Michael Parris reporting for the Newcastle Herald
August 10 2023 – 5:30am
An early concept image of the Hunter Park redevelopment.
Key regional lobby groups have called on the NSW government not to let the Tim Crakanthorp scandal derail the Hunter Park redevelopment project.
Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said the Newcastle MP’s sacking from cabinet and referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption over his family’s undisclosed property interests at Broadmeadow was a “setback” for the massive sport, entertainment and housing redevelopment.
But Ms Thompson said the government should differentiate between the Hunter Park project on Crown land and other proposals to rezone nearby privately owned land which could become the subject of ICAC’s inquiries.
“This is a setback,” she said.
“Hunter Park is a regional priority we’ve been talking about for years.
“There’s been significant work done on planning it. It’s a mature project. We’d like to see the government keep going with it and not see it get caught up by other issues.”
An ICAC investigation could take years if the corruption watchdog holds a public inquiry.
Business Hunter hoped the government could proceed with planning for Hunter Park while the ICAC investigated.
“While we respect the need for process, it would be incredibly disappointing to see momentum on this transformational project stall,” acting chief executive Sheena Martin said.
“The community of the region has worked hard with government to get the strategy and plans to the current state.
“If there was a practical way to decouple the Crown land from the private property component of the project to enable the business case to progress as planned, this would be a great outcome for the region.
“Hunter Park will enable big wheels to turn for the Hunter, representing the most significant urban redevelopment opportunity so close to a regional city anywhere on the east coast of Australia.”
Lands and Property Minister Steve Kamper said last week that Cabinet Office acting secretary Peter Duncan had been instructed to examine “all current major Hunter region development processes involving state government agencies”.
Senior planning officials have reportedly been ordered to stop work on Hunter Park while the review takes place.
The Broadmeadow redevelopment has been on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list since 2021.
A Venues NSW business case, revealed by the Newcastle Herald last year, promoted a new 11,000-seat indoor arena to replace the ageing Newcastle Entertainment Centre as the potential first stage of the redevelopment.
Mr Crakanthorp expressed support for the project at a Property Council lunch in June, saying he had been “knocking on the door” of Mr Kamper every day to see the business case.
Mr Kamper said in early July that the government was reviewing the long-term strategy for Hunter Park.
Ms Thompson said the new government had given Hunter Park renewed momentum but the region had waited too long for the project to start.
She said the March election, change in government and subsequent review had already held up planning for months and patience with the new government was starting to wear thin.