24 November 2023

ACT Government makes its pitch to keep AIS in Canberra as part of broader northside masterplan

| Lizzie Waymouth
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An independent review into the future of the AIS is expected to provide a report by the end of this year. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government says it wants the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to play a “pivotal” role in a northside sport and health precinct encompassing the University of Canberra (UC), Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) Bruce, UC Hospital and North Canberra Hospital.

The Territory Government made its pitch to the Albanese Government’s independent review of AIS infrastructure to help guide funding decisions for upcoming major sporting events such as the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games. The review will also consider relocating the facility out of the national capital to Queensland.

However, the Queensland Government did not make a submission to the inquiry and it is the ACT Government that has been the most passionate about retaining the facility.

In its submission, the ACT Government said the AIS needed to stay in Canberra because it was an integral part of the capital’s sporting, cultural and economic landscape and had been for more than 40 years.

“Canberra’s strong growth presents opportunities to attract and support a wide range of cultural and sporting events. Collaboration between the Australian and ACT governments will ensure that investment in Canberra’s national assets and infrastructure projects, including the AIS precinct,” it said.

The submission called for at least $200 million in investment to revamp the AIS campus to bring it up to standard ahead of the 2032 Olympics and envisioned the facility contributing to a broader masterplan for a Bruce precinct with a redeveloped or replaced Canberra Stadium.

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During annual reports hearings on Monday (20 November), Chief Minister Andrew Barr said “the evidence is pretty clear” that keeping the AIS in Canberra was the most cost-effective option.

“The relocation options are far more expensive, far more uncertain and given we are eight, nine years out from the Brisbane Olympics, if the idea and the purpose or the rationale for moving the AIS to south-east Queensland was for those Olympics, that ship has sailed, it’s too late,” he said.

“We’ve been very clear about our position on that matter and I think the facts speak for themselves.

“The best outcome clearly is an investment in the renewal of the AIS on its current site.”

The ACT Government’s submission outlines its vision for that renewal within a “dynamic” sport and health precinct in Bruce.

“The Belconnen District Strategy supports this vision and sets up the precinct around Bruce to connect sport with community, businesses, research, education, leisure and entertainment, reinforcing the area as an activated hub for high-performance sport and innovation,” the submission stated.

In June 2023, the Territory Government entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Australian Sports Commission to further its aims.

The ACT Government sees a revitalised AIS collaborating with the new North Canberra Hospital and upgraded UC Campus in Bruce to develop a hub of education, sports and health sciences.

The MoU also includes a commitment for the ACT Government to investigate options for the redevelopment or replacement of Canberra Stadium within the AIS precinct. Work is already underway on this project.

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The independent review into the AIS is being led by Erin Flaherty and Robyn Smith and will be supported by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, and the Department of Health and Aged Care.

The review is expected to provide a report to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King and Minister for Aged Care and Sport Anika Wells in late 2023.

The government intends to release the findings of the review once it has considered them.

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