Michael Parris reporting for the Newcastle Herald
Updated July 3 2023 – 6:15pm, first published 4:42pm
An early concept image of the Hunter Park precinct.
Regional advocacy group Committee for the Hunter says a state government review of the Hunter Park development strategy will “accelerate” the project.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Monday that Sports Minister Steve Kamper would review the proposed sports, entertainment and residential precinct at Broadmeadow after six years and $6.7 million of seemingly fruitless planning.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said on Monday that the project was destined to deliver a below-par outcome on its existing trajectory.
“The yardstick for Hunter Park and the broader renewal of Broadmeadow is did we make this as good as the opportunity offered. On current pathways, the answer will be no,” she said.
“That’s why we welcome the review of Hunter Park, which we expect to strengthen and accelerate development rather than embed further delay.”
The Coalition government announced the project in 2017 and four years later budgeted $6.7 million for a “final business case” for the precinct.
The Herald reported late last year that Venues NSW had completed a business case which identified a new 11,000-seat entertainment centre as the most pressing need for the precinct.
International planning firm Hassell also completed a 118-page “urban design framework” for Hunter Park last year.
The Venues NSW master plan for the site included an aquatic centre, hotels, an eat street, commercial space and 2700 apartments for up to 6400 people.
The former government denied the business case had been finished, and Labor has not published the document since winning office in March.
The Coalition government announced late last year that the suburb of Broadmeadow was one of 10 zones in the state which would receive accelerated rezoning assessments to boost housing supply.
A state-owned locomotive depot behind Hunter School of the Performing Arts is among possible sites for future housing redevelopment.
Ms Thompson said the committee had written to Mr Kamper, Minister for the Hunter Tim Crakanthorp and Planning Minister Paul Scully last week to stress the “unparalleled potential” of Broadmeadow for new jobs, housing, sport, recreation and “economic growth of state significance”.
The committee’s correspondence said fragmented governance across the suburb’s potential redevelopment sites would impede its progress.
It urged the government to involve the Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation in the “largest remaining consolidated piece of government-owned land in Newcastle”.
The Lower Hunter’s city commissioner on the Greater Cities Commission, Matt Endacott, said he also supported a rethink on Hunter Park.
Mr Endacott, who provides direct advice to Mr Scully, said a more coordinated approach across government would achieve better outcomes at Broadmeadow.
“We need to change the whole approach to what we’re doing, or perhaps not doing, in Broadmeadow,” he said.
“The Hunter is facing a housing crisis. Broadmeadow provides opportunities to deliver thousands of new homes, but to date there has been no effort to link what’s happening on the various sites around Hunter Park.
“I’ve seen no evidence of alignment across government agencies, and the continuation of this piecemeal approach will get us nowhere.”
He said transport plans were “not connected” to Hunter Park planning, which in turn was disconnected from proposals for the locomotive depot.
“Between all of this, we also have private landowners who are also just getting on with the job.
“Unless we send strong signals using government land, the opportunity to do something good will be lost.”
Mr Endacott said dedicating a light rail corridor to Broadmeadow was “critical”.
“This should have been done when the first stage was completed.
“The lack of a directive from the then government put the whole idea of extension into a deep freeze. I’ve spent three weeks now trying to thaw that conversation.”