Media: By Michael Parris December 4 2022

Peter Evans at Newcastle Showground. File picture

Newcastle Show chairman Peter Evans has renewed his attack on state government plans to “make money out of housing” on the site of the city’s historic showground.

A Venues NSW master plan for the proposed Hunter Park sport, entertainment and housing precinct at Broadmeadow shows new apartment buildings surrounding the showground.

The plan shows the oval and harness racing track becoming a “community green” with trees and gardens at the centre of the “Showground Village Residential Precinct”.

“People would not realise it from reading the paper on Saturday that this involves the loss of our showground,” Mr Evans said.

“I can’t believe Novocastrians will sit back and let a site they’ve sweated over 120 years to fill swamps and put up grandstands and other amenities for the Newcastle Show and for many other purposes to lose it in favour of a government plan to make money out of housing.

“It’s just not on. The government’s got plenty of areas where it can tap in to funds out of the Hunter.

“We get back about 10 per cent of what we put in. I think it might even be less.”

A Venues NSW stakeholder presentation, seen by the Newcastle Herald, emphasises the need to “maximise commercial offset and revenue opportunities” at Hunter Park.

The presentation says Venues NSW completed “an initial market sounding” of the private sector, which “stated prospect to maximise residential density across precinct”.

The show board has been locked in a heated dispute with Venues NSW, which controls the showground, since former sports minister Stuart Ayres announced the Hunter Park project in 2017.

Venues NSW has proposed moving the show to the area surrounding Hunter Stadium, an idea Mr Evans described as “ridiculous”.

Stage one of the Hunter Park master plan includes a new entertainment centre connected to the stadium via an open plaza.

Mr Evans said Venues NSW had invited show board members to view its plans for Hunter Park three years ago but had insisted the directors sign confidentiality agreements.

“None of the executive would do it,” he said.

“Do we have to be confidential about what happens to our park, our heritage oval, our grandstands?”

He accused Venues NSW of trying to stop the association generating additional income from the showground outside the three days of the annual show.

The Newcastle solicitor and businessman called for more community input in planning for major urban renewal projects in the Hunter.

“I can’t believe that the bureaucrats out of Sydney think they can dominate what we do in Newcastle.

“They did it to some extent with the Honeysuckle development.

“Huge mistakes made there. Huge times 10 mistake with the light rail.

“The money that we got from the port should have come back to this area.

“We get a third of it, and we waste it on a light rail that doesn’t work, that goes nowhere and stops all our parking such that a good number of us, particularly the poor blighters in retail in Hunter Street, have got vacant areas.

“It’s time that we had people in Newcastle decide our future.”

Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said the planning milestone was important but investments such as the rail corridor should be part of an integrated plan for the NSW supply chain which included containerised imports and exports at Newcastle port and a Newcastle international airport.