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Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP Comments on the RWA and Redfern Park Upgrade

This media release was issued by Clover Moore in response to criticism of the City of Sydney Council Redfern Oval decision. At the ens of the media release is additional information from the Office of the Lord Mayor: "Redfern Oval - Souths History" (regarding Council's historical dealings with Souths over the Oval), "Redfern Park is Central to the lives of all Residents" (Notes on Souths and the Oval decisions)and "The Real Story on the PCYC Scenario" (concerning the location of PCYC).
Media Release

“I seek to address misinformation about the City of Sydney’s plans to upgrade the oval in Redfern Park,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said today.

“Redfern oval is public land currently locked away from the public. It is unsafe, unsightly and under-used, due to the South’s failure to do work required under its lease from Council.

“The Rabbitohs have not played a match at Redfern Oval since 1996 and have never played an NRL game there. The site is not suitable for a stadium of over 20,000 needed for NRL games; would not be viable if built for crowds of 12,000 to 15,000 required for some NRL home games; and is not even needed. Aussie Stadium is less than two kilometres away.

The City’s strategy for a $19 million upgrade culminates years of debate, and provides action after years of talk.

“The City proposes a professional-level training field for the Rabbitohs in their spiritual heartland, with a total ground capacity of 8000 and a new grandstand on the site of the existing stand, including facilities such as change rooms, storage and weights room.

“The field will be accessible for all football codes and other outdoor activities for junior and senior teams and individual athletes. It will be managed and maintained to a high standard by Council.

“The design will provide access to areas around the field for everybody and expand green space in Redfern, which an average of 0.55 hectare per 1000 people, compared with an average of 2.85 hectare across the City, and a population predicted to more than double to 40,000 by 2015.

“I am appalled by the shameful attempts to undermine the work to enhance desperately needed services and infrastructure in the area; and to divert attention from the failure of the State Government and the Redfern Waterloo Authority to address the needs of this community.

“The real issue is: What has the Redfern Waterloo Authority done for this previously neglected community? It has done nothing of substance—no new funding, no new programs. The only thing we have seen is glossy newsletters.

“The Authority’s notable achievement has been to unite the community around a common foe, especially after the Minister revealed his attitude toward the Aboriginal community on Koori radio.

“The locals are tired of spin, they’ve been consulted to death, and know that the real purpose of the Redfern Waterloo Authority is to carve up the suburb for development.

“This is clear in the Minister’s attitude to the Aboriginal Housing Company. In a way that would generate outrage if done to a commercial landowner, the Minister rejected out of hand a well developed plan for the Block that has wide support and is consistent with current planning controls.

“I opposed the introduction of the Redfern Waterloo Authority legislation in Parliament as a dangerous concentration of power and a way to evade the usual checks and balances.

“One year on, my view hasn’t changed.  I see no evidence that the RWA has added value to this community—if anything, it has slowed down the implementation of earlier plans.

“In the meantime, the RWA is trying to claim credit for the work being done by the City to upgrade public facilities and critical social services.

“The City even had a request from the Authority to fund a camp for Aboriginal kids – which we did. We knew there was no new money in the Redfern Waterloo Authority without the intended development, but it is ridiculous the Authority could not find $1500.

“In comparison, the Indigenous Land Corporation proposes to buy the former Redfern School from the State Government for $25 million; and the City is injecting more than $50 million into South Sydney over four years through upgrades to Redfern Park, Prince Alfred Park and pool, the Redfern and Regent Street shopping precinct, Waterloo skate park, other local parks and reserves, and child care places.

“Loyal party hacks are drawing attention away from the State Government’s failure to deliver, particularly with diversions like the PCYC proposal for Redfern oval. The only reason the PCYC is looking for an alternative location is because the State Government wants them off the current site to make way for income generating redevelopment.

“NSW PCYC is also seeking a facility that goes well beyond its charter to provide “life opportunity, growth and development for young people”.

“The City’s plans provide local young people and the South Sydney PCYC with outdoor recreation at a new quality oval, but there is no need for the PCYC to build on the park.

“Redeveloping the existing site is a better option that is supported by public housing tenants and expands facilities for Redfern. The Department of Housing plans to double the population of its site through a public/private residential developmen

“The Redfern Waterloo Authority is living in fairyland if it thinks it can get away with all spin and no substance and, in the words from the famous fairy tale, it’s time to acknowledge that “the Emperor has no clothes”, Ms Moore said.

MEDIA CONTACT:        Jeff Lewis  & Andrew Mckenzie



The facts show that Council has a long history of being supportive towards the Club and has actually been very generous in terms of financial support and leasing arrangements over the years. The situation has remained unresolved for more than 6 years and we now are in a position of facing “demolition by neglect” of the facilities, especially the grandstand.

It is important to acknowledge some key facts about Council’s relationship with the Football Club:

In 1981 – Council entered an exclusive lease arrangement for the oval with South Sydney Rugby League Football Club until 1999.

In return for the “peppercorn” rent of $1 per year, the lease set conditions which required the Club to pay for significant upgrading works and ongoing maintenance. This included major investment in capital works, including a new grandstand, new seating, floodlighting and media facilities as well as maintenance of all buildings, structures and playing surfaces. Under the lease, the Club was able to generate income by subleasing the oval to other tenants to help pay for the cost of maintenance.

By 1999 – Reports to Council show the extent of the Club’s failure to meet their obligations under the lease – in particular the failure to maintain the buildings and the failure to complete the new capital works. The existing grandstand had not been adequately maintained. Council commissioned a structural assessment, and subsequently undertook the necessary remedial work, but allowed the lease term to be extended on a month to month basis until 2001.

In 2001 – Reports to Council highlight the Club’s continuing failure to meet it’s obligations under the lease and non- payment of maintenance debts since 1999 – Council’s parks service maintaining the oval surface despite non-payment. 

Council noted that the facility had been allowed to fall into a state of significant disrepair, with Council paying for rewiring and structural works to the stadium roof following the lack of maintenance and the obligation to complete other major works including building a new grandstand had not been complied with. The Club was at the same time generating income by sub-letting the facility to the Junior Rugby League Club and the Newtown Jets and other casual tenants. Council proceeded to write off the Club’s maintenance debts.

During 2001, Council continuously deferred making decisions about the future of the oval at the request of the Club while the Club’s legal appeal was pending, and Council also held off on any action to recover unpaid debts while continuing to maintain the ground.

Council noted that these arrangements did not address the needs and expectations of the wider community – and subsequently agreed to waive the Club’s considerable debts and failure to meet the lease obligations.  Council then agreed to enter into a new licence with the Club until October 2005, but declined to extend the old lease arrangements.

Now in 2005 – this licence agreement expired in October.

After more than 6 years in limbo, Council has been extremely generous and supportive towards the Club but just can’t responsibly defer decisions about the oval any longer.  Council has been working to accommodate a broad range of community needs in the proposed $19M upgrading of the oval and park.

We also have a situation where the population of the area is rapidly changing and expanding with increasing redevelopment of the area. It is in the interests of the local community and the Club itself to move this issue forward.



The spirit of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, with its historical links to the Redfern-Waterloo area, is indeed strong and important to the many fans of the Rugby League team.

Some of those fans still live in the area, but many more live elsewhere and that is a healthy sign for the future of the team and the code.

Equally strong and important are the needs of members of the area’s broader community for easily accessible, open recreational space.

The facts are:

  • Parkland space available to individuals and families in Redfern is very low – 0.55 of a hectare per 1,000 people versus an average for the rest of City of Sydney of 2.85ha/per 1,000.
  • The Rabbitohs have not played a match at Redfern Oval since 1996.
  • They have never played an NRL game at Redfern.
  • Redfern Park is public land.
  • The proposal for a new massive stadium on the site is not only unviable commercially, but will not stand the test of time for the growing crowds of spectators at individual NRL matches – 20,000 plus and counting.
  • The stadium proposal puts sectional interests ahead of the needs of the broader local community.
  • The stadium proposal calls for the City to spend tens of millions of ratepayer dollars on a project that provides a facility to generate funds for a commercial enterprise for a minority group rather than for the majority of locals.
  • The stadium proposal suggests there is a vital need for such a facility when an already splendid football complex - Aussie Stadium – is located less than two kilometres from Redfern Park.
  • Professional research shows that while there is keen support for the Rabbitohs in the area, due to historical and genuine emotional links, more than 80 per cent of residents want Redfern Park returned to the people as open, passive and sporting recreational use.
  • The same research underscores the concerns of the bulk of residents over the additional noise, congestion and loss of amenity that a stadium built for NRL games in an already built-up neighbourhood would produce.
  • The City’s $19 million refurbishment program for Redfern Park does not exclude anyone – including and particularly the Rabbitohs.
  • That plan provides for a professional-level training ground, fully maintained, for Souths, together with excellent change room and gym facilities under the grandstand.
  • This part of the refurbishment is a direct homage to the Rabbitohs and their legendary links to the district – and an offer for Souths to remain at Redfern.
  • That same training and playing ground and facilities will also be available to junior and senior football code teams, and other athletes, for local and special games and activities – including the renowned Koori Cup, which the City of Sydney proudly sponsors.

The City’s plans for Redfern Park are not about the past, but about the future.

Debate on the issue has been healthy and open-ended for more than two years.

It is time to get the job done for the greater good of all the community.

Clover Moore MP
Lord Mayor



  • The Council totally supports the work of the PCYC.
  • The biggest concern is that they will be moved from their ideal current location in Elizabeth Street, Redfern.
  • The State Govt. is seeking to move the PCYC in order to develop the land for high density residential, and presumably are seeking to make substantial profits from the sale of this site which is 3760m2  and may yield in excess of $10million.
  • The old South Sydney Council DA allowed for demolition of 106 existing DoH units, replaced with 88 DoH units and 158 private units.
  • The City of Sydney calls on the State Government to leave the PCYC in its present location, ideally situated between the new residential area at the Redfern Estate and Redfern Park and Oval.
  • It is understood the Government has made preliminary offers to the PCYC to redevelop at Redfern Oval. CoS says this money should be accepted by PCYC to make their existing site an even better facility for the youth of this area.
  • The Redfern Waterloo’s Human Services Plan recommends the development of three precincts from which youth services might be delivered.  Two of these possible sites are CoS sites – the Redfern Community Centre and Waterloo Oval where CoS provides accommodation to the South Sydney Youth Service.  The third site is the current PCYC site.  The CoS agrees in principle with this precinct model but believes that the State Government should contribute to the development of the model through the provision of land and a new or refurbished facility on the DoH site.
  • The proposal to use Redfern Park to construct a large building to house two undercover basketball courts is totally unacceptable to Council. This was the type of activity that short minded Governments and Councils in the past indulged in that saw so many of this city’s great parks reduced or compromised.
  • Council has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past year reclaiming public open space for both active and passive recreation uses.
  • The PCYC project proposed for Redfern Park is unworkable
  • The Council has budgeted $19m to the development of this site, of which around half is the grandstand. The PCYC proposed grandstand will cost more than $20m on its own. This is a short fall of over $10m. Who will pay for this?
  • On an assessment of the seating capacity using a 1sqm per person ( a seating configuration which takes into account seating space as well as allowances for circulation, amenity and landscaping),  it would appear that a total of 5,700 spectators can be seated on the embankments. Add to this the 2,500 spectators in the grandstand, then a total ground capacity of approx. 8,200 can be achieved. It is suggested that number is a maximum. This is no more than the Council proposal, and goes no where near the Leagues Club suggestion of in excess of 12,000.
  • The embankments will be approximately 5.5 meters high on the eastern and southern sides and 4 meters on the northern.