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Manuka Oval Media Centre call-in not cricket, say community groups

By Ian Bushnell 11 January 2018 61
Draft plan for a new media centre at Manuka Oval.

An artist’s impression of Manuka Oval with the planned the Media Centre.

Community groups are alarmed at the second use of call-in powers to approve a major development at Manuka Oval, this time for the $11.6 million Media Centre at the southern end of the ground.

Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers to approve the four-level, 19 metre tall development before Christmas so that it could be ready for Manuka Oval to host Canberra’s first Test cricket match, against Sri Lanka in January 2019.

“It is important for work to start soon to ensure it is complete in time for the Test match next summer – and with minimal disruption to the upcoming AFL season. Given the approval by the National Capital Authority, the extensive consideration of the heritage aspects of Manuka Oval and the lengthy consultation with the community, I was satisfied that the project should proceed,” Mr Gentleman said.

Community groups had questioned the Media Centre in its present form, which the Government said was designed to meet International Cricket Council specifications, mainly because of its size, cost and impact on the heritage nature of the area.

Having seen off the GWS Giants unsolicited development proposal in 2016 year, they are now concerned that the Media Centre will set another precedent for future development around the Oval.

A spokesperson for the Minister said that the site had been fenced off in December and works would start in late January/early February, including minor demolition works, site services and footings. Construction should be complete by October 2018.

In September last year, the Government awarded the contract to Kane Constructions, which has been working with architects, Populous, to finalise the design.

Draft plan for a new media centre at Manuka Oval.

A street view of the planned Manuka Oval Media Centre.

The Minister said in a statement in December that “particular care was taken with assessing this proposal to promote high quality, creative design, while at the same time safeguarding the important heritage and iconic values that Manuka Oval holds for the Territory”.

The spokesperson said the Minister imposed a number of conditions on the project approval including demonstrating compliance with relevant aspects of the National Capital Authority’s Development Control Plan for the precinct; showing that the Tree Management Plan meets NCA and ACT Heritage requirements; endorsement of the ACT Government Architect; and providing a revised Landscape Plan, endorsed by the NCA, ACT Heritage unit and the Tree Protection unit.

“Delivering the Manuka Media Centre is core to our commitment to developing Manuka Oval as a modern international sporting ground. The addition of the media centre will open up all kinds of opportunities for Manuka Oval to play host to more top-level fixtures for the community to enjoy while further strengthening Canberra’s event economy,” the spokesperson said.

ICC media and broadcast requirements include print press rooms with 75 seated desk positions, press conference facilities, two TV broadcast studios, and six radio boxes. The Media Centre will be 40 metres long and have a total floor space of 2804 sqm.

The centre will also be used to cover Canberra’s four AFL matches per season, with facilities available for other events on non-match days.

“Our intention is that it will also be made available to local residents’ groups for meetings and other functions,” the spokesperson said.

The Government also called in Manuka Oval’s lighting project, and Inner South Canberra Community Council chair Marea Fatseas is concerned what this may mean for the future of the Oval and its surrounds.

“Will this use of call-in powers now become the default approach for any future development proposals for Manuka Oval?” she said.

Kingston and Barton Residents Group president Rebecca Scouller said the consultation process was flawed and also criticised the use of the call-in powers.

“As much as the Government promised to be more open and transparent after the election and embrace community thoughts, it feels like when call-in powers are used all the time it doesn’t matter what we say or suggest, that it won’t be taken into account,” she said.

“The use of ‘call in’ powers erodes public faith in the integrity of planning regulation and public consultation. Fears that media facilities at the Oval might not be ready in time is not a substantial reason to justify overturning due process.”

She fears it could be the start of future development around the Oval, saying the community would like to see the heritage aspect of the Oval and the buildings on that precinct preserved and not overshadowed and built out.

“At 19 metres this is close to an average six-storey development and will be very prominent in the skyline of Manuka and surrounding suburbs,” she said.

She said the area’s growing population needed a place to play and relax, and people wanted the area activated for recreational use such as installing exercise stations and expanding the pool.
“We’re not anti-use of the Oval, we’re anti-poor decision making around the Oval,” she said.

“The key thing is how you manage the boutique aspect of the oval, one of the big attractions is that vibe. We’re not saying it doesn’t need improvements, maintenance or updating but I think there is a fine line between being boutique and unique and the MCG.”

She said Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s comparison to the Adelaide Oval was misplaced.

“It’s not like Adelaide Oval, which doesn’t have residential on its doorstep, or many of the other ovals,” she said.

Draft plan for a new media centre at Manuka Oval.

Both questioned the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude of the Government, and the scale and value of the centre, which is on a par with Lord’s in London.

“ACT ratepayers, who have experienced massive rate increases, may well wonder whether they will get value for money for the expenditure of $11.6 million on a Media Centre that seems to be of similar scale to the Media Centre at the pre-eminent Lord’s Cricket Ground in the UK, which accommodates more games and 28,000 spectators, nearly double that of Manuka Oval,” Ms Fatseas said.
Ms Scouller echoed her remarks. “An outdoor entertainment area to host 96 people and catering for more print journalists than the media centre at Lord’s suggest that this development is more geared to a function centre than a media centre designed to meet ICC guidelines,” she said.
“AFL and Big Bash will never need a media centre of this capacity and we are not guaranteed another Test match so this is an expensive investment for potentially a one-off event”.
 She said the ACT Government should be striving for a state-of-the-art media centre but the current design did not seem in line with planning for a future city and future technologies and the media centre may become quickly redundant.
Ms Fatseas also believes that as public land, the Oval requires a Land Management Plan that has to be approved by the Legislative Assembly.
The Minister’s spokesperson confirmed that Manuka Oval did not have a public land management plan but said this did not prevent the development from proceeding.
“However, the Minister’s decision does require the Tree Management and Replacement Master Plan as approved by the NCA and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna, to be implemented,” he said.

Do you think the Media Centre is over the top? Will it be a white elephant? Will it make Manuka Oval a genuine Test venue? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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61 Responses to
Manuka Oval Media Centre call-in not cricket, say community groups
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Nick Swain 1:29 pm 17 Jan 18

Seems we need a much larger media centre than Perth which has been praised by ICC. Why does it need to be so much bigger here?

Pat Murray 2:50 pm 15 Jan 18

Get it done!

dukethunder 11:54 pm 14 Jan 18

Manuka oval is a premier facility for the broader community to enjoy.. About time for Canberra to grow up..

Premier facility for what? Canberra doesnt have any oval sport based franchises. We pay to have the odd cricket and afl game. Happy to have the sport here but perhaps the government shouldve looked at developing Phillip oval into a premium oval with decent 10-15k capacity facilities. Great public transport links, woden gets a boost and we can sell off manuka oval for apartments. Win win win.

    Capital Retro 8:49 am 15 Jan 18

    I have been living in Canberra for 35 years and I have never been to Manuka Oval yet I have devoted a lot of my time to junior sports (rugby league, athletics etc.).

    I don’t believe there is anything there for me to enjoy and when you say it is time for Canberra to “grow up” what do you mean, exactly?

Andrew Brettargh 10:33 pm 14 Jan 18

Manuka oval is a premier facility for the broader community to enjoy.. About time for Canberra to grow up..

Capital Retro 9:51 pm 14 Jan 18

Well said John.

What baffles me most is why is a “media centre” is required at all for anything these days.
All news (including sporting results) is instant via iPhones and the like, indeed most premier sporting fixtures are available live on personal devices so I can’t see any growth in live crowds as more and more people take the wifi options which will be greatly enhanced when 5G arrives soon.

I happened to briefly watch part of the ODI live tonight (England v Australia) and the “crowd” was pitiful, and that was at Melbourne.

Instead of this dreadful waste of judgement and money, the government should be starting a sinking fund to pay for extensions to Canberra’s sewage needs, with capacity now exceeding demand.

John Moulis 11:55 am 14 Jan 18

I have a strict policy. I will not watch any cricket or anything else coming from Lourdes cricket ground in London because I hate the sight of that “capsule” media centre in the background of every shot. Ugly AF. Now it looks like the ACT government will be replicating that disaster.

There is a difference however. The media centre – and oval – at Lourdes is used quite often, whereas Manuka Oval is very rarely used at all. So how can this expense be justified? It’s not a question of “build it and they will come”, you actually have to have the sporting events at the ground in the first place before anybody will come.

Seeing as how the sports svengalis interstate very rarely grace us with any of their events – and when they do, expect the ACT taxpayers to subsidise them – how can this expense be justified? It is just delusions of grandeur, on a par with the NSW government knocking down and rebuilding Allianz and ANZ Stadium at a cost of millions.

Geoff Davidson 7:21 pm 13 Jan 18

Manuka Oval needs to be redeveloped like Adelaide Oval. It's in a great spot and it's a historic ground. I'd love to see it redeveloped with a 30,000 seat capacity, keep the old scoreboard like Adelaide and keep the view of the cathedral. We only need one Stadium and a 30,000 capacity Manuka could host all football codes and cricket.

planeguy 1:28 pm 13 Jan 18

I don’t have enough information to comment on whether the development should have been approved, however believe that this type of decision is the perfect example of where call-in powers are appropriate.

There is no substantial change of use for the facility, and no massive change to the “planned” purpose of the venue – ie this is a media centre specifically enabling a major sports venue to achieve its stated, long standing objective.

Where call in powers are inappropriate in my view, are for things like adding a residential, commercial and hotel to a sports ground – that should go through a proper process.

Ben Greentree 9:11 am 13 Jan 18

Bring on the cricket

Babs Mabbs 10:58 pm 12 Jan 18

It’s amazing how much money goes into sport.

Breet James 10:05 pm 12 Jan 18

Increase the capacity of the stadium so we can get an AFL and big bash team.

Andrew Moore 9:18 pm 12 Jan 18

It's off centre and ugly AF. Just develop the entire ground like proposed in 2016.

Capital Retro 12:51 pm 12 Jan 18

This is outrageous – another way to waste millions on this government’s pet projects. Very few Canberrans per-capita support high level cricket; even less follow baseball yet the same government is handing the local Cavalry professional team $5 million for a new pitch and “members bar”.

I would like to see the opposition (do we have one?) launch an enquiry into just how much is being spent on sport in the Territory, not only directly but through the government’s ratepayer funded associates like UC and CBR.

    aleayr 12:56 pm 12 Jan 18

    I’d like to know where you get your assertion that very few Canberrans per-capita support high level cricket?

    Capital Retro 10:12 pm 12 Jan 18

    Well, how many turn up and how many don’t?

    aleayr 8:07 pm 14 Jan 18

    Right, now I know you’re trolling with that ridiculously simplistic assertion. I was hoping you’d actually have some real numbers, something that would provide some interesting discussion about the merits. It’s almost always sold out when matches come. You seem to dislike cricket, which is fine, not everyone loves it, but please contribute to the debate constructively.

    Capital Retro 2:53 pm 19 Jan 18

    I neither love or dislike cricket. Excuse me for being simplistic again but where is the business case for the government’s largess and please answer my earlier question namely why is a media centre needed in the first place?

Betty Evans 11:39 am 12 Jan 18

Totally agree!

Peter Brassington 2:24 am 12 Jan 18

I think I'll get a few mates together, call ourselves the inner south preservation society inc. Then I can get much more influence from my whinging nimby anti development opinions!

Andrea Kerr 11:25 pm 11 Jan 18

Stop whining the community groups destroyed the unsolicited proposal from the giants but lost out on this one. The entire area needs proper development consideration and it would have been smarter working with the giants but they spoiled that option themselves. You reap what you sow.

Jim Chambo 10:20 pm 11 Jan 18

Good news. I think this will attract more cricket games.

Gabriel Spacca 10:00 pm 11 Jan 18

Love call- in powers. Proper cost-benefit analysis and community consultation? Nahhh!

And the Government wonders why people like me are cynical about development in the ACT.

    Justin Watson 8:20 am 12 Jan 18

    It is a requirement for the Test Match next year. They would have built it regardless of any CBAs. Also CBAs are generally rubbish as they can be tweaked to value things however they want. eg. how do we properly value environmental impact, a cost on carbon would help, or social impact and tourism profits? All best guesses. If you want it built you over estimate and if you don't you under estimate.

    Gabriel Spacca 9:36 am 12 Jan 18

    If you were building a house would you just start building it without some idea of how much it was going to cost you?

    The problem with CBAs and most public work projects is that there is never a decent post-implementation review. The lessons learnt are never documented and the next project usually has different personnel involved so it basically starts from scratch and goes through the same process and same mistakes. CBAs shouldn’t be rubbish.

    As to your first sentence (it would have been built regardless of any CBA). That’s the issue. The ACT Government has repeatedly used call-in powers to allow development regardless of community concerns. Community consultation is not “We’ll let you have your say and then go ahead and do what we want.” It is supposed to be “We’ll listen to your concerns and address them. If we don’t decide to change our decision we’ll explain why.”

    Until the Government starts to do that, curmudgeons like me will continue to criticise the current development process.

    Michael Holdom 10:01 am 12 Jan 18

    Gabriel, i agree. I think half the problem is around 'accountability'. Its assumed that the next person in the office will have to deal with any negative outcomes of the project and there's just papering over the cracks to get it done. As you say, there does not appear to be effective post-implementation reviews, or continuous improvements in the processes. The same could be said of the 'inspectors' that sign off on buildings, given some of the stories coming out of the apartment living sector of new buildings that have significant issues only 12 months out from completion (but i digress).

Amanda Evans 9:56 pm 11 Jan 18

Should all be in Philip. Manuka simply doesn't have the necessary infrastructure and access.

Moss Bunney 9:41 pm 11 Jan 18

This can only be a good thing. Canberra wants and needs national and international sporting events. The better the facilities, the more chance of securing these events.

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