BY ALEXANDER LEWIS
Callan Park is one step closer to total protection from development after the state government passed a motion to implement a trust to manage its future care and use.
The heritage-listed site has languished for more than a decade under revolving door management from multiple government agencies.
And while the Callan Park Act of 2002 prohibits the sale of the 60 hectares of harbour front estate, the state Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker said the government has always had an eye to sell it in the future.
“We’ve managed to hold the barbarians off of the gates, but we haven’t actually finally secured it for the future, and that’s what we’re doing now,” Mr Parker said.
“It would be like the Centennial Park Trust or the Parramatta Park Trust: actually having an independent body managing it and not having government departments looking at Callan Park for its real estate value but rather look at it for its historical and community value.”
The state Labor MP for Summer Hill Jo Haylen told the parliament during the motion’s debate on June 4 that without action from the NSW Government, the park would continue to suffer demolition by neglect and that the inner west would suffer as a result.
“Callan Park could and should be the Centennial Park of the inner west,” Ms Haylen said.
The land, which for more than 100 years was the site of state mental institutions, is currently owned by the Department of Health.
On July 1, responsibility for Callan Park shifted from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority to the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).
Mr Parker said the ownership of the land should be transferred to the trust, but acknowledged that the Department of Health would have to come to an arrangement with the OEH to ensure current health services in situ would not be affected.
“Obviously they don’t pay rent on their own site, and they want to make sure that if they pass land to another body that their current arrangement would be maintained.”
The member held a meeting last Friday with Leichhardt councillors, the Minister for Planning, the Minister for Environment and Heritage, and community stakeholders.
“This was another positive step forward in the campaign to finally secure the future of Callan Park,” Mr Parker said.
“During our meeting with the Ministers, I proposed a working party including representatives from Leichhardt Council and Friends of Callan Park to progress the establishment of a trust which will then ensure proper care, control and management.”
Deputy Mayor of Leichhardt Daniel Kogoy said the council acknowledged the unique opportunity that this outcome brought to inner west communities.
“Leichhardt Council remains committed to seeing a master plan implemented under a governing Trust and we have been encouraged in our discussions with the ministers to that end today,” Clr Kogoy said.
Cr Kogoy said the breakthrough comes after years of campaigning by council and the community to see a Master Plan implemented under a governing Trust.
“This beautiful park belongs to the people because it has been saved – on many occasions – by the people,” he said.
Mr Parker said he expected the trust would be implemented in 12 to 18 months.