NO SHOW: Brett Gleeson, the president of the Newcastle Show Association, says the show needs funding assistance. PICTURE: Jonathan CarrollEDITORIAL: Show deserves supportTHE Newcastle Show is cash-strapped and faces being permanently wound up unless the state government agrees to provide emergency funding, organisers say.
While this year’s show is safe, association president Brett Gleeson has warned that three consecutive years of bad weather, the loss of the show public holiday, and the redirection of funding from the showgrounds to the state government’s coffers has led to a “critical” situation that could mean 2017 is the last time the show is ever held.
“I don’t want to be alarmist but it is critical [and] without support from the government and the business community the show won’t exist after this year,” he said.
“We’ve seen our funding depleted year after year and now we’re at a point where there is very little left in the kitty.”
At the heart of the matter is a decision by the former state Labor government in 2008 to abolish the former Newcastle Showground and Exhibition Centre Trust in favour of a more central manager –now Venues NSW.
It saw the trust lose control of the showgroundsand the associated rent and parking income along with it.
The decision crippled the association –in 2006 the trust listed assets in excess of $3 million. Now, Mr Gleeson says the show association has $10,000 left in the bank.
“Really I see what we’re asking for as compensation, Mr Gleeson said. “The show association is going broke becausewe can’t get access to any income while Venues NSW is sitting on money that belongs to the Hunter.”
The situation has been made worse by the loss of the annual show public holiday. After years of debate about the holiday –which the Hunter Business Chamber complained cost local businesses $35 million –Mr Gleeson relented in 2015 and agreed not to apply for the holiday.
“We gave up the public holiday and had hoped that with the benefit they received we would have had support from the business community,” he said.
But after losing about $130,000 from not having the public holiday, Mr Gleeson said the show only got about $18,000 in additional sponsors. He’s been meeting with business representatives in the lead up to this year’s show to try and drum up support.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes said the chamber “continues to promote partnerships and engagement between the business community and the Newcastle Show”.
However he said the chamber would not support the reintroduction of a show holiday.
“The Chamber supports the show as an important event but not at the expense of businesses in this region,” he said.
Mr Gleeson has also made representations to the government’s parliamentary secretary Scot MacDonald, who has been speaking to members of the government.