A Wollongong City Council plan to turn Kembla Grange's Integral Energy Park into one of eight new major event sites across the city has been labelled as disappointing and destructive by the park's main tenants.
The council has formally lodged eight generic event development applications (DAs) to make it easier for people to hold events at the park and seven other sites.
These are Wentworth Street and King George V Oval in Port Kembla, Thirroul Beach Reserve and Foreshore, Helensburgh Park, Charles Harper and Rex Jackson Oval, JJ Kelly Park and Greenhouse Park.
Under the plan for Kembla Grange, up to 52 events a year would be allowed, with sections of the site designated for caravans or camping as part of the events.
But cross country running club Kembla Joggers has launched a campaign to stop this from going ahead, as it says allowing campers or thousands of event goers could put the grounds at risk.
Committee member Neil Barnett said he did not believe the council's proposal was "well thought through" as the land where camping and caravanning has been proposed is flood prone and adjoins an Environmental Protection Zone for protected vegetation.
He also said frequent major events would damage the facilities maintained by Kembla Joggers, which has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless volunteer hours into building and maintaining the cross-country trails across the site.
"I just think this hasn't been well thought through, this site really isn't suitable for major events," he said.
"I think the council has failed to consider the investment and effort we've put in to this venue, which has attracted Australian championship cross country events and brought many tourism dollars into the region.
"With the risk of damage to these courses, it would risk the state and national organisations from considering it as a venue. So many volunteers have put in so much effort and it could all be undone by just one event, let alone 52."
He also said the club had not been appropriately consulted, and only found out about the development application exhibition by chance.
"We're very disappointed," he said.
According to the council's application, six regional "Tier 3" events would be permitted at the Integral Energy Park each year and an unlimited number of local "Tier 4" events could be held.
Tier 3 events are those which would attract regional or state level media coverage, such as the Sunset Cinema or Eastern University Games and inject between $500,000-$2 million on the economy. They would have up to 1000 paying or 8000 free participants.
Tier 4 events are local or sector specific gatherings, such as the Greenacres Mountain to Mountain Challenge, the council said.
Since 2013 the council has had eight pre-approved event sites at the foreshore and CBD, which it says has resulted in many new events being held in the city.
For instance, at Stuart Park, it's permitted to host major music festivals, concerts, celebrations and race endings, with up to 30,450 people at any one time and a generic DA which is pre-approved makes it easier for organisers to set up individual events.
The council held a public exhibition period about the planned Development Applications whic are now on exhibition earlier this year, with council's manager of Community, Culture and Economic Development Sue Savage saying the new sites had been chosen because they were already used as event locations, or because they had untapped potential.
For instance, she said a blanket DA would make it easier for Wentworth Street's troubled Billy cart Derby to get off the ground. The event has failed to go ahead due to organisation issues for several years.
"Sites like Integral Energy Park and Greenhouse Park aren't used at all for events, and they are away from residents so that can be really good for certain events," she said at the time.