The New South Wales government’s controversial plans for Sydney’s Allianz Stadium will head to court after a local opposition group today (Wednesday) gained an expedited hearing that will take place later this month.
The NSW Land and Environment Court will hear the case brought forward by the Local Democracy Matters group from February 20-22. The case relates to December’s decision by the incumbent NSW coalition government to award 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.
The project has served to ramp up political tensions ahead of elections scheduled for next month, with both the Labor and Greens parties being strongly opposed to the government’s wider stadium masterplan.
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 last year by the government, led by Premier Gladys Berejiklian. The total cost of the plan stands at Aus$1.5bn (£824.7m/€938.5m/$1.07bn).
The Berejiklian government in December said that after gaining approval from the Department of Planning and Environment to begin demolition of Allianz Stadium, it had 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.
However, Local Democracy Matters has claimed that the government “rushed” its application process for the demolition, adding that the plan lacked public consultation, failed to satisfy required design excellence provisions and ignored contaminated soil on the site.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that today’s proceedings heard that while initial “soft stripping” of the stadium has already commenced, hard demolition is due to begin by the end of February, necessitating a “speedy trial”.
Local Democracy Matters is seeking a ruling that the consent for the demolition is invalid and of no effect. The organisation’s treasurer, Chris Maltby, said the planned demolition was a “terrible waste of money” with the group to request the government reverses the work already carried out if it is successful.
“We are saying that if you are going to carry out these processes you have to do them correctly,” Maltby added, according to the Herald. “If the government’s not complying with them then that sends a very bad message to everybody.”
Commenting on today’s ruling, an Infrastructure NSW spokeswoman said it does not change the timeline for the stadium demolition, with the progressive structural phase only allowed to commence once final conditions for consent have been met. “Removal of the roof structure and external sides of the stadium is expected to commence from late February,” the spokeswoman said.
A number of councils in Sydney’s eastern suburbs have also voiced their unease over the plan and Waverley Council this week pledged to take similar legal action to that of Local Democracy Matters.
Berejiklian yesterday said she was unworried by the prospect of legal action and today courted further controversy by pledging Aus$25m for a sporting complex in the city of Orange, but only if voters back her candidate in March’s state election. “This will only happen if (Nationals candidate) Kate Hazelton is the member and I want to make that clear,” Berejiklian said, according to the AAP news agency.
Reacting to this announcement, Labor leader Michael Daley said: “I’m not sure if it’s blackmail or a bribe but the message is clear: if you don’t do what you’re told, you’re not going to get your stadium, but people in Sydney will get three stadiums for billions of dollars.”
Image: Allianz Stadium