The controversial demolition of Sydney’s Allianz Stadium is poised to commence a fortnight ahead of state elections that could scupper the project after a court today (Wednesday) rejected an appeal against the plan.
The New South Wales Land and Environment Court ruled that the government did not breach its own planning rules for the project and that the demolition of the venue otherwise known as Sydney Football Stadium can proceed.
The plans of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s coalition government for Allianz Stadium, along with other sports facilities in Sydney, have proved a political battleground ahead of a state election scheduled for March 23. The Labor and Greens parties have both been strongly opposed to the government’s wider stadium masterplan.
The court hearing was triggered after an opposition group, Local Democracy Matters, received the green light on February 6 for an expedited analysis of the situation. In December, the government 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.
Waverley Council also joined the opposition with its case, which was heard concurrently, revolving around the claim that the government breached design excellence requirements in its vision for Allianz Stadium.
While ‘soft demolition’ work on the stadium has already commenced, an injunction preventing ‘hard demolition’ of the roof and walls remains in effect until 5pm local time on Friday. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper today reported that Justice Nicola Pain said the government had not failed to meet the requirements for the project’s planning consent as she dismissed both cases.
The court hearing was told that contractor Lendlease originally intended to commence hard demolition in late February and the delay would likely cost the company tens of thousands of dollars per day. Speaking today, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government would now “focus on getting on with the job of delivering a world-class stadium”.
He added: “The people of NSW have a clear choice at the next election. A government that wants to build and grow the state’s future or a Labor party that wants to cut, cancel and cripple NSW.”
Allianz 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 Berejiklian. The total cost of the plan stands at Aus$1.5bn (£801.5m/€932.3m/$1.05bn).
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.
Labor leader Michael Daley has been a vocal critic of the government’s masterplan and last week said he will force the Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust to repay a maximum Aus$644m loan to continue with the redevelopment of Allianz Stadium, if elected into power at the end of the month.
Daley said today: “Only a government that is dripping with arrogance would send the wrecking balls in with 18 days to go until the election. Premier, do not knock this stadium down. Leave it standing and let NSW have their say.”
Meanwhile, Local Democracy Matters spokesman Chris Maltby said the group is considering an appeal against today’s ruling. He added: “We’d like to see (Berejiklian) take the chance not to do anything. It’s only two weeks until the election, that election can be a referendum on the stadium.”
Image: Allianz Stadium