Archive for the ‘Sport & leisure’ Category

SCG upgrade establishes precedent

January 31, 2012

The Gillard Government recently announced a $50 million contribution towards the $186 million upgrade of the Sydney Cricket Ground. The other parties are the NSW Government ($86 million) and the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust ($50 million)

Is federal expenditure of this level justified? Or is it pork barreling? It’s tricky, because the SCG is an iconic piece of social and economic infrastructure, and delivers a lot of benefit to many people.

But the MCG is an icon too. In that case, the $450 million redevelopment of its Northern Stand (2002-2006) attracted no federal funding. The feds had actually offered $90 million (or 20%) towards the total cost, but the then Industrial Relations Minister Abbott sought certain workplace conditions and the Bracks Government declined the offer. The end result is that the Victorian Government provided $77 million and the Melbourne Cricket Club members paid for the bulk of the remainder through higher membership fees. We thus have a precedent in terms of the capacity of members to pay for such expenditure.

And Adelaide Oval is an icon. In this case, the Gillard Government has committed $30 million to help rebuild Adelaide Oval. The SA Government committed $535 million, an amazing amount given that it habitually cries poor on most infrastructure projects. Interestingly, the Prime Minister has been criticised for attempting to buy votes in her home state, while Senator Simon Birmingham (Liberal, SA) dismissed the federal funding as paying for 375 members’ car parking places and free up the state government to install a third replay screen!

And Bellerive Oval is an icon. In this case, the federal government has committed $15 million towards a $22 million upgrade to swing the deal for North Melbourne to play AFL inHobart.

And the tussles over the WACA, Subiaco, Gabba and Manuka Ovals have each experienced uncertainty over who should pay.

In summary, we have Commonwealth funding 68% of Bellerive Oval, 27% of the SCG, 5% of Adelaide Oval and 0% of the MCG. The issue is complicated by many regional sporting grounds being absolute orphans.

The response by the Commonwealth to this inequality of treatment will be that each case is assessed on its merits. This is rubbish, and I will betLondonto a brick that proper cost benefit studies have not been presented to justify recent funding.

It is clear that we must have some ground rules. For example:

  • Commonwealth funding should be capped at around 20% of the total redevelopment costs of major sports grounds. The rationale is that such venues can attract private sector funding and member contributions. The MCG example proves this!
  • Commonwealth funding might rise to 25% for more ‘regional’ sporting facilities where where private sector funding is difficult.
  • State governments should fund an equivalent amount.
  • All funding requests should be supported by cost benefit analyses.

A Memorandum of Understanding containing such principles would stop pork barreling in its tracks, and protect politicians from themselves. It would also provide federal and state agencies and local councils with some surety when planning such facilities.


Sha Tin – practical example of smart specialisation

December 7, 2011

Last month I attended the ‘Smart Specialisation’ conference in Seville, organised by the OECD, European Community and the Andalusian Government. The conference was invaluable in exchanging views on how to progress the concept, which is to assist local stakeholders to build sustainable competitive positions in global value chains. Smart Specialisation is extremely timely given that all nations are looking for ways of creating wealth and jobs.

Anyway, en route to the conference, I stumbled on a stunning example of smart specialisation.

A day at the races has been a popular past time for Hong Kong residents since the 1930s. But it now home to arguably the world’s best horseracing cluster in terms of the quality of the horses, jockeys, trainers, administrators, training facilities and racecourse amenities.  

There are two tracks. Sha Tin, about 6 trains stops inland from Kowloon, is the bigger and newer track. Happy Valley is the older and smaller track, located on the island.

Sha Tin, opened in 1978, is a sensational piece of infrastructure. Quite frankly, it surpasses Flemington, Randwick, Longchamps, Royal Ascot and all the rest. It comprises a large, beautifully manicured track against a backdrop of mountains and twenty story apartment blocks; two huge grandstands with six levels; the world’s longest on-track TV screen; a large mounting yard with a retractable roof; and outstanding totalisator technology.

And the patrons are knowledgeable, well-dressed and well-behaved. I wandered around one of the betting halls with a beer in my hand and suddenly realised that this wasn’t the done thing.

The racecourse apparently attracts 50,000 or more patrons to each meeting, and prizemoney is very healthy. The day I was there, it was a ten race card, with three at Group 2 level and worth around $US500,000 each. The Hong Kong Jockey Club hosts some of the world’s key racing events e.g. the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, Champions Mile, the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, and the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby.

 What have been the success factors? Obviously the Chinese love of gambling. But the underlying strength has been the management of the operation. To explain, horseracing critically depends on the integrity and quality of the event. This has been made possible by a steady flow of international expertise since the British largely kicked things off 70 years ago. The current Club CEO is from Germany and the Executive Director of Racing is from the USA. The bulk of the stewards and racecourse managers are Australian. The horses are mainly imported from New Zealand and Australia, the totalisator managers are mostly Australians, Brits and locals, and the jockeys are a great mix of French, US, South African, Kiwis, Australians and Asians. In economic jargon, technology transfer and diffusion has been a dominant factor.

 The end result is a thriving industry with a significant value chain – 26,000 full-time and part-time jobs, tax payments to the Hong Kong Treasury in excess of $US1 billion annually, tourist revenues, imports of horses and jockeys etc. and a core part of Hong Kongsociety.

 The Hong Kong racing industry is far ahead of anything in the USA or Europe. It provides an exemplar for a region building a supply chain that sustains a global competitive industry.

 P.S. Children are not allowed entry. You can purchase a ticket into the Members Stand for $HK100 ($US12) – you need to show your passport.

South Australia’s clusters…what worked and why

October 18, 2011

SA once ran Australia’s best cluster program. The main architects were Mick O’Neill (now an executive with Adelaide City Council) and ex-Irishman Hugh Forde. This is the last article in the series by Mick – previous clusters featured were water, defence, spatial information and multimedia – refer our blog.

 Arts, Tourism and Sports all had a government department that initiated/sponsored the respective cluster initiatives, albeit engaging industry leaders to drive the project. The process again focused on strategic initiatives, engaging local industry and building collaboration. The department took up the role of supporting the initiatives and the cluster, so again it was inappropriate to establish a new entity. Projects had a life and the degree to which they contributed in the long term was debatable.

 But one anecdote is telling. Prior to the tourism cluster initiative the state and federal bodies were at loggerheads. The engagement of the federal body in the state process led to SA being more explicitly recognised in national promotion campaigns and it enhanced ongoing collaboration.

How do you put a value on something like this? Similarly, while it may seem amazing, both Arts and Tourism sectors acknowledged that there had been only limited cooperation between the sectors. Explicit initiatives were thus developed to address this. While not all as tangible, there were numerous examples of benefits that emerged from the respective processes. While there is no evidence of the ‘cluster’ today, the Arts and Tourism sectors definitely exist and many would say the cluster initiatives were valuable.

 Healthy Ageing and Environmental Industries are interesting. They were both ten years ahead of their time (another lesson) and received limited government support although participants were tremendously enthusiastic. Again a variety of strategic projects were established and in each case an entity was established on a shoestring budget. Inevitably the burnout law applied.

 The Environmental Industries initiative was funded by the Federal government under an emerging industries program. Ironically both sectors are flavour of the month today – with environmental industries now largely rebadged as Cleantech, while healthy ageing is a massive budget issue and substantial market opportunity.

 It’s probably OK to talk about failed clusters here too, although I am currently working with a network that emerged from the environmental industries process and has survived for the past 10 years. It’s in the energy efficiency/smart grid space – an area whose time has definitely come.

 In summary – adequate funding, usually state government, is critical as is the rationale and process involved in selecting the clusters (responding to government agendas is fraught). Nevertheless we need to be careful about using the term failed clusters. We need to distinguish the clusters as they exist in the real world from the groups that we’ve facilitated as well as the entities that have emerged out of these facilitated interventions. The fact that an entity might not survive or the groups no longer meet does not mean that the sector/cluster is not healthy or growing or that the initiative ‘failed’. Any number of cluster activities may have contributed to the growth of the cluster but have their own finite life for various reasons.

 Regards, Mick O’Neill 0416 079 089


City of Melville – track record on addressing alcohol abuse

May 5, 2011

I am constantly amazed at the amount kids drink these days – a dozen schooners in a sitting is considered quite normal. Add to that the perils of the Ice Age, and no wonder we have mounting social and safety problems.

Well, suburbanCanberrawas downright boring by comparison at Easter. But on came a news item featuring a DVD on teen binge drinking. Gee it was an earthy, quality effort, and it transpired that the City ofMelvillein WA was the producer of the video.

Intrigued at how a council is absolutely on the pace here, I did some googling and located Janet Armarego (Health and Wellbeing Coordinator) who explained that the DVD, called The Gathering, highlights a typical adolescent gathering which spirals out of control due to an over supply of alcohol and the arrival of gatecrashers. The hard hitting themes in the 26 minute video include sexual assault, violence, glassing and alcohol poisoning. The Mayor, Russell Aubrey, says the script was written with the input of 150 teenagers who described the real and dangerous situations in which they find themselves.

Janet explained that the cost was around $130,000, and that it had taken three years to organise the funding. In the end, she found partners in LotteryWest ($48k), Healthwise ($30k), Rockingham Council ($10k) and City ofPerth ($10k). The City ofMelville stumped up the balance.

I was still flummoxed at how a suburban council could pull this off, so Janet explained that there were three success factors:

  • the progressive philosophy of the organisation.
  • strong community need (e.g. eleven high schools) and strong engagement, which led to an accurate reflection of community factors.
  • cost-effective delivery.

 I checked further and her analysis rings true because the council won other awards in the same field, including one in 2008 for a DVD about the consequences for six local lads of drink-driving.. And the funding partnership was certainly cost-effective.

The DVD (with resource material) is being provided free to all senior schools in the council area, and sold to outsiders for $60.

Well I got to thinking. Here is a council that clearly doing best practice work for the public benefit. The issue is big and everywhere. Wouldn’t it be great if the federal government could now swing in and to take it national? We are helping Janet to connect the dots. Her contact details are  or 1300- 635845.


Jumps racing – time for council leadership!

April 27, 2011

We need to be mindful of people’s democratic freedom, but surely jumps racing has to go. The case in point this time was the Oakbank Easter carnival, with the sad death of Java Star at the last hurdle in front of a capacity crowd.

 Thoroughbred Racing SA chairwoman Frances Nelson, QC, said the death of Java Star was a “tragic incident” but her authority’s support for jumps racing was unaffected. She claims it’s an integral part of the racing industry, and that because Oakbank is one of the state’s great icons, her organisation will continue to give the carnival every support. The TV clip included a quote inferring that the large crowd justified the practice.  

Well, I beg to differ. Sure Oakbank is a marvellous experience, and it may miss something if jumps racing disappears, but this is the 21st century and it is simply cruel.  

Local councils are now prominent in banning circuses. So how about it, Adelaide Hills Council? You have been progressive in nurturing the region’s natural assets and an unsurpassed lifestyle – the unnecessary slaughter of horses simply does not fit your image.DittoWarrnamboolCityCouncil.

Thoughts for the month – COLLINGWOOD

October 18, 2010

Regular Gippsland correspondent, Rod Cheatley, has written to highlight the fact that a staggering 11 ex-Gippsland lads featured in the Collingwood-St Kilda AFL Grand Final last month.

They are – from Collingwood – Jarryd Blair (Wonthaggi), Tyson Goldsack (Pakenham), Dale Thomas (Drouin), Scott Pendlebury (Sale) and Brent Macaffer (Kilcunda-Bass), and – from St Kilda – Brendon Goddard (Traralgon), Leigh Brown (Heyfield), Jason Gram (Sale), Andrew McQualter (Traralgon), Sean Dempster (Snowy Rovers) and Robert Eddy (Stony Creek).

Rod claims this as some sort of record, given that Gippsland has a population of only 220,000. Hard to disagree!

Mr. Cheatley also passed on a quote of Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, after whom the famous football team was named: “Do something today which the world may talk of hereafter” (21 October 1805) Collingwood had a good win at Trafalgar that day. The Brits thought his boss, Horatio Nelson, was MVP.

Bibbulmun Track – BEST PRACTICE

July 14, 2010

 There have been a spate of walking tracks developed in the last 5-10 years, and the federal infrastructure programs in Australia have helped. But the quality has been patchy because project proponents haven’t had a clear idea of what they should aspire to. Our research highlights the following deficiencies:

– gaps lie in poor signage.
– lack of decent maps for out-of-area tourists – unless you’re a local, walkers don’t have a clue where the tracks start or finish, or the worthy features along the track.
– lack of toilets and picnic areas.
– insufficient accommodation (both basic and upmarket).
– Poor marketing to national and international markets.

 The best way for local communities to understand how their walking trail measures up is to get a group together and walk other trails. A good example is the Bondi to Coogee Walking Trail in Sydney – takes your breath away.  The Yarra Trail is another good one.

 But the daddy of them all is the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia – it runs for almost 1,000 km along the Darling Ranges and beyond. It is a marvellous model for other tracks, not because of its length, but because of the brains and persistence that have gone into it. The track dates back to 1972, but take-off occurred in the 1990s when a remarkable ‘rainbow coalition’ was formed. An American guy named Jesse was the project manager, and RDC folk like Bruce Manning (see below) was also very active.

The project grabbed Canberra’s attention because of the above coalition, the innovative leveraging of funding from the mining companies for toilets, signage, tables, bridges etc., and the involvement of prison labour in the upgrade. A federal Regional Development Program grant of $1.38 million ensued, which was matched by the then WA Department of Conservation and Land Management, WA Ministry of Justice, Regional Development Commissions and Employment Training programs.

Alison Dalziel of Morrison Low Consultants Pty Ltd recently chased down the latest details. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is now the manager of the Track, assisted by a not-for-profit Foundation. The really interesting thing is the high level and varied membership of the Board. Take note!

Chair: Mike Wood: MD of Mountain Designs, WA
Deputy Chair: Simon Holthouse: former Chair of State Planning Commission
Ron Alexander: DG, WA Department of Sport & Recreation
Steve Crawford: Director Policy and Planning, Tourism WA
Megan Graham: Recreation and Trails Unit, Dept. of Environment & Conservation
Leonie Kirke: Former Assistant Principal, All Saints College
Bruce Manning: CEO, Great Southern Development Commission
Jim Sharp: Director of Parks, DEC
Patrick Tremlett: Assistant Parliamentary Counsel
Linda Daniels: Executive Director.

Go to