The Infrastructure NSW arm of the New South Wales government was accused of suppressing evidence of carcinogenic substances in soil beneath Allianz Stadium as a court hearing into the future of the Sydney venue commenced today (Wednesday).
The three-day hearing was triggered after a local opposition group received the green light on February 6 for an expedited analysis of the situation. The NSW Land and Environment Court is hearing the case brought forward by the Local Democracy Matters group. 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 (pictured) it says will be the finest in Australia.
Waverley Council has also joined the opposition with its case, which is being heard concurrently, revolving around the claim that the government breached design excellence requirements in its vision for Allianz Stadium.
Local Democracy Matters is arguing that the government’s application process for the demolition, for which soft work has already commenced, was flawed. It also claims the plan had insufficient public consultation, did not satisfy design excellence requirements and failed to take into consideration contaminated soil on the site.
The latter issue proved to be the main talking point from the opening day of the hearing. Tim Robertson, barrister for Local Democracy Matters, told the court that soil analysis in a consultant’s report demonstrated traces of carcinogenic substances had been detected in landfill containing ash, cinder, slag and building rubble at the site.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Robertson said these substances were in amounts “well in excess of the criteria for recreational use and environmental base criteria” and should have resulted in further investigation.
“That fact was known to Infrastructure NSW and it was suppressed during the exhibition process,” Robertson said. He added that evidence of the possible contamination had been held by Infrastructure NSW, but was never revealed to the public or the Environment Protection Authority.
Robertson added: “The public should have been given the detailed site investigation. It seems to have been done but it was never made available to the public.”
In response, Infrastructure NSW’s barrister, Sandra Duggan, maintained there was no evidence the body had the report during the public exhibition period. “There is no evidence to support these outrageous suggestions,” she added.
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.
Speaking outside court ahead of the start of the hearing, Local Democracy Matters treasurer Chris Maltby said the group had taken on the case as no one else was prepared to do so. “This is about the government sticking by its own legislation,” he added, according to The Guardian newspaper. “If you’re going to have planning laws and expect the development community, mums and dads and everybody to follow them, you really have to set an example.”
Image: Allianz Stadium