A new dispute has broken out between Sydney City Council and Word Youth Day organisers over who will pay for repairs to the city's famous Hyde Park.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Lord Mayor Clover Moore plans to kick Pope Benedict and the six day World Youth Day festival out of the council controlled Hyde Park for failing to pay their bills on time.
The extraordinary stand off between the City of Sydney supremo and the pontiff follows the Catholic Church's failure to pay a $150,000 bond for use of the park by a 5pm deadline on Friday.
WYD organisers had planned to start setting up the key pilgrims' site with a giant video screen, confessional booths, merchandise stands and marquees across the road from St Mary's Cathedral.
At least half of Hyde Park is expected to be closed for up to three months after World Youth Day to repair damage from thousands of Catholic pilgrims treading on the turf.
It is understood Church authorities had told the council that the Iemma Government was paying.
Potential problems emerged in the past fortnight when the council asked them to sign an event permit for the use of the park and pay the required bond. Unless the money is paid, the Church cannot use the park for their event.
"The City supports the event, but not at the expense of our most famous park," the Lord Mayor said. "WYD organisers have applied to install structures in many parts of Hyde Park, some of which will be in place from June 20 to August 1. There is no question that many of the grassed areas of Hyde Park will need to be re-turfed after this event but now, just weeks before it's due to start, organisers are backing down on a commitment to fully fund the cost of restoring Hyde Park to its pre-WYD condition.
"As trustees of the Crown land space, the City has a responsibility and obligation to ensure Hyde Park is looked after. We are determined to ensure Sydney is not left with a significantly damaged park and ratepayers aren't lumped with a hefty bill.
"All we are requesting is for the Church or the Government to pay a bond and honour their earlier promise to restore areas of Hyde Park damaged by WYD events. Similar conditions are expected from all other hirers of Hyde Park."
WYD spokesman Jim Hanna said Church representatives were in discussions "to resolve this issue".
"The City of Sydney has been a strong supporter of world youth day," Mr Hanna said. "They are still a strong supporter, and Hyde Park is central to the support they're giving us. We are confident this issue will be resolved soon.
A spokesman for Deputy Premier John Watkins said "the City and state have both been strong supporters of this event, and we are confident a resolution will be found".
Cr Moore said organisers from WYD and the Government's coordination authority raised no objections at a council meeting on May 5, when the sponsorship report was discussed, clearly stating the cost of repairing Hyde Park would be covered by either the church or the Government.
The council also claims that it has in writing from church officials an agreement to their requirements to pay for the rehabilitation.
A report to the City of Sydney's finance committee estimated WYD will cost the council about $2.2 million, a figure that covers extra expenses such as cleaning and staffing, as well as forgone revenue.
Cr Moore said the cost and the inconvenience would be worth it, but she was standing firm on the agreed bond for the rehabilitation of the park.
Meanwhile, the final race meeting at Randwick until at least September was held yesterday. The racetrack will be officially handed over to World Youth Day organisers today, with Australian Jockey Club chief Norman Gillespie praying it will be returned in good condition.
"This is a huge logistical operation of unprecedented scale and complexity," Mr Gillespie said.
"You could say it took an act of God to stop training at Royal Randwick," Mr Gillespie said. "Every single livestock truck in the land has been summoned for the grand evacuation. It's like Dunkirk."
Another report says that horses that horses will be ejected from Centennial Park but dogs and their walkers will be able to roam the parkland during the weekend visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Randwick.
The 268 hectares of parkland, well used by Sydneysiders, will be an overflow venue for pilgrims gathered not only for the papal closing Mass on July 20 but, in a late development, now for the evening vigil the night before.
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