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2014 Sydney motor show up in the air

Modifications: Plans are afoot to comprehensively rework the Sydney International Exhibition Centre situated on Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour centre revamp puts question mark over AIMS in Sydney

General News logo8 Feb 2012

THIS year’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney might be the last in Australia’s biggest city for four years unless the organisers can work around a major revamp of the Sydney International Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour.

Show director Russ Tyrie is flying to Sydney this week to hear more about NSW government plans to rework the entire Darling Harbour precinct, which might preclude any shows on the scale of the motor show for three years from 2013.

Australia’s biggest motor show – a joint venture between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) – alternates between Melbourne and Sydney, with the northern city’s turn to stage the event for 2012, in October.

The 2012 show is safe, as the wrecker’s ball is not expected to begin major demolition works at Darling Harbour until next year, when the show is scheduled to revert to Melbourne.

The biggest worry is the 2014 show in Sydney, when the revamp – which is rumoured to involve the effective demolition of the current centre and the building of a new, bigger exhibition space – will be at its zenith.

 center imageLeft: Australian International Motor Show director Russ Tyrie.

The Darling Harbour centre was once regarded as the best exhibition space in Australia until Melbourne built its version – nicknamed ‘Jeff’s shed’ after then Victorian premier Jeff Kennett – but the Sydney venue is now regarded as too cramped for major exhibitions, especially of the international variety sought for Sydney.

New South Wales premier Barry O'Farrell has announced a shortlist of consortia wanting to rebuild it, which will involve almost doubling the floor space from the current 25,000 square metres to at least 40,000 square metres, making it bigger than the Melbourne venue.

Exhibitors will be briefed tomorrow by Tim Parker, project director of the Sydney International Convention Exhibition Entertainment Precinct.

Among them will be Mr Tyrie, who said that so far he had little information on the project and its effects on shows such as the motor show.

He confirmed he would attend the meeting to hear more.

Mr Tyrie said Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush – home of the Royal Easter Show – might be considered as a temporary alternative should Darling Harbour be out of action in 2014.

Problems with the Homebush venue include its distance from downtown Sydney, inability to house the show under one roof and its lack of immediate facilities, including hotel accommodation, compared with Darling Harbour.

The motor show has a booking at Darling Harbour for years into the future, although not on its preferred date.

When the FCAI and VACC agreed to scrap their own annual motor shows in both Melbourne (in March) and Sydney (in October), they agreed to move to a fresh date, in July.

While the Melbourne Exhibition Centre accommodated the shift – with great attendance results on the new date last year – the Sydney venue said it could not shift the date from October.

The NSW government called for expressions of interest on the development last September, saying it intended to honour its election promise to revamp the 12-hectare site on Sydney’s fringe into a world-class exhibition, convention and entertainment precinct.

Mr O’Farrell said the rebuilding of the precinct should be finished by 2016.

Another motor show is due at Darling Harbour that year, meaning any overrun in the project completion date could mean missing another show at the venue, stretching the absence from Darling Harbour to six years.

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