Wednesday 7 March, 2018 THE WEEKLY TIMES 17
18 THE WEEKLY TIMES Wednesday 7 March, 2018 Fears latest NSW Government move may force Balmain Tigers into extinction BY TWT’s URBAN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT BALMAIN Tigers fan, Inner West Council Mayor, Darcy Byrne (pictured) says the NSW Government compulsorily acquiring the Balmain Leagues Club site would be a “terrible decision” with “disastrous consequences” for the Tigers, the Rozelle community and NSW taxpayers. Only weeks after new owners of the Balmain Leagues Club site unveiled a new $165 million redevelopment of the site, it has emerged the NSW Government has earmarked it for compulsory acquisition. It’s understood the site may be required to facilitate the daily removal of tonnes of waste - known as a “dive site” - during construction of the proposed Western Harbour Tunnel. NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the agency assessing several potential dive sites, is again creating headaches for the Tigers, with its oetions over tra impacts cited as the reason for failure of previous redevelopment proposals for the site. “It’s been with the state government for five or si ears no and they’ve refused the ast four or five proposals and it was based on objections from Roads and Maritime Services about the tra ipat on Victoria Road,” Clr Byrne said. He described the compulsory acquisition plan as “ridiculous” and said it would “make Balmain Tigers etint poison the ocal environment in Rozelle and leave NSW tapaers ith an astronomical” compensation bill. “This has been a very badly planned project from the start, but in the long history of est onne stu ups, this is possibly the stupidest decision that they’ve come up with,” he said. In a statement issued to The Weekly Times, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, criticised Clr Byrne, saying it was disappointing he “had chosen to politicise” the issue. s ave onfired the Balmain Leagues Club site was “one of the areas being considered” for compulsory acquisition, but said the NSW Goverment would be carefully assessing its options and would undertake community consultations. “As is always the case with these major projects the NSW Government does its homework properly and consults with the community,” she said. “We will continue to consult with the community and will have more to say in the near future. “It is disappointing Darcy Byrne has chosen to politicise this, rather than work with Government to deliver the best outcome for the community.” Clr Byrne said he was contacted last week by NSW Roads and Maritime Services to inform him the Balmain Leagues Club site, on Victoria Road, Rozelle, was being considered for compulsorily acquisition. Angered by the latest setback to plans for the site, Clr Byrne, a Balmain Tigers fan, launched a oneman media assault, with appearances on ABC 702 and the Alan Jones Breakfast Show on 2GB and the evening news. “A new owner of the site has prepared plans for a redevelopment that could see the Tigers return to Rozelle,” he said in statement issued by Inner West Council. “If the Government snatches the property and uses it as a “dive site” for tunnelling, this development will never proceed and the Tigers will never return to their spiritual home. “In addition to the four massive smoke stacks and enormous motorway interchange already slated for Rozelle as part of the Stage 3 of WestConne this oud see all the spoil from the Western Harbour Tunnel being removed and trucked out on local streets.” He said the impact on Rozelle Public School, adjacent to Victoria Road, would be “devastating and completely unacceptable”. “This Government seems intent on poisoning the local environment of the Rozelle community,” Clr Byrne said. “With a rezoning of 12 storey residential development and a shopping mall already approved the tapaers of NSW would also have to foot the bill for massive, unprecedented compensation costs. “The planning of the estonne and Western Harbour Tunnel projects has been marked by ineptitude and secrecy at every turn. “If carried out, this decision would be the most reckless yet.” Meanwhile, the new owners of the site, Heworth Development, which last month released early plans to turn the site into 182 units and shops in structures up to 12 storeys tall, said news of the potential compulsory acquisition had come as a surprise. Adding further complication to the situation is the mid-March sale settlement date for Heworth’s acquisition, making it unclear whether the RMS would seek to enter discussions with Heworth or former owner Rozelle Village. “No one from RMS has contacted us but we are very to keen to have that discussion if this is what’s proposed,” a spokesman said. “If the government had their eye on the site it may be a lot easier to negotiate (an acquisition) for a vacant building as opposed to one that has a 12-storey building on it. It could be a strategic move on their behalf. “But it would have serious implications for us and I don’t think anyone — regardless of whether they support the redevelopment or not — would want to see the site becoming a construction ground for 10 years.” But the Minister said use of the site “wouldn’t be forever”. “It’s not going to be for another decade,” she said. “Let’s put it into contet of ho on that site has been sitting there empty while the local council has been dithering around with their decisions on that.” This TWT on-the-spot PHOTO of the Balmain Leagues Club was taken on Friday and shows the destitute state the building is in. Politicians have left our Balmain Leagues Club to rot , left wing eihhardt ounillors and goernment red tae has illed off past redevelopment applications of the Balmain Tigers’ spiritual home. Despite repeated campaigns by The Weekly Times to bring the Tigers home it has been eight years since the Balmain Leagues Club was sold for $1 iion in ehane for its buyer inheriting the club’s $22 million-plus debt. Since then the leagues club has fallen into disrepair ith oors rottin from water damage and almost every wall covered in graffiti. ast ear a fire elieved to have been started by squatters - broke out and had to e etinuished by more than eight fire fihtin vehies. The last attempt to save the club was made by Rozelle Village developer Ian Wright who blamed Leichhardt Council for and its former Mayor Darcy Byrne for supporting angry residents who shot down an initial 32-storey proposal and opposed smaller scale designs. Mr Wright hoped a proposed 135 apartment block within a 12-storey tower and an eight-storey tower, a new leagues club, a supermarket and 15 specialty shops would get approval because it was fully compliant with council planning controls but this was knocked back by NSW Land & Environment Court hearing in March, last year. “We did everything possible to get a new leagues club and the blame is with Leichhardt Council, who opposed us,” Mr Wright told The Weekly Times. Former Leichhardt Mayor and now Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne tes a dierent story. Mayor Byrne told The Weekly Times it has been the state government and Roads and Maritime Services who have repeatedly ied o attepts to save the club due to tra onerns on Victoria Road. “I am a Tigers fan and I, as much as any other fan, want the Tigers to return home,” he said. His Labor colleagues also stressed that The Green’s Mayor Rochelle Porteous was running the council for much of the time the leagues club applications were knocked back. Rozelle Residents Action Group spokesman David Anderson said the block should never have been rezoned for high development. “There is overwhelming local opposition this” he said Tigers fans tell a dierent tae. Numerous fans recently spoke to TWT at the Balmain Town Hall in favour of redevelopment and said Darcy Byrne has never put their side of the story. “He can’t say he didn’t know how well feel because he was the one who called the town hall meeting,” one angry Tiger said.