Allianz Stadium decision fuels NSW political battle

The incumbent New South Wales coalition government has awarded a contract for the demolition of Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and construction of a new venue it says will be the finest in Australia, ramping up political tensions ahead of elections scheduled for March.

The government’s stadium vision has proved a political talking point in recent months with New South Wales’ Labor party having maintained it will not provide funding earmarked for the redevelopment of Sydney’s Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium if elected into government in March.

Allianz Stadium, also known as the Sydney Football Stadium, is set to be rebuilt with the existing venue to be replaced by an innovative stadium featuring a hybrid steel and wood roof. ANZ Stadium, meanwhile, is set to undergo major renovation work as part of wide-ranging plans outlined earlier this year by the current NSW government, led by Premier Gladys Berejiklian. The total cost of the plan stands at Aus$1.5bn (£846m/€956m/$1.085bn).

The Berejiklian government today (Friday) said that after gaining approval from the Department of Planning and Environment to begin demolition of Allianz Stadium, it has signed a contract with property and infrastructure group Lendlease to not only knock down the existing structure but also to build a new stadium for Aus$730m.

Sports Minister Stuart Ayres maintained that despite approval only being granted for the demolition of the existing stadium, an all-encompassing contract needed to be signed. “I can’t separate this contract into two stages to reflect the planning process,” Ayres said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “We have two stages of construction. One contract.”

With elections looming, Ayres rejected suggestions that the government should have waited before entering into a contract. “That would just displace all of the people that utilise this stadium, whether they be fans or tenants,” he said. “If you’re a club like Sydney FC and you want to delay the start of this stadium, that’s a whole other year that you won’t be able to access this venue.”

The government will need to seek separate planning approval to develop the new stadium next year, but Ayres said this will not increase the Aus$730m cost. “This stadium will set a new standard for fan experience in Australia,” he added. “It will kick Melbourne to the kerb and punt Brisbane to reserve grade.”

Today’s decision potentially sets up a difficult situation should Labor, led by Michael Daley, win March’s election. The Herald noted that while Daley has previously called on the government not to enter into a demolition contract, he had not specified whether he would be prepared to cancel a construction contract.

Daley said the decision to sign a contract was a “punch in the nose for the ordinary citizens of NSW.” He added: “Don’t knock this thing down now, wait until the election. There is no good reason why this government needs to proceed with such undue haste.”

Daley today stressed that if Labor wins power it will re-negotiate the contract so state taxpayers don’t pay for the redevelopment. Instead, he’ll offer a loan to a private group or the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust to rebuild the city stadium.

Image: Cox Architecture