Stokes said there was "now an opportunity to share" the government's progress on the project "with the community to see what that looks like".
Despite numerous requests, Venues NSW has declined to comment on the project, or the government-authorised "Hunter Park" video revealed in yesterday's Herald.
Asked about this, the office of Sports Minister Geoff Lee also declined to comment, saying: "As this is an operational matter, it is appropriate for Venues NSW to take your enquiry."
(The video came to light after the Herald investigated why Venues NSW had banned well-known Hunter union figure Daniel Wallace from Newcastle Showground, over a dispute related to Mr Wallace's role at the time on the board of the Newcastle Show association.)
BATTLE FOR BROADMEADOW:
Throughout the day, Mr Stokes said repeatedly that the Coalition government was committed to seeing Newcastle and the Hunter prosper with the right mix of urban development and green space.
While Labor has often welcomed government spending announcements for the Hunter, Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said yesterday that Labor amendments to a Sporting Venues Authority Bill in parliament during October had "protected the area around McDonald Jones Stadium from unchecked residential and commercial hotel development".
Mr Crakanthorp said that legislation brought a swag of state-owned stadiums and entertainment venues, including the stadium, Newcastle Entertainment Centre and Newcastle Showground under the control of a single board.
"It also would have allowed the Minister for Sport to single-handedly approve widespread residential and commercial development on Venues NSW land such as the Broadmeadow precinct," Mr Crakanthorp said.
"With support from the crossbench, Labor successfully removed this provision, meaning any proposal for these developments will now need to be approved by parliament."
At The Station yesterday, Mr Stokes said Venues NSW had "a grand vision for the Hunter Park precinct".
"That's one I'm very supportive of," Mr Stokes said.
"I'm very keen to see the plans and I'll do whatever I can in my position as planning minister to support the proponents in their efforts.
"There's quite a bit of granular work that needs to be done in terms of a business case for the site. That is a matter for Venues NSW.
"I'm enormously supportive of that, and within government I'm certainly an advocate for it because I can see so many of the important infrastructure elements of Newcastle either have been revitalised or are in the process of being revitalised."
Mr Stokes spoke for almost half an hour off the cuff at yesterday's UDIA lunch, before another 15 minutes of questions and answers.
He addressed a range of property and development issues including an "important" report on infrastructure contributions to be published today by the NSW Productivity Commissioner, former auditor-general Peter Achterstraat.
Mr Stokes said the "developer contributions" scheme was "complex, byzantine, opaque, expensive and inefficient" and that the cost of providing new infrastructure must ultimately be "a shared" one.
On Hunter Park, he said: "My role is to assess whatever plans [Venues NSW] come up, with but certainly there's some great thinking, and there's now an opportunity to share that with the community to see what that looks like.
"There's still money required to finalise the strategic business case for what is projected over that area but I think we all agree that the opportunity around Broadmeadow - and the opportunity to create a more just city is fundamental to what happens in that area.
"It's vast, and that's one of the challenges. It's a very big site to pick off. Some of the others [identified in government strategies] are already big enough. This one's bigger still."
Mr Stokes said "full consultation with the community" would follow once the business plan was done.
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