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By Laura Neill

 

The demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park will forge ahead in the first week of the new year as stage one of the $730 million knockdown/rebuild project.

Demolition of the 30-year-old stadium is scheduled to start straight after the completion of the Test Cricket at the SCG, with the roof dismantling work due to be completed before the state election in March.

The approval for the demolition was granted in early December, despite strong opposition from the Labor government and the local community.

A ReachTEL poll commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald in March revealed that nearly 60% of voters either opposed or strongly opposed the government’s decision to demolish and rebuild both Allianz Stadium and ANZ at Homebush, and sports commentator Peter FitzSimons’ online petition to stop the $2 billion plan for spending on stadiums has secured over 200,000 signatures.

The NSW government maintains that the stadia plan will cement Sydney’s reputation as Australia’s number one sporting event destination.

According to the NSW Office for Sport, Allianz Stadium is now the oldest top-tier rectangular stadium in Australia with “significant safety, compliance and patron safety issues”. The statement also said that inadequate provisions of female toilets and disability access were major reasons for the rebuild.

The Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said that the Stadium, built in the 1980s, had come to the end of its life and was only “borderline safe”.

“I am not going to be a Sports Minister that locks out women and people with a disability from coming to experience the best sport and entertainment here in NSW,” Mr Ayres said.

But Waverley council member and Labor candidate for Coogee Dr Marjorie O’Neill said the changing standards for crowd safety hardly justified a full demolition and rebuild.

“If the stadium is at a point where it needs to be torn down shouldn’t the trust be held responsible for allowing the asset to get to that point? In terms of safety standards, I would hope that the measuring stick changes and that it always improves. But we shouldn’t have to be tearing down a building every single time that happens,” Dr O’Neill said. “The SCG next door is undergoing renovations but it’s been there for 100 years.”

Dr O’Neill also said that the money would be better spent on hospitals and schools. “Every single public primary school bar one in my seat is at capacity,” she said. “[The NSW Government] is supporting the infrastructure and building of this stadium but it doesn’t want to support building a new school!”

The final business case for the new stadium, released in March by Infrastructure NSW, presented a cost-benefit ratio of less than one.

Opposition leader Michael Daley has vowed that if the Labor government wins the election in March, the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust will have to pay for its own new stadium by taking out a concessional loan from the government, while the remaining $1.5 billion earmarked for the stadium will be redirected to schools and hospitals.

“I am making it crystal clear to the Premier and her mates on the SCG Trust — don’t knock down the stadium. If you do, then you are going to have to pay for a new one, not the citizens of NSW,” Mr Daley said.

Eastern suburbs action group Keep Sydney Beautiful have also claimed that a new and more highly-attended stadium will have a greater environmental impact on the parklands. In an objection to the redevelopment, KSB said that the increased traffic to the area for more intensive and frequent events, and the subsequent increase in noise, lighting, rubbish and security, will turn the parklands into an “unrecognisable precinct”.

“The Strategy does not consider the pressures that the rebuilt Allianz stadium will place on Moore Park and the surrounding suburbs, one of the city’s most densely populated areas where green space is at a greater premium than ever,” the group stated in their objection to the proposed development.

The group also voiced concerns over environmental aspects such as the government’s failure to test contaminated land on the site.

In a media statement released this week, the Department of Planning and Environment stated that the possibility of contamination had already been considered, and the risk was “low”. The Department would impose strict guidelines and allow no excavation to take place during the demolition process.

“Local residents can be assured that their safety is of paramount concern to the NSW Government,” read the media release.

The statement comes after a fresh wave of criticism over the weekend, when Labor leader Michael Daley revealed that stadium seats previously identified as flammable had been approved to be shipped to community sports grounds across the state, including the Singleton Rugby Club.

The seats that Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust chairman Toy Shepherd had told a parliamentary enquiry were “all flammable” were sent to showgrounds across the state which applied for salvage equipment from the demolition.

The new Allianz stadium, if approved, is scheduled for completion by March 2022. It is expected to have a lifespan of 50 years.