Plan to fund futureproof showground

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

A big chunk of Claremont Showground has been earmarked for redevelopment as a commercial, retail and residential precinct under a plan to secure the financial future of the Royal Agricultural Society.

The RAS has hired architects Hames Sharley to prepare a concept plan for the redevelopment of up to 4ha of the showground to create a multimillion-dollar income stream.

RAS chief executive Martin Molony said the plan, which is subject to approval by the society's council, should be completed by December and available to the public by the end of March.

"We have 30ha of freehold land here, which is probably 3 to 4ha bigger than we need to run a successful Royal Show," Mr Molony said on the eve of the annual eight-day event, which last year attracted 430,000 people.

"And we need ongoing security of tenure here and security financially, so we need to get more non-show income. The ratio presently is about 80/20."

The site identified by the RAS adjoins land being redeveloped under the Town of Claremont north-east precinct plan for cafes, restaurants, shops, offices and 500 apartments.

"There is potential to complement the development across the road in either commercial, retail or residential but I think it will probably be a combination," Mr Molony said.

The RAS generated $12.5 million in revenue from the show last financial year and achieved an operating surplus of $1.7 million.

Mr Molony said the RAS was trying to position itself as a progressive organisation and wanted to become more relevant in the eyes of government and business, which it needed to support the redevelopment plan.

"I think the perception is that we are a conservative organisation," he said.

"What happens behind the scenes is that we are quite aggressive and focused on making sure we stay here for the next 100 years.

"We understand what has to be done to ensure that and to ensure we have the right facilities to carry us forward.

"We'll do the concept plan and then start doing a funding plan and then start making decisions. We want that to be done as quickly as we can."

Claremont mayor Jock Barker sparked debate on the future of the showground - home to the RAS since 1904 - earlier this year, saying the prime land could be better used for housing and that it might be time to find a new venue for the Royal Show.

Mr Molony, who is stepping down in April after 14 years with the RAS including eight as chief executive, said the showground was an important community resource.

It hosted 250 community and cultural events last year, recording close to one million visitors.

He said RAS and the Town of Claremont had a good working relationship but clashed over music festivals, which are staged on no more than four times a year.

Mr Molony said the redevelopment could include community-style offices for various agricultural associations that might benefit from sharing administration services.

He said he would also like to see a community garden and weekend farmers' market at the showground in the long-term.

'We need ongoing security of tenure here and security financially.'" RAS chief *Martin Molony *

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