24 May 2022

Raiders Weston looks for pokies payoff with bid to change concessional lease

| Ian Bushnell
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Raiders Weston Club

The entrance to the Raiders Weston Club. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Raiders group has applied to remove the concessional status of the lease on its Weston club site, the last of its clubs operating on that basis.

It’s the latest club looking to cut costs and open up avenues for revenue sources other than poker machines in response to ACT Government policies to reduce the number of gaming machines in the Territory.

The application, which was flagged in 2020, only seeks to deconcessionalise the lease and does not include any change of use or any other plans the club may have for the 6332 sqm site on the corner of Brierly and Liardet Streets near Cooleman Court, which also includes a 97-space surface car park.

It says the club wants to apply poker machine hand back credits before they expire next year, converting the current Crown Lease to a ‘Market Value Lease’, saving the club ongoing land rent payments to the ACT Government of around $32,800 a year.

But it would also allow the Raiders to apply to expand the club or redevelop the site, or both, if it wished to.

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The 2014 Weston Group Centre Master Plan earmarks the site for renewal as potential ‘Entertainment with accommodation mixed use’, and it is zoned CZ6 – Leisure and Accommodation.

The Master Plan proposes new building heights of up to five storeys on the site, but under the current precinct code development is limited to just two storeys.

“The commercial core precinct and those areas where it is proposed to integrate residential and accommodation use into the centre will be permitted to have buildings up to four to six storeys (up to 16 to 22 metres),” the Master Plan says.

It says demand for a broader range of housing choices other than suburban living offered an opportunity to provide dwellings for people wanting to age in their community or young couples and singles wanting more affordable and alternative housing choices.

Aerial view of the Raiders Weston Club site

The Raiders Weston Club occupies a key site near Cooleman Court. Photo: Supplied.

The application says the club fully intends to continue its services on the site and provide enhanced facilities for its members and community.

Its Social Impact Assessment report says removing the concessional status of the lease would give the club ownership of the site and the flexibility to enhance its services to the community.

The report says no clear objections emerged in consultation and there was resounding support for the club to remain on the site, with interest in what kind of compatible development there could be in the future.

Raiders group general manager Simon Hawkins confirmed the club was committed to the Weston community and had no plans at present to redevelop the site, but agreed the car park would suit a residential development.

Mr Hawkins said the club was always looking for ways to diversify its revenue sources.

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While the club had changed little on the outside, he said the Raiders had invested in significant interior refurbishments since acquiring the premises from Royals Rugby Club in 2005.

Concessional leases are granted at less-than-market value to provide core community or social facilities. Moving to deconcessionalise is controversial due to the potential windfall for clubs and loss to the community.

But with poker machine revenue declining, clubs are reviewing their business models and looking to secure their futures through broadening their operations or property development.

The planning authority will assess the DA and Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman must sign off on the decision.

The public can comment on the DA until 6 June.

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Stephen Ning8:32 am 26 May 22

I hope they do the right thing and keep the community facilities.

ChrisinTurner3:39 pm 25 May 22

My understanding with this and similar schemes is that it amounts to a multimillion dollar grant from the ratepayers of Canberra to the Rugby Club and would likely result in the site becoming high rise apartments. and no longer needs to be operated as a community facility.

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