BY TWT’s URBAN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT
BALMAIN Tigers fan, Inner West Council Mayor, Darcy Byrne 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 ear- marked 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 RMS a major impediment to Tigers’ plans
NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the agency assessing several potential dive sites, is again creating headaches for the Tigers, with its objections over traffic impacts cited as the reason for failure of previous redevelopment proposals for the site.
“It’s been with the state government for five or six years now and they’ve refused the last four or five proposals and it was based on objections from Roads and Maritime Services about the traffic impact on Victoria Road,” Clr Byrne said.
Angered by the latest setback, Balmain Tigers fan and Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne made brief radio appearances on ABC 702 and the Alan Jones Breakfast Show on 2GB.
He described the compulsory acquisition plan as “ridiculous” and said it would “make Balmain Tigers extinct”, poison the local environment in Rozelle and leave NSW taxpayers with an “astronomical” compensation bill.
“This has been a very badly planned project from the start, but in the long history of West Connex stuff-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.
Ms Pavey confirmed 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.”
RMS official told Mayor of plan
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 on thr agency’s radar for compulsorily acquisition.
Angered by the latest setback to plans for the site, Cr Byrne, a Balmain Tigers fan, launched a one-man 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 WestConnex, this would 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,” Cr Byrne said.
“With a rezoning of 12 storey residential development and a shopping mall already approved, the taxpayers of NSW would also have to foot the bill for massive, unprecedented compensation costs.
“The planning of the WestConnex 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.”
Mid-March settlement on site sale complicating situation
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.”
It won’t be 10 years, says Pavey
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 context of how long that site has been sitting there empty while the local council has been dithering around with their decisions on that.”