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Ballaarat Park campaign kicks off

Roads surrounding Ballaarat Park

The Pyrmont community and businesses are calling for Ballaarat Park to be expanded as the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) prepares to transfer its final land holdings in Pyrmont to the City of Sydney.

The community is calling on the state government and the City of Sydney to remove the local roads around the park, thus increasing the green space at Ballaarat Park, which sits opposite Barangaroo on Darling Island and looks over Sydney Harbour.

Co-convenor of the Ballaarat Park community campaign Jean-Paul Markopoulos said the roads around the park were not used during the week and were primarily used by late night patrons to the Star casino. He also said the City of Sydney was “pro keeping cars out of the city and creating green open spaces,” which gives locals hope for the expansion of Ballaarat Park as the state government exists area.

A key aim for the campaign is for the roads surrounding the park to be removed, which would increase the size of the park by sixty percent. Removing the adjacent roads would also reduce existing late night activity in the area.

Under the terms of a 1994 agreement between the State of NSW and the City of Sydney “public parks and roads developed by the state government authority were to be transferred to the City when rate revenue from Ultimo Pyrmont was sufficient to fund reasonably anticipated costs for maintaining and managing the sites.”

As part of that agreement, the former Water Police Site was transferred back to the City in 2004 and other parts of Pyrmont were transfered in 2010. Disputes about the cost of repairing the Pyrmont Point Wharf and other maintenance costs have delayed the transfer of land at Darling Island.

At the former Water Police site Lord Mayor Clover Moore supported a community campaign to substantially increase the waterfront parkland at Pirrama Park. That success has been cited as an example of the City’s historical push for open space in Pyrmont, which is the state’s most densely populated suburb.

The expansion of Ballaarat Park would be beneficial for a multitude reasons to both the “immediate community and the wider community,” according to Mr Markopoulos.

“They [the roads] are used for parking on Friday and Saturday nights when we have issues with the casino and the nightclubs surrounding there and we have a few unsavoury characters,” he said.

The recent billion dollar redevelopment of The Star, which relocated the casino’s main entrance to the Darling Island side of the building, has increased traffic through the area. The roads surrounding Ballaarat Park are at their busiest over the weekend when the casino draws in crowds.

The contentious lockout laws in Kings Cross, Darlinghurst and the CBD  have further increased late night activity at the Star in the last year, which is exempted from the after hour restrictions. Residents have also reported drag racing occurring in the area.

But the need for green space in Australia’s most densely populated suburb is the most prominent reason for the community’s calls.

“There’s a definite lack of green space in the area, and there’s probably 30 plus children who live in the area of Darling Island alone,” Mr Markopoulos said.

The City of Sydney currently has a “greening the city” plan, part of their Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision. The project aims to “reintroduce greenery to our home” according to the City’s website.

A City of Sydney spokesperson said the City was “in ongoing discussions with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority regarding the transfer of open space in Pyrmont to the City.”

“The City’s longstanding view is that land within our local government area should be managed by us as that would ensure clear lines of accountability for the provision of service,” the spokesperson said.

“The City is continuing to work with all relevant stakeholders towards this aim.”

The dilapidated state of Pyrmont Point Wharf, which is currently being upgraded by the state government, appears to be the tipping point for the transfer.

But a spokesperson from SHFA said there has been no decision on the transfer of the SHFA owned land to the City of Sydney.

“The NSW Government has appointed a high level committee to develop a clear vision of the Sydney Harbour foreshore to ensure there is efficiency and effective coordination of the management of this State significant area. As part of this the ownership of foreshore land is being considered,” a SHFA spokesperson said.

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