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Brisbane mayor resigns from 2032 Olympics forum and calls it a ‘dysfunctional farce’

<span>Photograph: Albert Perez/AAP</span>
Photograph: Albert Perez/AAP

Brisbane’s lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, has quit the Brisbane 2032 Games delivery forum, saying the Palaszczuk government had “completely lost its way” on the road to the Olympics.

The Liberal National mayor has also withdrawn his support for a $2.7bn Gabba rebuild, insisting there must be better options than demolishing and rebuilding the inner-city venue.

In a long statement, Schrinner said the intergovernmental leaders’ forum was “a dysfunctional farce” and “a pointless talkfest established to placate key stakeholders while all the real decisions are made by the state government behind closed doors”.

“It’s clear that the games have become more about overpriced stadiums rather than the promise of vital transport solutions,” he said.

“The state government’s ham-fisted and foolish attempt to extort Brisbane ratepayers for tens of millions of dollars for a new RNA stadium was the final straw.”

The intergovernmental forum was a group established by the government to include important representatives from all levels of government and games partners to consult on the major issues for the Olympics.

Schrinner said the approach taken by the government for the Gabba had been “truly bizarre”.

Related: ‘Full steam ahead’ and no way out: how much can we trust cost estimates for the Brisbane Olympics?

On Friday the government announced it would chip in $46m for a proposal to upgrade Brisbane’s showgrounds with a temporary 20,000-seat stadium to act as the city’s home of AFL and cricket while the Gabba was rebuilt.

The government requested the remaining $91m cost be shared by Brisbane city council, AFL and cricket authorities and the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland, which runs the annual Ekka show at the venue.

The Palaszczuk government has committed to the $2.7bn rebuild of the Gabba to make it the centrepiece of the 2032 Olympic Games. However, the expected four-year rebuild will leave the Brisbane Lions AFL team and Brisbane Heat T20 cricket franchise temporarily homeless from late 2025.

Various venues have been considered as replacements, including the Lions’ boutique stadium in Ipswich and that of their rivals the Suns on the Gold Coast.

Schrinner on Friday said the work would not go ahead unless the Labor sport minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, came back to the table with more money.

Schrinner is now calling for the government to appoint an independent body to look at the options for the Gabba, which he said the state government had never “genuinely” done.

“The future of our community must take priority over four weeks of sport. Just as the future of the Brisbane Lions and Heat must also be made a priority,” he said.

“If the state can’t find them a proper home, then they should remain where they are.”

Queensland’s minister for sport, Stirling Hinchcliffe, said on Sunday he was “bewildered” by Schrinner’s resignation.

“It is not very long ago he was … supporting the Gabba redevelopment, and the opportunity of the whole precinct redevelopment that that represents,” he said. “It’s a bit bewildering, but I’m starting to expect backflips from the lord mayor.”

The Queensland sport and tourism minister, Stirling Hinchliffe.
The Queensland sport and tourism minister, Stirling Hinchliffe. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

Schrinner had stood with the deputy premier to “welcome” the announcement of an Olympics value proposition report, Hinchcliffe said.

“Now it seems he is backing away from that, backing away from being involved in the place where you get decisions made.

“It makes it more difficult, because the city should have a role.”

Hinchcliffe said that “while the city is contributing $0 to delivering the games”, it was important that it was involved in problem solving ahead of the 2032 Olympics.

“So it’s a real shame that he might step away from that leadership role,” he said. “I feel bewildered by it.”

Associate professor Judith Mair, a University of Queensland expert in planning and management of the Olympics, said it was “very problematic” when not all layers of government were on the same page for mega events like the Olympics.

“Hosting the Olympics is such an important thing for any destination.

“You need so much input and investment for an Olympic Games, that to have one of the key partners or key stakeholders feel that it is not being done well is definitely problematic.”

Mair said it would “not necessarily stop things happening,” but could “certainly make things harder” in the lead-up to the Games.