The NSW Minister for Sport says the business case for Hunter Park is not finished, despite a Venues NSW presentation saying it was currently being discussed within government.
In the government’s first official comment after the Herald published details and concept images of Venues NSW plans for the Broadmeadow sport and entertainment precinct, a spokesperson for Sport Minister Alister Henskens said the business case “will be considered by the Minister” when it is finalised.
It has been five-and-a-half years since the Coalition announced plans for Hunter Park, and concerns linger over whether the project will get off the ground.
The NSW government committed $6.7 million in June last year to “progress the planning” of Hunter Park through a business case.
The Herald put questions to Mr Henskens’ office this week asking if Hunter Park or a new Newcastle Entertainment Centre were something the government was keen to fund.
The response said the business case was still being prepared.
NSW Labor said it would not make a commitment until it saw the final business case.
The government’s stance is in contrast to its treatment of the Newcastle light rail, which it chose to fund without a business case.
The NSW Auditor-General found the cost of the tram was not justified by “conventional cost-benefit analysis”.
The Herald understands the cost-benefit ratio for Hunter Park is greater than one, which is considered to be the acceptable standard for a project and which shows it will return more money than it costs.
Meanwhile, the NSW government is proceeding with a $300 million rebuild of Penrith Stadium, which has been reported to have a cost-benefit ratio of less than one.
The government’s statement that the business case is incomplete appears to be at odds with the Venues NSW presentation, which said “the outcome of the Business Case is a request for investment in Newcastle Entertainment Centre and the Entertainment Quarter, which includes public realm, landscaping and internal road networks”.
It goes on to say “The funding request for this business case is currently being discussed within Government to understand the capital constraints and the best path forward for the Entertainment Centre delivery.”
The Venues NSW presentation said the Hunter Park project was expected to produce $3.6 billion in economic output for the state and $3.1 billion in gross regional product.
It contains three options for a new entertainment centre, including a preferred choice based on detailed analysis of costs, benefits, financial appraisal, budget impact, program objectives and risks.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive officer Alice Thompson questioned the proposed timeframe for delivering Hunter Park, which the Venues NSW presentation says is 15 to 30 years.
“Can you imagine that being said for Sydney Olympic Park?” she said.
“It just seems to lack some of the imperative that we’ve seen from the state with developments in Sydney.”
Ms Thompson said the government had identified Hunter Park as a priority and committed resources to the master plan.
“I think we can say government is doing what they say and what we need them to,” she said.
“What we can also say, though, is we’re already five years or more into that planning and now we’re looking at a 30-year development horizon.
“Surely we can expect to see more traction on the planning and see the full vision come to life before 2050.
“We can see that the work and the thinking and the conversations are under way. That’s a good thing.
“What we’re still seeing is a distinct lack of imperative, especially compared with stadium redesigns and precincts in Sydney.”