– By Tina Perinotto –
28 July – The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects has accused the NSW government of turning its back on Sydney’s Green Olympics by allowing destructive and potentially risky work to proceed in order to accommodate the V8 supercar race in December this year.
Sacha Coles, President of the AILA NSW Group, said work at the park, which involved removal of trees and risks including potential damage to the innovative water treatment system, was in “resolute conflict with the designs and outcomes of the site.”
His words were contained in a strongly-argued letter sent to the state government’s Homebush Motor Racing Authority chief executive officer, Bryan Hardman, and copied to Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally and Chief executive officer of Sydney Olympic Park, Alan Marsh. ( see full text of letter here.)
Asked to respond to the letter, Mr Hardman, told The Fifth Estate that he needed more time to make a considered response to the letter.
“I am totally prepared to provide a considered response to the issues raised in the AILA letter, however, I need to do this in consultation with both SOPA and V8 Super Cars Pty Ltd, and I very much doubt I will be able to provide you with any response by tomorrow or in the short term for that matter.”
Mr Hardman told The Fifth Estate he needed more time to form “a careful and cogent response from all parties.”
A spokesman for SOPA referred all comment to HMRA.
The AILA letter comes after the NSW Premier Nathan Rees last year announced that Sydney Olympic Park, venue for the world’s first Green Olympics, would now be turned over for an annual V8 car racing event for the next five years.
Mr Coles said: “The decision to host the V8 Supercar race in the heart of Sydney Olympic Park – is completely antithetical to the site’s long standing environmental ethos and compromises the integrity of the design and ecological restoration work conducted by a large team of design professionals from both Australia and internationally.”
A major concern, said Mr Coles, was the lack of consultation with the landscape architecture profession, which had been part of the site for the past 20 years.
“We would have welcomed the opportunity to work with HMRA in developing a solution that maintains the sense of place and landscape on this or another site, while achieving the technical requirements of the proposed course.”
Instead there was the introduction of a use that was “ incongruous with the legacy of the Green Games” and which suggested to other hosts of Olympics such as the London Olympics, which was using the Sydney Olympics as a precedent, that the “Green” Olympic site is economically unsustainable in the long term.”
Mr Coles said: “The HMRA and V8 motor racing, as a sport, should be improving its image and implementing strategies to promote its sustainability. Association with the Sydney Olympic Park site should offer opportunities in this area, rather than reduce the sustainability profile of SOP.”
“We see a great opportunity for the major participants of the V8 event – HRMA, Ford and Holden – to become outstanding corporate citizens by implementing a more than just compensatory replacement of trees. What other initiatives have been committed to over the five year tenure that will continue to promote the brands of SOP, HMRA, Ford and Holden?”
The race has angered local residents who have bitterly opposed the event and associated work through its group Save Olympic Park No V8 Races.
In a media statement released on 20 July, the group said 120 trees of about 15 metres were removed from the park. (It is understood replacement trees will be planted in a forested area of the park). Work had also commenced on rebuilding of a key intersection, “with the ripping up of the intersection of Dawn Fraser Avenue and Olympic Boulevard on Monday 13 July and is still continuing into this week.
“This is a full five months before the scheduled race and makes nonsense of the claims that this is merely a three day event which will have minimal impact on SOP.
“The noise from the heavy machinery has made an ugly and noisy invasion into this iconic location.”
Local resident and spokesman for the group, Tom Bohan, said that he had moved to Sydney Olympic Park two years ago because of its parklands and strong sustainability agenda and controls imposed by SOPA.
“SOPA has strict guidelines that all the activities in the park must be environmentally sustainable,” Mr Bohan told TFE.
“It’s beautiful and you can walk down to concerts and world class wetlands and parklands and entertainment facilities and all that was regulated by SOPA.
He was now dismayed with events.
“They are actually smashing up the landscaping and destroying central landscaping design.”
“It’s only for three days [the race] but there’s six weeks of disruptive setting up – with concrete barriers and the like – and then four weeks after, and it’s going to involve 1500 semi trailer movements.”
A spokesman from V8 Supercars said the race was more environmentally friendly than people generally perceived. He said the fuel used by the cars was E85 ethanol, and that the cars generally would race for only 600 kilometres during the race, far less than regular cars. He said organisers expected around 50,000 to 200,000 people, while the current location of Eastern Creek would cater for only 30,000.