Independent senator David Pocock has rebuked Chief Minister Andrew Barr's stadium infrastructure comments, reiterating his support for the project despite the ACT government appearing to cool on the idea.
Pocock voiced his disappointment on Saturday, while the ACT Brumbies and Canberra Raiders are set to seek a meeting with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to get clarity on the government's plans.
Pocock used the stadium and convention centre issue as part of his election campaign this year after more than a decade of talk from the ACT government about needing Commonwealth support to fund the projects.
But there has been confusion this week, with Barr comparing both the stadium and convention centre to a space port or second airport in Canberra, and saying they were "nice to have" rather than priorities.
Barr later clarified those comments, saying they were made to illustrate a point rather than set a timeline for either a stadium or convention centre. He also said describing the stadium and convention centre costs as a combined $3 billion was "not a literal quote".
But Pocock, the Brumbies and the Raiders are keen to get answers despite Barr saying any further stadium movement was likely at least two years away.
"It's disappointing to see the Chief Minister dismiss the idea of both a new National Convention Centre and stadium for Canberra, despite being open to the idea in the past," Pocock said.
"We are the nation's capital yet we have the second oldest convention centre in the country and a stadium fast reaching the end of its useful life.
"These projects would revitalise Civic and bring the best in the world to Canberra for conventions, as well as ensuring more live entertainment for our city.
"The cost of this infrastructure has been significantly overstated, with no acknowledgement of the potential to raise some of the considerably smaller total cost of build through institutional investors."
Former Brumby and Wallaby Pocock took the issue to the federal election for the first time this year and it was hoped it would start a successful funding partnership.
With Barr repeatedly stating the need for federal funding to contribute to the project, there had been hopes an incoming Labor government would fast-track the development.
"With the change of government federally, and the change in representation for the ACT, the message I have heard from the community is that we want people championing our city," Pocock said.
"The community wants all of us pushing for more federal investment in Canberra after a long period of substantial underinvestment.
"We've had over a decade of work by the business community pushing for a new convention centre, and a feasibility study for a stadium site at EPIC that found the city would be a better option. The sensible next step is a feasibility study into the costs and benefits of a convention centre and stadium precinct in the city."
Barr says he hasn't gone off the stadium project idea - which he first floated in 2009 - but is instead trying to set realistic expectations for a timeline. Exhibition Park and the site of the Civic Pool have been analysed as options for a 25,000 seat venue.
The Brumbies and Raiders have noted a shift in Barr's messaging in recent months and want to meet with the government to find out what has changed.
"The change in government narrative around a Civic stadium is both confusing and disappointing from our point of view," Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson said. "We'll try to seek some clarity from the government about the reasons for the change in the narrative."
The Raiders and Brumbies are united in their desire for a new stadium with a roof to be built in Civic.
Both teams view a new stadium as crucial to securing their long-term success and arresting a concerning fall in attendances.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart conceded he had all but given up on the project after passionately backing moves to get it done.
"I've given up even talking about it, [and] worrying about it," Stuart said on Friday.
Sports reporter at the Canberra Times
Sports reporter at the Canberra Times
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