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Orange council needs another $10 million to build stadium as costs blow out

June 3, 2022

By Peter Holmes

Orange City Council has applied for a $10 million federal government grant to cover projected cost blowouts in development and construction of the new sporting precinct.

While the first stages of the project - earthworks and building eight playing fields - are proceeding as planned, there are hurdles ahead for the athletics track and the stadium with grandstand.

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the $25 million funding for the sporting precinct on Forest Road in February 2019 ahead of the state election.

She had initially said the money would only be forthcoming if the people of Orange turfed out Shooters, Fishers & Farmers MP Phil Donato and returned the seat to the Nationals.

However the backlash to such unreasonable terms and conditions was swift, and Berejiklian soon said the city could have the money no matter who it voted for. [Spoiler alert - the city took the money and re-elected Donato.]

The coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters and the war in Ukraine have led to delays in shipping and shortages of materials, which in turn have jacked prices northwards while pushing back timelines and forcing projects to be delayed or cancelled.

There is no guarantee that even if council was awarded the extra $10 million that the $35 million put aside would be enough.

This would depend on the world market for materials, the extent to which supply chains are flowing, and companies' ability to maintain staffing levels when there is widespread illness.

Council is scheduled to find out this month if it has been successful.

If not, it will have to apply for further grants in order to complete the sporting precinct project.

An increase from $25 million to $35 would represent a 40 percent rise on the original funding.

If successful the $10 million grant would come from the $1.38 billion Building Better Regions Fund (BRRF) established by the former federal government.

However there is no assurance that the new Labor government will honour the fund.

In the past it has labelled it as a "slush fund" for the Coalition, and claimed it favoured National and Liberal seats over those held by Labor.

Council applied for the $10 million grant in February.

The Australian National Audit Office is currently examining the BRRF and is looking at:

* Was the program well designed?

* Were appropriate funding recommendations provided?

* Were funding decisions informed by the advice provided and appropriately documented?

* Was the award of funding consistent with the program objectives and grant opportunity guidelines?

It is due to report this month.


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