16 April 2024

ACT seeks co-funding deal for convention centre precinct on Civic pool site

| Ian Bushnell
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National Convention Centre Canberra

The current National Convention Centre would be included in a new precinct extending across to the Civic pool site. Photo: Facebook.

The ACT Government has decided to build a new convention centre and entertainment pavilion on the Civic pool site, and wants the Federal Government to go halves in the cost.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to the Prime Minister under the National Capital Investment Framework requesting a 50/50 funding split on the development of a new Convention Precinct in Civic ahead of the upcoming May Federal Budget.

A government spokesperson said the preferred location for the precinct would include the current ageing convention centre site and the block across the road on Constitution Avenue, once proposed as the site for a city stadium, until Mr Barr ruled it out after a feasibility study showed it was not big enough and would be too costly to develop.

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The government is seeking a co-funding deal for the precinct to speed up planning and approval times and follows years of negotiations with the Commonwealth on its Infrastructure Plan.

The spokesperson said this would enable the convention centre and entertainment pavilion to be placed in the forward infrastructure pipeline and delivered in accordance with the Entertainment Arts and Sports Infrastructure Plan released last year.

In early March, the Commonwealth requested information from the ACT Government on infrastructure projects that would be suitable for co-investment under the NCIF so they could be considered for inclusion in the Federal Budget.

The spokesperson said the new precinct would combine multi-use venues, including the convention centre and a multi-purpose indoor entertainment pavilion, to support economic growth and tourism by attracting larger-scale and simultaneous conference, live music and performance events to Canberra.

“All of which will see consistent week-by-week and year-round utilisation, which will further support the city and local businesses, particularly the hospitality sector,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Barr has said one of the viability challenges of a stadium was that it would lay idle for periods of time.

The government earmarked the convention centre and entertainment pavilion for the former Australia Forum land on the eastern side of the city adjacent to City Hill last year, calling it an elegant solution.

But it now must see opportunities for a wider precinct using the current convention centre site and the now available pool site, which had also been mooted for a new police and emergency services headquarters when the pool closes and a new complex is developed in Commonwealth Park.

Civic pool diving board

Canberra Olympic Pool would make way for the new precinct. Photo: Facebook.

The government had said then that the proposed 7500-seat auditorium would provide the missing link in the ACT’s venue mix, put Canberra back on the touring circuit for major overseas performers, and provide an indoor sporting option.

Funding for design work was announced in February as part of the ACT Budget review.

This co-funding request comes after a similar one earlier in the year for the proposed health, education and sporting precinct in Bruce where a new 30,000 seat stadium is proposed.

“These proposed partnerships with the Commonwealth are consistent with the intent of the Commonwealth’s urban Precincts and Partnerships Program, which seeks to enable transformative investment in urban Australia based on the principles of unifying urban places, growing economies and serving communities,” the spokesperson said.

The Australian Government had committed $150 million over three years, commencing in 2024-25.

This program would fund both the development of precincts to facilitate planning, design and consultation, leading to business cases for investment-ready proposals, and a stream for delivering larger-scale precinct projects.

The government is believed to be taking a more proactive stance with the Albanese Government and Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher this year, so they are in no doubt about the ACT’s needs after a relatively disappointing Budget for the Territory in 2023.

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Independent Senator David Pocock, who has consistently argued for a combined stadium and convention centre in the city, has been needling the ACT Government over not demanding and winning more Commonwealth investment in these big-ticket infrastructure projects.

At a recent tourism forum, Senator Pocock took aim at a lack of meaningful federal investment in Canberra and the local government’s failure to plan ‘shovel-ready’ projects for joint funding.

“The ACT doesn’t have projects that are good to go except for light rail,” he told the ACT Tourism Leaders’ Forum.

“We still don’t know, after two decades, where [the new] convention centre will be rebuilt. We’re on our seventh feasibility study for the stadium, and there is serious work to be done at the local level.

“But it’s been a real frustration in Senate estimates when you see the kind of money flowing to other jurisdictions and then ask them, did the ACT Government ask for money? And the response is, not in this round,” he said.

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it’s not a ‘site’ yet, it’s still a swimming pool

Capital Retro7:32 pm 17 Apr 24

International tourism to Australia has dropped 30%. I reckon that Canberra is getting the worst of the fall off but we don’t get any feedback.

Building a bigger convention centre will not “turn things around”.

So where is the new Civic pool going to be located and when will it be built? Seriously, there have been so many press articles on something replacing the civic pool, as well as quite a bit of speculation on
Locations for the pool. Why can’t the ACT govt address this pretty basic question?

Leave the Civic pool alone. This bloody government is determined to destroy every bit of Canberras heritage. Like a lot of Canberrans I grew up going to the Olympic pool in summer. The pool is a Canberra icon. Why is a new stadium and entertainment centre needed anyway? The existing ones are rarely filled to anywhere near capacity. Obviously the developer friends are rattling the tins again in front of Barr….

More poli-waffle, new stadium blah blah blah, larger convention centre blah blah blah, new entertainment venue blah blah blah, civic pool replacement blah blah blah, remember this Labor video from 11 years ago.

Capital Retro10:36 am 17 Apr 24

Not needed.

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