It comes as rumours suggest the Acting Minister, Dr Geoff Lee MP, secretly visited the WEC on Tuesday and met with the board of Venues NSW.
After an embarrassing roof leak at the WEC stopped a nationally televised basketball match and the Minister said on this day last year:
I have instructed Venues NSW to finalise consultation with stakeholders and report to me as a priority, with regards to the next steps for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct.
Member for Wollongong, Paul Scully, said with just 591 days left before Wollongong hosted the UCI Road World Championships in 2022 time was running out to upgrade the WEC before the event.
“The Minister promised the WEC upgrade would be a “priority” – his words – after the debacle of the roof leak on this very day last year and yet 12-months on we have absolutely nothing to show for it – the stakeholder report that the Minister has had for a year hasn’t even been released.
“The Minister needs to get on his bike and get this upgrade process moving, or Wollongong likely risks another incident where the WEC causes another embarrassment – this time while millions of eyes worldwide are focused on the city.
“It’s time for the Government to stop dragging its feet on an upgrade that is inevitable for the 21-year old WEC and get a move on now”, he said.
Mr Scully has relentlessly campaigned for the Government and successive Sports Ministers to take the upgrade of the WEC seriously and obtained secret documents and briefings under FoI laws, which have consistently warned that the current facility is not fit-for-purpose and turns away events with over 1000 participants attracting Australia-wide visitation to the region.
The documents reveal that Venues NSW advised the Minister 12-months ago that requested “appropriate funding” and that “The time to commit to the future funding [of the project] is now.”
In a Ministerial briefing document dated 21 February 2020 noted that Venues NSW “is currently awaiting KPMG to finalise the consultation report” and “Venues NSW has engaged “The Being Agency” to develop a public facing document…for Government consideration and approval to commence a draft concept plan and Business Case…”
GIPA documents confirm widespread stakeholder and community support for the upgrade from Venues NSW, National Basketball League, Destination Wollongong, Illawarra Business Chamber, Wollongong City Council, Regional Development Australia Illawarra, Department of Planning Industry and Environment and other local industry and community organisations.
“Over the years the WEC has hosted many comedy acts but these endless delays and dithering by the NSW Government on an upgrade is beyond a joke”, Mr Scully said.