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Royal Hobart Show organisers look at dramatic site transformation
With the 2018 Royal Hobart Show set to be held this week, the Royal Agricultural Show Society of Tasmania has revealed its plans to dramatically transform the site including building a hotel and housing.
Running since 1822, the Show has faced significant challenges in recent years as a result of declining attendances.
In 2015, the Show Society leased part of the showground site to hardware chain Bunnings in order to generate extra income, while this year the Show’s duration has been reduced from four days to three.
The Wednesday, which was traditionally the main day for school groups, has been dropped.
Show Society Chief Executive Scott Gadd told the ABC that without the Bunnings deal - worth several hundred thousand dollars annually - this year's 196th show would not be going ahead.
Gadd advised “we've been hit with some big costs in the last year - power costs, insurance costs and others - and if we hadn't done that Bunnings deal we would have had no capacity to meet them."
It has been a tough year for shows in Tasmania.
The Launceston Show was cancelled in December, then revived in a reduced format of just one day instead of three while rhe century-old Devonport Show was cancelled and a replacement Farm Festival failed to secure enough backing to be staged.
Gadd said he was determined to prevent that happening in Hobart, advising “we're going to have to get smarter about other income-generating activities.
"So we're looking at tourism, we're looking at housing and we're looking at a much higher-utilised event precinct."
The shed that houses Bunnings already overshadows the showground's now smaller central arena and there are plans in place to dramatically change the site further.
A new exhibition pavilion will be built next to the Brooker Highway and the Tasmanian Planning Commission is considering a proposal for three more large retail spaces to be built next to Bunnings.
Gadd said longer-term plans included a three-and-a-half star hotel with river and mountain views and housing for hundreds in the area where homeless people were camping out earlier this year.
He stated “we're very keen on a pathway-to-purchase model for housing, which means you're not just subsidising rent, you're actually assisting people into home ownership.
"I'd like to see them all engaged in the stuff we do every weekend, like dog shows, cat shows.
"It would be a great little precinct."
With those plans comes promises of preserving the 196-year-old show but shifting it away over the next decade from commercial elements like showbags, sideshows and rides.
Gadd said the commercial presence had already begun to dwindle, with a major show bag provider and a major ride operator deciding not to make the expensive journey from interstate for this year's show.
Gadd added “the show, if we get our way (will have) more emphasis on agriculture, more emphasis on food and fibre, entertainment, family fun and less of that commercial element that we've seen come in over the last four or five decades."
The idea of reducing the commercial side is worrying for the Tasmanian Showmen's Guild, whose members deliver rides, sideshow games, food and showbags around the state.
They rely on the Hobart Show as a major part of Tasmania's show circuit.
The Guild's President, Debbie Welch, said she hoped the Society would continue to see the value in commercial activities, advising “you have to weigh up whether they would be viable once they lose the commercial side of it.
"That's really up to them."
The Royal Hobart Show runs from Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th October.
Images: Royal Hobart Show (top) and the RASST showground (below).
19th March 2018 - National Trust Tasmania to launch campaign to save Royal Launceston Show
19th October 2017 - Annual Devonport Show axed after 108 years
12th October 2017 - Fears 144th Royal Launceston Show could be its last
22nd October 2014 - Royal Hobart Show expected to attract 50,000 people
14th October 2014 - Showman’s Guild of Tasmania makes assurances on carnival ride safety
12th August 2013 - Prime Minister pledges $5 million for Hobart Showground redevelopment
17th October 2012 - Agricultural shows in decline, while country events thrive
26th October 2009 - Hobart Show draws big crowds
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