Billions in stadium spending is an insult to western Sydney

The NSW government is proposing to knock down and rebuild ANZ Stadium, formerly known as Olympic Stadium and pictured during construction only 18 years ago. Picture: Peter Morris/SMH
The NSW government is proposing to knock down and rebuild ANZ Stadium, formerly known as Olympic Stadium and pictured during construction only 18 years ago. Picture: Peter Morris/SMH

The NSW government is spending $2.5 billion on a plan that will reduce the capacity of one of Sydney’s premier sporting venues.

It would be hilarious if it wasn't true. Sadly, as it stands, this is another prime example of government bowing to pressure from powerful lobbying groups.

The announcement of a multi-billion dollar plan to remodel two more Sydney stadiums was met with immediate backlash – not something you'd expect from a supposedly sports-mad country, especially after we just won the Rugby League World Cup and qualified for the FIFA World Cup.

The fact that a 140,000-strong petition opposing the plan was started by Peter FitzSimons, a former Australian rugby union representative, should tell you just how wildly out of touch this announcement is.

Sports Minister Stuart Ayres quickly defended the decision, claiming the government would be spending “a hundred times more” on health and education in the same time – as if that’s not exactly what a government is actually elected to do.

Harrison Vesey is a reporter for Fairfax Media in Blacktown. Picture: Geoff Jones

Harrison Vesey is a reporter for Fairfax Media in Blacktown. Picture: Geoff Jones

To be clear, this reporter certainly believes both stadiums could do with an upgrade. But to the tune of $2.5 billion? As the Minister for Western Sydney, Mr Ayres should know better than most where else to spend such an incredible sum of money.

Doonside residents have been crying out for years for a lift – and it’s far from the only western Sydney station that’s not wheelchair accessible. Why spend billions on stadiums when thousands of people can’t catch public transport from their own suburb?

Girraween Public School is on the verge of installing double-storey demountables, while Cherrybrook Technology High School now has more than 30 of the semi-permanent classrooms. Doonside Technology High School students can’t use two of their blocks due to fears of asbestos. Why are we spending billions on stadiums when students don’t have adequate learning spaces?

A record flu season just exposed how susceptible our hospitals are to strain. While western Sydney teeters on the brink of a diabetes epidemic, the average resident can expect to wait more than four hours to be seen in ER. But we’re better off spending those billions on moving punters slightly closer to the action for NRL season, right?

Despite these issues, western Sydney remains a fantastic place to live. But if we want to keep it that way then we need a government that listens to the needs of the people, not the demands of board members.

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