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Open letter to Premier,briefing him on the key issues regarding the stadium and Moore Park - 5 April, 2016

 

 

5 April 2016

 

The Hon. Mike Baird MP

Premier of New South Wales

Macquarie Street

Sydney  NSW  2000

 

Dear Premier

 

 

Allianz v. ANZ Stadium

 

I’m writing this open letter to you on behalf of 2,500 people who, through our website, Facebook page and Twitter, have indicated their support for our efforts to ensure Moore Park exists for the benefit of future generations.

 

In your letter to me of 15 March, you confirmed the new stadium will be built on existing SCG Trust land. Nevertheless, newspaper reports make it clear that the Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres, and the SCG Trust are intent on reversing the Government’s decision. For example, the Minister recently observed that the design brief will determine the best location for the stadium. This can only be taken to mean that he believes non-SCG Trust land in Moore Park remains an option as there’s no room elsewhere for it on existing SCG land.

 

A case can be made that some of the $1.6 billion intended for the three stadia should, in fact, be used to address funding shortfalls elsewhere, particularly in the health sector. At the very least, therefore, the Government needs to ensure that the funds are used in a way that:

  • best meets the needs of the community for new and refurbished stadia,

  • is efficient - delivering optimum value for the expenditure involved, and

  • preserves green space to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population close to the city of Sydney.

 

Otherwise the community can rightly ask whether the expenditure on stadia doesn’t involve a gross misallocation of resources.

 

I’m attaching briefing notes on issues which we, on behalf of a large and growing number of supporters, believe need to be addressed before the Government decides how to allocate funds for the three stadia.

 

I would like to meet with you to discuss these issues before the matter returns to Cabinet, so you have the benefit of direct input from the community.

 

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Michael Waterhouse

 

 

Allianz v. ANZ Stadium – Briefing Notes

 

(A) The Community’s Stadia Needs

 

1. Infrastructure NSW advised the Government in January that a new stadium at Moore Park will not be on any economic benefit to NSW; it will simply result in the relocation of games from other areas in Sydney rather than attracting events from elsewhere in Australia or overseas.

 

2. The NRL has been unable to secure the commitment of clubs to playing 65 matches at the major stadia. Several clubs want to continue to play games at their traditional venues which appeal more to their fans.

 

3. Most NRL clubs that have committed to playing at the major stadia have a clear preference for playing at ANZ Stadium. The Roosters, whose home ground is Allianz Stadium, have said they will shift to ANZ Stadium if Allianz is torn down and rebuilt.

 

4. Rugby league heartland is Western Sydney. Games at ANZ Stadium are much more convenient for fans, and if reconfigured to a rectangular format, ANZ Stadium will draw far larger crowds than Allianz Stadium.

 

5. A 55,000 seat stadium at Moore Park won’t be large enough to attract major events such as Rugby League State of Origin, the Rugby League Grand Final or Bledisloe Cup games.

 

6. A 55,000 seat stadium is larger than needed for club games. Average rugby league attendances at Allianz Stadium in 2014 and 2015 were 17,553 and 17,867 respectively - less than one third of the capacity of the proposed stadium. Attendances at rugby union and football games each averaged fewer than 20,000.

 

7. Allianz Stadium recorded crowds at sporting events in excess of 40,000 three times in 2014 (one rugby, two football games) and once in 2015 (one football game). Existing capacity is 44,000.

 

8. Football Federation Australia has stated that, of the two stadia, its preference is for ANZ Stadium to be overhauled to make it “a world class rectangular venue”, though it accepts Allianz Stadium needs a “thorough renovation”.

 

9. Sydney FC is concerned about being displaced from Allianz Stadium while it is being rebuilt and is believed to favour renovating it.

 

10. The Waratahs rugby union team, which plays a minimum of eight games a year at Allianz Stadium, is believed to favour renovating the stadium rather than rebuilding it.

 

Summary: A 55,000 seat stadium at Moore Park is too small for big games, and too large for club games. As the centre of Sydney moves further west, it makes no sense constructing a large new stadium in Sydney’s east. The community’s needs and preferences are clearly for the largest proportion of the $1.6 billion on offer from the Government to be spent on ANZ Stadium. The clubs of all codes are saying this. The fans are saying this; every article discussing the possibility of a new stadium at Moore Park attracts many negative comments online.

 

(B) The Need for Efficiency and Transparency

 

1. In his joint media release with the Premier on 4 September, the Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres, said that the stadia network upgrades were contingent upon “final business cases”. In his response to a Question on Notice from the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich (2068), Mr Ayres said the business case for the new stadium at Moore Park would address the following issues:

 

a) The need for a stadium larger than the existing Allianz Stadium;

b) Traffic implications;

c) Parking implications;

d) Public transport implications;

e) Heritage issues;

f) Environmental considerations;

g) Impact on residents living close to the Stadium

 

He did not say if the business case would be made public.

 

2. Transparency is the key to ensuring the Government’s funds are used wisely. One has to look no further than the Tibby Cotter Walkway across Anzac Parade to appreciate the value of a transparent business case. This was hastily constructed early in 2015 at a cost of $38 million (cf. an initial estimate of $25 million), and has since been little used. The acting Auditor General reported, scathingly, that “Transport for NSW and RMS could not provide evidence of a compelling economic or financial argument to support the construction of the Walkway” and that “The cost estimate was deficient and the risks, scope and time needed for approvals were understated”.

 

3. Based on initial design work, the cost estimates for the three stadia are understood to amount to $300 million for Pirtek, $800 million for Allianz and $700 million for ANZ. The total of $1.8 billion compares with the $1.6 billion announced in September 2015. It is unlikely these are over-estimates.

 

4. The Allianz Stadium estimate works out at $14,500 per seat, $500 per seat less than the new Perth Stadium - whose construction didn’t require the demolition of a huge stadium. However, this comprises only the direct costs of construction.

 

5. Any meaningful cost-benefit analysis also needs to take full account of the indirect costs, particularly those associated with increased traffic flows, greater demands on public transport, parking needs commensurate with stadium size and use, as well as heritage and environmental impacts and implications for residents living nearby.

 

6. In the case of Allianz, these indirect costs are likely to be considerable, and far greater than with ANZ with its more open layout.

 

7. The Government professes that it “aims to foster responsible and representative government that is open, accountable, fair and effective”. Consistent with these principles, and to provide the electorate with the confidence that it is making a soundly based decision, it needs to make available to the public the business cases that support the proposed allocation of funds between the three stadia.

 

8. This is particularly important in the case of Allianz Stadium, as under the SCG Act, any development on land controlled by the SCG Trust is exempt from the 1979 and the . There will be no formal opportunity for the City of Sydney Council or the community to express views about the stadium redevelopment.

 

(C) The Need for Green Space

 

1. Mr Ayres has described the existing management of Moore Park as “a historical governance model that’s no longer delivering for the community”. He couldn’t be further from the truth. Moore Park is not a historical anachronism; it is green space that meets a growing need for active and passive recreation by the community - not just elite sports people.

 

2. In 2010, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull described Moore Park as the green lungs of Sydney.

 

3. In December 2015, the Government announced a major urban renewal project in Waterloo, with 30,000 additional residents to be located near a new railway station. As well, 50,000 more residents will be moving into the Green Square area over the next decade. At 22,000 people per sq. km, it will be almost 50% denser than Pyrmont, which currently has Australia’s greatest population density (15,000). Moore Park is the largest area of green space close to these developments. It is essential that it be preserved in its entirety.

 

4. Parks Victoria has pointed to the “numerous health benefits associated with access to public open space and parks. Access to vegetated areas such as parks, open spaces, and playgrounds has been associated with better perceived general health, reduced stress levels, reduced depression and more”. It concluded that “improving access to public open space has the potential to increase levels of physical activity, and to have mental health benefits and reduce healthcare and other costs.”

 

5. Moore Park is listed on the . Its listing reflects its designation as a place of particular importance to the people of NSW, enriching our understanding of our history and identity. It is regarded as being state significant (rather than simply of local heritage significance) as it is important for the whole of NSW. Moore Park is also listed on the National Trust Register and on the Register of the National Estate. The latter describes Kippax Lake as “a significant landscape element” and "a remnant reminder of the Sydney common” while noting Moore Park’s “significant community recreation focus”.

 

(D) The Politics of it all

 

1. The allocation of a further $200 million for the stadia, as proposed by the NRL - and the minimum additional funds required if the initial cost estimates are accurate – would attract widespread community criticism in the face of funding shortfalls for health and education.

 

2. This criticism will be all the greater as much of the funding will be allocated to a stadium (Allianz) which isn’t seen to be meeting the community’s needs. People in Western Sydney will feel particularly aggrieved if the Government invests heavily in a new stadium in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs at the expense of one closer to where they live.

 

3. Similarly, the major football clubs in all three football codes will be antagonized and will doubtless communicate their concerns to their members, stirring up resentment towards the Government.

 

4. The Government will be widely criticized if it ignores the assessment of the CEO of Infrastructure NSW, Jim Betts, that will be no economic benefit to NSW from building a new stadium at Moore Park.

 

5. If the Government reverses its decision that a new stadium will only be built on existing SCG Trust land, and permits a stadium (or parking and/or other facilities) to be built Moore Park, this will precipitate a huge community backlash.

 

6. If the Government doesn’t release a full business case to the community, it will be criticized for lacking transparency and not being “open, accountable, fair and effective”.

 

7. Conversely, in difficult times, when pressure of funding health and education is so great and little additional funding is likely from the Commonwealth, the Government will attract widespread support if it were to reduce spending on the stadia from $1.6 billion to $1.2 billion and divert $400 million to health. This would result in $300 million for Pirtek, $700 million for ANZ and $200 million for the refurbishment of Allianz.

 

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