FORMER Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley (pictured) has slammed the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 as a ‘waste of money’.
He predicts the eventual cost of the Games will blow out by more than $500 million over the projected budget of $1.1 billion.
He describes building a 1338-unit village for Games athletes at the Parklands showground at Southport as unnecessary and a ‘stupid’ business decision.
Soorley says enough accommodation already exists on the Gold Coast to cater for the 6500 athletes expected in 2018.
“The Games organisers should be out buying every empty apartment on the Gold Coast and at cheap prices right now,’’ he says.
“They could get rental income on the properties until they were needed for the athletes in 2018 and then sell them afterwards at a huge profit because the economy would have recovered by then.’’
Soorley based his forecast of a financial blowout in the Games budget on his experience as Brisbane Lord Mayor from 1991 to 2003.
Brisbane hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and Soorley reveals his council administration was forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fixing up decaying and depreciating sports facilities many years later.
The only chance the Gold Coast has of breaking even on the 2018 Games is to scrap the proposed athletes’ village, he says.
“The athletes will all find each other, they don’t need to live together,’’ he says.
Soorley claims the 2018 Games should go ahead but a budget review is needed immediately before too much money is ‘wasted’.
“If someone came to you and said they had a best business case to spend $2 billion for a 10-day event [the announced 2018 Games scheduled is for 12 days], you wouldn’t accept it. Who is peddling this nonsense?’’ he says.
A report last week claimed cost of the Games Village had quadrupled from $48.9 million to $208 million. However, GC Games organising corporation chairman Mark Stockwell rejects it.
“The organising committee has got a responsibility to deliver within the budget that we put forward to government and that's what I intend to do,'' he says.
Soorley made the remarks as a guest speaker to around 100 people at a business luncheon jointly hosted by the Parklands Trust and its tenants, the Gold Coast Show Society and Gold Coast Harness Racing Club.
The tenants face eviction from Parklands later this year to allow construction of the Games Village.
Soorley says it is not too late to review proposed spending on the 2018 Games.
He describes the Gold Coast as a graveyard for sporting teams and says more investment should be directed towards cultural events.
“Sport will not work on the Gold Coast.’’ he says.
The outspoken Labor-aligned former mayor also took a swipe at the Bligh Labor Government, former premier Peter Beattie, criticising policies on health, infrastructure, water, planning and koala protection.
He repeatedly referred to LNP leader Campbell Newman as the next state premier after Saturday’s election.
Soorley, who chairs Sunshine Coast-based water retailer Unitywater also called for the reinstatement of AllConnex as the Gold Coast supplier of water.
After widespread public anger, the Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) withdrew its support for AllConnex and took back control of local water.
As a result of AllConnex being wound down, the GCCC now faces compensation payments to Logan and Redland councils who were joint shareholders in the water retailer.
Soorley describes the decision as ‘political’ and ‘evil’, saying the dysfunctional GCCC should have been ‘sacked’ a long time ago.
“Scrapping AllConnex was the wrong decision and it’s going to coast the Gold Coast $200 million,’’ he says.
In a question and answer session after his address, he was taken to task on the water issue by Southport councillor Dawn Crichlow who attended the function.
Cr Crichlow says blame for the AllConnex water debacle rests solely with former GCCC mayor Ron Clarke, describing him as the ‘worst mayor in living history’.
She says GCCC made the right decision to withdraw from AllConnex and take back control of water and sewerage services.
“I believe the council will make water work and we can make money from water,’’ Critchlow told Soorley before asking him to consider running for Gold Coast mayor.