Cash strapped Councils may be tempted into selling off highly valuable showgrounds once they come onto their books under changes to Crown Land laws, according to Shadow Minister for Lands, Mr Mick Veitch MLC.
The new Crown Lands Management Act 2016 signals an escalation of efforts to transfer a wide range of Crown Land, including showgrounds, community halls and sporting clubs, to local Councils and other government agencies.
There are164 showgrounds in NSW located on Crown Land, around 85 per cent of all showgrounds in the State.
Labor echoed concerns raised by the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) of NSW, the peak body for agricultural shows in the State, over “lousy” laws that could put pressure on the future of many country showgrounds.
ASC President, Mr David Peters, said the government’s new Crown Lands legislation would “Open the doors for showgrounds to be potentially sold off and slated for other development”.
“Country shows are a quintessential part of regional towns, and also help form the heart and soul of larger shows like the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
“NSW Labor sought to move amendments to the Crown Lands Bill in 2016 that would have prevented Councils reclassifying Crown Land as ‘operational’ land that could be sold off,” Mr Veitch said.
The Liberal-National Government also rejected amendments that would have prevented Crown Land from being shifted to other Government agencies like Property NSW, which is now controversially selling off public housing.
“The future of historic tracts of land, like commons, are also coming under threat, with the government proposing new legislation to repeal laws governing the use of these lands.
“Showgrounds, commons and community halls were set aside for good reason, to ensure we have appropriate public land for a range of recreational, social and agricultural purposes.
“Some Councils will be eyeing off many strategically located showgrounds across country NSW, and looking at them as an income source, not a community asset.
“This is yet another example of the National Party failing rural and regional communities,” Mr Veitch said.
Gosford Showground Trust Chair, Ms Roma Stonestreet, has not been advised of any alteration to legislation currently in operation at the Gosford Showground.
However, Minster for Lands, Mr Paul Toole, said the NSW Government has no plans to sell off Crown Land that is of state significance.
“Showgrounds play an integral role in regional towns across NSW and I greatly value the commitment of the community volunteers who manage Crown land.
“The NSW Government remains committed to ensuring showgrounds continue to be properly managed for regional communities to enjoy,” Mr Toole said.
“While the Crown Land Management Act 2016 allows for locally significant Crown land to be transferred, this option will only be available to councils through entirely voluntary negotiations.
“It’s important to remember that most land transferred to councils will be classified as ‘community land’ under the Local Government Act, which means it is subject to stringent conditions and cannot be sold,” he added.
Media release, Apr 20,
Mick Veitch, Shadow Minister for Lands
Media statement, May 2
Roma Stonestreet, Gosford Showground Trust
Media statement, May 2
Lucy Brennan, office of Paul Toole
Dilon Luke, Journalist