"I’ve made a lot of difficult calls, a lot of very difficult decisions in this job. This is not one of them," said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning after cancelling the state's hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games due to a forecast cost blow-out.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has decided to axe the state's hosting of the 2026 Commonwealth Games in regional areas after cost estimates rose from the budgeted $2.6 billion to a range of $6-7 billion.
"Last year when the Commonwealth Games authorities approached us and needed someone to step in to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, as a state we were happy to help out but of course not at any price, and only if there was lasting benefit for Victorian communities and benefit for the whole state," he told a press conference this morning.
"$6-7 billion is well and truly too much for a 12-day sporting event. I will not take money out of hospitals and schools in order to fund an event that is three times the cost as estimated and budgeted for last year.
"In terms of where we go to from here, the games will not proceed in Victoria in 2026. We have informed Commonwealth Games authorities of our decision to seek to terminate the contract, and to not host the games."
He said amicable and productive meetings occurred in London last night and they will again continue London time later on today.
However, the Victorian Premier will still try to achieve some of the legacy benefits flagged in the initial plan but without the cost of hosting the event itself.
As part of a $2 billion regional package, he said "each and every one of the permanent sporting facilities" that were to provide legacy benefits from the games will still be built, while there will also be substantial packages for a regional tourism and community-based sport.
The largest package though will go to one of the state's, and the country's, most pressing issues - housing.
"Most importantly, there will be a $1 billion boost for social and affordable housing right across regional Victoria – not just in those hub cities, but there will be at least 1,300 new homes constructed across regional Victoria," he said.
"This represents a massive boost and a direct response to what is perhaps the biggest challenge across regional Victoria and indeed across our state, and that is the supply of housing and the number of housing options that Victorians have before them.
"That is in many respects the biggest and best lasting legacy that we can leave – somewhere to live, and a market that has more supply for those who need it."
He emphasised the decision was not about finding fault with initial cost estimates, as they came from market soundings, consultations with industry, and all of the government's pre-tender work.
Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, Jacinta Allan was optimistic about the decision.
"Whether it’s new venues at Armstrong Creek and Waurn Ponds, major upgrades at Eureka Stadium, Bendigo Stadium, Ted Summerton Reserve or many other smaller projects, every one of the permanent new and upgraded sports facilities will be delivered," she said.
"We know how hard it is to find affordable housing in so many parts of regional Victoria – that’s why we’ll deliver more than 1300 new homes with a $1 billion Regional Housing Fund."
"Communities are really enthusiastic about the local projects and outcomes they want to see, and we’ll be sitting down with councils, regional partnerships and others over the coming weeks to plan the next steps for all of these projects to ensure locals have their say," added Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Harriet Shing.
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