Wollongong will continue to miss out on multimillion dollar entertainment, sporting events and conferences because the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government has put off a decision to upgrade the Wollongong Entertainment Centre, instead asking Wollongong City Council to develop…yet another plan.
In a letter this week Wollongong MP, Paul Scully, has been told by the Acting Minister for Sport, Dr Geoff Lee MP, that:
I have recently written to Wollongong City Council recommending it commences a planning process for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct which includes WIN Stadium and WIN Entertainment Centre.
The latest move comes a month after secret documents and briefings obtained under the state’s freedom of information laws show Dr Lee has been warned that the current facility is not fit-for-purpose and turns away scheduled events with over 1000 participants attracting Australia-wide visitation to the region and more than 130 days since Venues NSW was directed by the Acting Minister to complete stakeholder consultation on the draft concept plan for the Entertainment Centre upgrade.
Mr Scully said that latest upgrade snag is just mindless bureaucracy and the result of a stubborn NSW Liberal and Nationals Government, committed to inaction when it comes to our Entertainment Centre.
“A plan for someone else to come up with a plan while you haven’t completed your own plan is not progress, it’s a bureaucratic go-slow on steroids.
“It’s now crystal clear that the Berejiklian Government is just not interested in upgrading the Wollongong Entertainment Centre.
“The Acting Minister is throwing up any and every possible barrier to stop funding the upgrade of a facility that is almost universally agreed is in desperate need of one.
“This is costing the third largest city in New South Wales multimillion dollar entertainment, sporting events and conferences along with new jobs and associated investment.
“The Acting Minister is now asking Wollongong City Council to conduct another planning process, before the public has seen the result of his own planning process, which is nothing but delaying tactic to avoid funding an upgrade.
“What we have now is more plans for plans and delay upon delay while the region misses out on multimillion dollar events, which will be vital to jobs in tourism and hospitality, as we come out of the COVID-19 virus pandemic restrictions and edge towards hosting a global road cycling event in 2022.
“This latest snag in the upgrade of the Wollongong Entertainment Centre is mindboggling incompetence”, he said.
“The Acting Minister’s request is bewildering: what does an internal upgrade of the Wollongong Entertainment Centre have to do with the footpath or streets outside of the facility?
Mr Scully has written to the Acting Minister asking him to outline why a Council planning process is needed and to outline a firm timetable for the release of the draft concept plan for the WEC as well as his own plan on when a detailed, fully-costed upgrade plan will be presented to Cabinet to consider.
“What I want the Acting Minister to explain is whether the WEC upgrade is now contingent on the Council’s plan for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct and whether he intends to progress anything while the latest planning process is underway?
In February this year Venues NSW advised the Minister that it requested “appropriate funding” and that “The time to commit to the future [of the project] is now.” Venues NSW is seeking $3.5 million to progress its masterplan.
GIPA documents confirm that there is 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, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment as well as local industry and community organisations.
“I just can’t understand why the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government is so stubbornly pushing against an open door on upgrading a facility it owns, it manages and it must maintain”, Mr Scully said.