Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Amendment Bill
Debate resumed from 25 May 2006.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS (Upper Hunter) [11.23 a.m.]: I have pleasure in leading for the Opposition on the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Amendment Bill. I am pleased as well, as a former Minister for Sport and Recreation, to have had carriage of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust at a time during which the chairman of the trust was none other than former Wallaby captain and former chairman of Australian Rugby Union Sir Nicholas Shehadie, in whose honour a grandstand at Aussie Stadium is named. So I am honoured, on behalf of the Opposition, to have carriage of this important bill.
The purpose of the bill is to enable lands dedicated for public recreation purposes to be used for additional purposes with restrictions. The Sydney Cricket Ground is in need of refurbishment and ground improvements, including a grandstand-rebuilding program with a new hill grandstand expected to commence construction in February 2007 at the conclusion of the forthcoming Ashes and international cricket season. In the past the trust has unsuccessfully explored the possibility of private sector involvement in this.
The bill has generated quite a level of discussion within the Coalition, particularly on the question of the name the new stand will carry. I can relay to the House that the Coalition is split somewhat between the three potential choices—the Doug Walters Stand, the Hill Grandstand, as some of the accompanying literature seems to call it, and a third name commemorating the contribution of another great cricketer. The Hill Grandstand did not get too many votes but the existing name, the Doug Walters Stand, surely is the favourite. I was humbled to hear the comments made by Doug Walters when he was interviewed about the possibility that his name would no longer be carried on one of the grandstands. He very generously said that he had enjoyed a period when his name was on a grandstand and he was well satisfied with whatever choice the trust made. That is further to the credit of the man.
It is intended that the proposed amendments will broaden possible uses of specific areas, subject to certain restrictions on residential and tourist or visitor accommodation so as to ensure the character and amenity of the site is maintained. The first stage of the redevelopment is to seek expressions of interest from the private sector to redevelop the existing gold members car park site. Funds generated from this stage will partly offset the estimated cost of the grandstand and the full staged redevelopment. The balance of funds needed will come from trust resources and borrowings, bearing in mind that the trust has reduced its debt from the initial $62 million—in the dollars of those days—to the current $6.9 million. As well, the trust has a capital investment program over those years of more than $160 million from its own resources.
The hill grandstand—as I will call it for the purposes of this debate only—which will add seating for almost 3,000 people, is expected to cost $65 million in an overall $180 million strategy. The present Act permits the Minister, in consultation with other Ministers, to approve a wide range of developments for public recreation purposes. However, the amendments will empower the Minister for Planning to authorise additional land uses through a State environment planning policy [SEPP] after the concurrence of the Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation. Once additional users are authorised, the proposals will then be subject to the State's environmental planning policies, provided that prior approval has been given by the sports Minister. The bill permits potential residential development only over the gold members car park, and prohibits hotel accommodation in the hill area. It also permits the grant of a lease for these permitted uses other than on lands dedicated for public recreation. The bill authorises the use of partnerships and joint ventures. There are also a number of mechanical provisions to update the original 1913 Crown Lands Act and its successor in 1989.
I appreciate the efforts of the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground Trust in briefing the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Minister for Infrastructure, and me. The trust was represented by chairman Rodney Cavalier, Mr Alan Jones, the Hon. Michael Cleary, and general manager Mr Jamie Barkley. I commend the work of the trust, including both present and past members. The present trustees comprise Mr Rodney Cavalier, AO, who is chairman, Mr John Cloney, the deputy chairman, Ken Catchpole, OAM, the Hon. Michael Cleary, AO, Kerry Chikarovski, a former member of this House, as was the Hon. Michael Cleary, Catherine Harris, PSM, Alan Jones, AO, Geoff Lawson, OAM, Colin Love, LLB, John McCarthy, QC, Rod McGeoch, AM, LLB, Phil Green, Kaye Schofield, Tony Shepherd and Paul Warren.
Ms Sandra Nori: What about Ken Catchpole?
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: I mentioned him; I would not have missed out the greatest halfback Australia has ever had. The bill deals with the hallowed turf and heritage buildings that comprise the world-famous Sydney Cricket Ground. It is one of the best cricket grounds in the world and the adjoining Aussie Stadium is undoubtedly the best ground to hold rugby and football matches in Australia. The stadium was purpose-built for those codes. The history and heritage of the precinct is in safe hands with the composition of the trust. I can say with strong conviction that under the administration of trustees of such high calibre, the heritage and history of the Sydney Cricket Ground and precinct are secure. I am pleased that the plans may include the relocation of the famous scoreboard, which is presently mostly concealed by seating. I am pleased to note a proposal to relocate the scoreboard to the Paddington entrance, where it will once again assume either an operational role to display promotional material or, when a match is in progress, its traditional role as a scoreboard. To once again see the famous scoreboard in operation will enhance the heritage and history of the site.
I urge the Government to consider some other important issues, particularly transport. I hope the trust will consider expanding the capacity of the gold members car park, possibly with additional underground levels. Car parking on Moore Park will one day be put back on the agenda and the provision of car parking spaces under the park will need to be considered. In an effort to relieve traffic congestion in the Surry Hills, Paddington and Moore Park areas the Government should consider the urgent need for high-capacity light rail linking Central railway station and/or Circular Quay with the Sydney Cricket Ground, Aussie Stadium, the Hordern Pavilion, Fox Studios and Centennial Park. Further, the Government should focus on days when more than one event is scheduled in the area, such as a cricket match and horseracing at Royal Randwick. Recently the Waratahs staged a home game on the same night as the Sydney Mardi Gras.
Ms Tanya Gadiel: Have you been to both?
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: The crowds met in the Flinders Street area.
Mr Alan Ashton: And you just watched them passing by.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: I was there. I will not tell you in which direction I was walking. Regardless of the final plans for the upgrade and development of the lands, I have complete confidence in the trust ensuring that these historic grounds retain their heritage and place in the history of cricket and the football codes that borrow the sacred turf. The bill does not specifically approve development. It permits the trust to enter the planning process with a broader scope of potential development proposals than is currently permitted in the Act. Honourable members would appreciate that although many potential developments have been canvassed and artist impressions examined, the final proposals that go forward as a result of this enabling legislation will ultimately be a matter for the ordinary planning process, with additional concurrence by, in particular, the Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation. The memories of great sporting moments at the Sydney Cricket Ground will remain safely at home under the careful custodianship of the trustees. They will have the carriage of exciting new developments, which will expand capacity and improve facilities for all to enjoy. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ALAN ASHTON (East Hills) [11.34 a.m.]: I appreciate the considered contribution by the honourable member for Upper Hunter, the shadow Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation. I am pleased to support the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Amendment Bill, which will enable appropriate redevelopment of the trust lands and thereby provide for upgrades to the Sydney Cricket Ground and, potentially, Aussie Stadium. The upgrades, beginning with the replacement of the Doug Walters Stand after the Ashes series, will be cost free to the taxpayer.
The Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, which was established in 1978, is charged with the responsibility of the care, control and management of trust land and assets that are dedicated for public recreation. The trust's powers extend to the ability to carry out works on trust land, which includes the Sydney Cricket Ground, Aussie Stadium and surrounding land, such as the gold members car park. The proposed amendments will provide a framework for the trust to undertake commercial development to develop, first, the gold members car park for residential accommodation, tourist and visitor accommodation and other commercial uses; second, designated land other than the gold members car park for tourist and visitor accommodation and other commercial purposes but not residential accommodation; and, third, the Sydney Cricket Ground for commercial purposes but not residential accommodation or tourist and visitor accommodation.
Before the trust can undertake any of these developments a State environmental planning policy will be required to specify the uses that will apply to parts of the trust land. The introduction of a policy will require concurrent approval of the Minister for Planning and the Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, and the policy will contain amendments to the current zoning of the relevant parts of the trust lands. I note that the honourable member for Upper Hunter used the interesting phrases "sacred turf" and "hallowed turf". The Sydney Cricket Ground and the former Sydney Sports Ground, now Aussie Stadium, are iconic sporting venues for our national games of cricket and rugby league. I refer to our legendary cricket heroes who played at the grounds such as Victor Trumper, Monty Noble, Charlie Macartney and Fred Spofforth.
They are household names for members on this side of the Chamber and the honourable member for Upper Hunter. I also mention Tiger O'Reilly and the incomparable Don Bradman, and later champions such as Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Doug Walters, the Chappells, Lillee, Thomson and the Waughs, who came from my suburb of Panania. They have thrilled millions of spectators. Although everyone could not go to the grounds to see the players, millions have seen them on television or listened to the matches on radio when the ABC first began broadcasting the games in the early 1920s and 1930s.
The rugby league players who played at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the old Sports Ground thrilled fans as well. I refer to players such as Dally Messenger, Brown, Clive Churchill, Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier, Langlands—I have mentioned too many St George players—Bobby Fulton, Arthur Beetson, who was a Balmain and later Eastern Suburbs legend, and Les Johns from Canterbury. The great Paul Gibson, who played for more clubs than I have time to mention, even played on the ground. I remind the House of the great rugby league teams of Eastern Suburbs, South Sydney and St George.
Mr Chris Hartcher: What about Gibbo?
Mr ALAN ASHTON: I mentioned Gibbo. Now he has had several mentions. I said the great Gibbo played there. He played a couple of shockers, according to reports from some of his colleagues. He played for more clubs than Jack Nicklaus had. I mention the great Balmain teams, such as the team that played in the 1989 grand final, which none of us has forgotten, when we were robbed blind. In 1988 Ellery Hanley was smashed. In rugby union there were players like Cyril Towers and Ken Catchpole, whose unfortunate memory would be that his career tragically ended at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a match against the All Blacks.
Mr George Souris: Colin Meads ripped his leg out.
Mr ALAN ASHTON: I can say that because I cannot be sued now. Colin Meads ripped his leg out from a pack. The list of great players is long: Trevor Allan, who played Rugby Union and Rugby League for Australia; Greg Davis, who tragically died some years ago; Simon Poidevin; the great Campese; the Thornett brothers; the Ellas and later players.
Ms Sandra Nori: I have kicked off at the SCG.
Mr ALAN ASHTON: The Minister has kicked off there and the Hon. Meredith Burgmann was kicked out. I remember going to the SCG in the early 1970s to protest against the Springboks playing, but I enjoyed watching the game from the Sheridan Stand while I protested. I had two bob each way. That is not uncommon in some political arenas. In recent years Sydney has adopted the Swans, who brought the AFL flag to this city after 25 years. People such as Lockett, big bad Barry Hall, Adam Goodes and Michael O'Loughlin have dragged new fans to the cricket ground.
I believe it was mooted some time ago that test cricket might be moved to Telstra Stadium, which is a wonderful facility. However, it is not the iconic, hallowed turf on which cricket should be played. The traditional home of Australian cricket is the Sydney Cricket Ground. These necessary upgrades, which are designed to provide greater comfort and which will cost the taxpayers nothing because of the way the project has been planned, will attract not only more sports fans but also residents and shoppers. Those who have a spouse who has no interest in sport can watch their chosen sport while their partner enjoys the other facilities. Everyone will be a winner.
The Opposition spokesperson raised my greatest concern with regard to these necessary upgrades. One of my first questions about this legislation related to the future of the Doug Walters Stand. I have met Doug Walters once or twice and have found him to be laconic. He did not reach his full cricket potential because he was out of action when he was conscripted in the 1960s. The Doug Walters Stand was initiated by a large group of people drinking beer on the hill and putting up a calico sign with "Doug Walters Stand" written on it.
The 2,800 extra seats that will be installed will be very costly at $60 million. However, the trust has not asked the Government for that funding. Having emerged from debt it is now able to finance the upgrade. I do not believe Doug Walters will have any problem with a name change. There have been many great cricketers and the people of Sydney can probably be involved in choosing a new name. Any bloke who could walk out to bat with a lit Rothmans cigarette in the ashtray and after having told his mates in the dressing room to leave it there because he might be back in a moment, or who could leave a winning hand of cards on the table saying he might be back soon is a legend. The trust has done a great job. Obviously, the trust members will take the interests of the sport, the spectators and the local community into account in whatever it plans. I strongly support the bill.
Ms CLOVER MOORE (Bligh) [11.43 a.m.]: The Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground Amendment Bill will allow the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation to approve the use of the land dedicated for public recreation for other purposes subject to State environmental planning policies. It applies to scheduled land, which includes the gold members' car park in the area beyond the Sydney Cricket Ground [SCG] hill. There will be restrictions to prohibit visitor accommodation and residential development, except for the gold members' car park site, where residential development will be allowed. As other honourable members have said, the purpose of the bill is to allow the SCG to upgrade its facility and to build a new grandstand between the O'Reilly and Churchill stands, replacing the Doug Walters Stand.
While I appreciate that the trust is committed to upgrading its facility and is looking for ways of doing that without asking the Government for financial support, I am very concerned about the impact of this proposal. Every member should be concerned about this important legislation because we are talking about the protection of public land. I would like to know why the Labor Party consistently supports development on public land. That is why I am concerned about this legislation, not about improved facilities at the SCG or the provision of a new stand. I am concerned about this legislation because it will permanently alienate public land, increase damage to the parkland precinct and impact on adjacent residential areas. It will allow development of residential property, offices and shops on public land, whereas the current zoning allows exclusively for public recreation.
On many occasions I have talked in this House about the Macquarie bequest. In 1811 the visionary Macquarie made a bequest of 1,000 acres or 405 hectares of land for the benefit of the present and all succeeding inhabitants of Sydney. The land was known as the Sydney Common, and it included what is now known as the SCG. Successive governments have betrayed the Macquarie bequest with continuous encroachment. Now only one-third of the original 405 hectares of the Sydney Common remains open public land—land that the visionary Macquarie set aside for the people of Sydney. The remainder is leased or permanently alienated. Governments have whittled away our parklands. It is as though they do not matter.
We have witnessed the alienation of the former tram shed, which was borrowed for some time but which then became a super centre complex, the tawdry McDonalds proposal of the honourable member for Gosford when he was the Minister—fortunately, that did not succeed—and slicing off part of Moore Park for the Eastern Distributor. By refusing to protect and invest in our parklands, the Government has forced the responsible trust to use land as an income generator, promoting development, large-scale events, commercial and retail activities and alienating land from its original purpose, public access and public ownership. The surrounding residential communities have campaigned over many years to defend the parklands from inappropriate development. Those custodians, including Patrick White and other less well-known people, have fought to protect that parkland.
Inner Sydney residents live in the most densely populated part of Australia. This is the area that will be the focus of the Government's metropolitan strategy. They already have access to the smallest amount of open space of any community in Australia. Many have no backyard or access to private outdoor areas and parklands, which are an essential green lung. They are a refuge and they provide access to essential active and passive recreation. Open space and these facilities are part and parcel of urban consolidation. Both the Federal and State governments have had urban consolidation policies for the past 20 years. It is estimated that the area will attract another 20,000 people over the next 20 years. The Government should be seriously addressing this dire shortage of open space.
The Government should be protecting and expanding open green space. The Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, an inner-city representative, is failing in that regard. The Government should not be selling or developing that land. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. The Government should be working with the trust to establish ways to upgrade the facility and to provide for its future, because it is an important community facility. It should not be agreeing to alienate this land, because it will be lost forever once it is rezoned—and it should not be.
Despite the Government's push for major events and retail and commercial activity in the parklands, it has failed to provide adequate public transport. Cars continue to park on Moore Park, particularly the Kippax Lakes fields, degrading this important parkland and alienating it from the communities, which, as I said, are growing in number as the Government continues to push development, particularly in the former south Sydney area. What other major world city would allow valuable inner-city parkland to be permanently used for car parking? Where is the Government's plan for the long-needed light rail route from the city to the sporting stadia, to the parkland and on to the racecourse and the University of New South Wales?
During major events visitors' cars hijack on-street parking in the surrounding residential areas. Not only are the people living in those residential areas—many of whom do not have off-street car parking—seriously inconvenienced, but the streets in the area are at an absolute standstill. That not only impacts on those who live there, it impacts on the patrons of the sporting stadia. They go to a match and then have to sit in their vehicles for an hour or an hour and a half when they try to leave the area because we simply do not have a street grid that is able to cope with those numbers of people.
Honourable members only have to take the example of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Victorian Government was able to get 80,000 people out of that complex at the conclusion of the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games because it had provided responsibly for mass transit. That has not happened here. The Government still has its head in the sand and has failed to acknowledge its responsibility to this growing population in the inner area, as well as to the thousands of people who want to go to Aussie Stadium or to the Sydney Cricket ground on a weekly basis to watch sporting events. They are all stuck in traffic! That traffic can have an impact as far away as the central business district and, consequently, it can have a serious impact on Sydney.
I have spoken in this House on many occasions about the importance of our nature reserves, our national parks, our conservation areas and, in particular, about how precious our inner-city parkland is. The members of this House should defend the principles that Macquarie put in place when he set his vision for the Sydney Common back in 1811. The history of the former Sydney Common is one of continued attempted, and often successful, encroachment. Successive governments have failed the spirit of the Macquarie bequest and are failing to consider the needs of future generations. Support for this bill will be one more step towards undermining that visionary bequest and a failure to provide for the needs of the most densely populated area in Australia, both now and into the future.
Mr GERARD MARTIN (Bathurst) [11.52 a.m.]: I will speak only briefly in this debate, first to support the bill and, second, to respond to some of the emotive comments made by the honourable member for Bligh. I speak as a member who represents one of the great Macquarie towns—Bathurst, the first inland city established in 1815. Governor Macquarie laid out a city plan for Bathurst when he arrived there in 1815 and it has been greatly amended since then. In fact, it was Governor Darling who brought it back into perspective and did some later planning. I do not believe that in 1811 Governor Macquarie expected that everything would stay the same for 200 years. The concept developed by Lachlan Macquarie might have changed a little in the past 200 years. That has obviously escaped the attention of the honourable member for Bligh.
We should focus on the impact of this bill. There has been emotive talk about alienating parkland and so on, but we are talking about the gold members' car park. I have not seen many people visiting that area for recreation, unless it was to search for their lost car keys! In regard to what is to happen at the back of the Doug Walters Stand, we are talking about 500 square metres, so no more open space will be alienated. As a cricket lover and someone whose one memorable innings on the Sydney Cricket Ground resulted in a duck—
Ms Sandra Nori: Did you play?
Mr GERARD MARTIN: Yes, in the Parliament versus the press match. If the Minister had not asked that question people would have wondered what team I represented. The bill is about the survival of the iconic status—I do not like to use the word "iconic" because it has been done to death—of the Sydney Cricket Ground, particularly so far as test cricket is concerned. The Sydney Cricket Ground needs expanded and redeveloped facilities, as has happened at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. So far as planning for transport is concerned it is difficult to compare the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the surrounding topography with that of Sydney. One of the great achievements of the Government has been to successfully encouraging people use public transport to visit the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Government has succeeded in getting people to use mass transport to get to and from the Sydney Cricket Ground by combining the admission price or gate fee with the cost of the public transport fare. Listening to the honourable member for Bligh, one would have thought that everyone travels there by car or by shanks's pony.
I am concerned, as is the honourable member for East Hills, about the disappearance of the Doug Walters stand. That is merely because of an attachment to Doug Walters, but at the end of the day there will be a new facility that will greatly enhance the comfort of the patrons using the Sydney Cricket Ground. If 500 square metres on the other side is to be used for some sort of appropriate commercial development, that will add to the experience of this important public venue. We have to be realistic and say that this proposal will not—as the honourable member for Bligh would have us believe—have any major impact or alienate open space. I support the bill.
Ms SANDRA NORI (Port Jackson—Minister for Tourism and Sport and Recreation, Minister for Women, and Minister Assisting the Minister for State Development) [11.56 a.m.], in reply: The honourable member for Bligh raised a number of issues, not all related to the bill. She talked a lot about Centennial Park, for which I am also responsible. I feel I am under some obligation to set the record straight and to talk about those issues, even though they are not directly related to the bill. The honourable member for Bligh has spoken at length about car parking and about the use of Moore Park for special events. However, it is worth noting that the parklands precinct, which includes Moore Park, provides an economic contribution of $75 million per year to this State. I do not think that can be ignored. I know the honourable member is concerned about parking on Moore Park, but the reality is that the car parking spaces have been reduced from 10,000 to 3,000 in the past few years.
The total amount of land currently affected by on-grass parking it is less than 2 per cent of the total 360 hectares of Centennial Parklands that are publicly available, and for a period of only 6 per cent of a given year. Digressing from the detail of the bill for a moment, local residents have access to this most magnificent parkland seven days each week, 52 weeks each year. A considerable amount of funding is raised through the foundation. That is fantastic, but a lot of State money has also gone into the parkland over the years. The parkland represents an aggregated investment by all New South Wales taxpayers, past and present, and future. I remind the honourable member of that.
Not too many people drive down from Toomelah, Condobolin or Boggabilla in their BMWs and Mercedes to visit Centennial Park and enjoy the ambience. The parkland is used at times for a car park and events are held there. These create income for the park and also facilitate the working of the precinct. A major sports precinct with two significant venues cannot be left idle without some attempt being made to generate income. It is a massive cost to maintain state-of-the-art sports facilities, stadia, grandstands, and so on. There are only two ways to pay for maintenance: either it comes out of the State's coffers or an intelligent commercial solution is found that might involve a combination of funds from the Government and/or the private sector and some intelligent commercial development. In that way there is more money for other sports facilities or, indeed, for hospitals or schools. One has to have an intelligent and realistic approach to this.
Let us be clear what is being proposed. The bill simply proposes a possibility that the trust may explore. The trust can ask proponents to come forward and put ideas on the table. The trust may get zero replies or it may get 100 proposals. Any proposal will go through the trust's rigorous processes and then it has to come to me as Minister for Sport, responsible for major venues. I will consider the business case of any proposal that the trust has decided might be worth looking at. It may well be that I will look at the heritage considerations of the site. I would want to make sure that any proposal was consistent with the site and so on. If the proposal gets past those tests it then goes to the Minister for Planning to go through that Minister's normal planning processes as well. So there are many safeguards. As the shadow spokesman said, it has all the normal planning processes to go through plus a few more that are not usually seen.
It is quite possible that there may be a proposal for a sports medicine clinic or a child care centre. There may be 100 different proposals that come forward that are not only good for the patrons and the members but also good for the local community—proposals that the local community might welcome and find valuable to improve their amenity. Look at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was redeveloped recently in time for the Commonwealth Games. It has a restaurant that operates outside of event times to generate some cash flow. Would it be the end of the world if that happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground? Of course it would not.
Would it be the end of the world if there were well-designed tourist accommodation of some sort so that patrons could enjoy staying there and going to the venue to enjoy a match? Would it be such a bad thing for the tourism industry in this State to be able to sell packages in Brisbane and Melbourne encouraging people to come and spend a weekend in Sydney to enjoy the footy, go to the opera, or whatever people would like to do, and stay near the venue the way people can at Sydney Olympic Park? Are these horrendous suggestions? I do not think so. Let us keep one thing very, very clear. This bill does one thing and one thing only: it simply gives the trust the opportunity to call for expressions of interest, to see whether any organisation or proponent has a decent idea that works for all of us: an idea that meets my criteria and the criteria of the Minister for Planning. There may be zero entrants into the field or there may be 100. We will see.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put.
The House divided.
|Mr Orkopoulos |
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.