BY ALEX EUGENE
Sydney’s precious green space could be under threat again, this time as a result of roadworks and the redevelopment of the Allianz football stadium at Moore Park.
Dubbed the “green lungs of Sydney” by the Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust, the 360-hectare wonder is lined by the jam-packed bottleneck South Dowling Street, where the Eastern Distributor constantly spews out hundreds of cars.
The Roads and Maritime Authority wants to chop off a slice of the park so it can build an extra road lane to lighten the traffic load.
But Michael Waterhouse, Convenor of Saving Moore Park, says there are other ways to alleviate the influx of cars.
“We have serious misgivings about this, as it will result in the loss of a strip of Moore Park and seven mature trees, perhaps more,” he said.
“There is another option which seems currently in the too-hard basket: close off the ramp lane from the Eastern Distributor, which feeds directly into the bottleneck. This would remove one lane of traffic, and South Dowling Street may not need to be widened, with the loss of trees this entails,” added Mr Waterhouse.
Alex Greenwich MP, the independent member for Sydney, said: “I share the growing community view that the government must adopt strong protections to prevent unnecessary loss of trees, tree canopy and wildlife, with a new vegetation program that compensates for the loss of canopy.”
Mr Greenwich said he had met with a horticulturist, Kathlene Hennessy, and Professor of Landscape Architecture, Dr Helen Armstrong, who had both confirmed, “vital trees [in Moore Park] are being disregarded.”
The experts had also said that trees were often lopped at night, which made it difficult to determine if any wildlife was being affected.
“There is great concern for the wildlife that lives in the trees,” Mr Greenwich said.
Mr Greenwich has written to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance asking him to take the issues into consideration amongst the plethora of projects planned for the area.
Mr Waterhouse said that if the government could find the money to take over the lease of the ANZ Stadium, another billion-dollar project currently touted by the Berejiklian administration, they could surely put up the funds to close one lane of road traffic.
“Any compensation is likely to be small as closure will not affect [Transurban’s] revenue,” he said.
Mr Waterhouse also said he believed the government should give “a sizeable financial contribution” towards the Moore Park Master Plan, which was first drafted in 2000, to better manage and preserve the area over the next 25 years.
Mr Waterhouse justified the comment given that the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had recently announced that the government was in “a strong financial position”, and that she was ready to pour more money into the stadium upgrades if necessary.
“At this stage the government has made no commitment to fund any of the Moore Park Masterplan.
“As we see it, there’s a bias in government expenditure towards ‘hard’ infrastructure, such as stadiums, as distinct from ‘soft’ infrastructure such as parklands. Centennial Park receives 25 million visitors a year –more than all the stadiums combined,” Mr Waterhouse added.
And if chomping into the park for roadworks wasn’t bad enough, the impending redevelopment of the Allianz Stadium is feared to increase the size of the venue and eat up even more green space.
Mr Waterhouse said the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, who owns the stadium, had refused to confirm whether the renovations would encroach on Moore Park or Centennial Parklands.
“Given past history, this is a cause for concern,” he said.
Mr Waterhouse has now written to Premier Berejiklian asking for her assurance that the stadium will not be enlarged, but is yet to receive a response.
The Premier announced last week that the government would fund the stadium upgrade to the tune of $1.6 billion – or possibly even more – which would also include the ANZ Stadium in Olympic Park.
High profile community figures, including 2GB’s Alan Jones, have been arguing over which stadium should be upgraded first, but it has now emerged that work may commence on both of them at the same time.
A spokesperson for the SCG last week championed the double upgrade as a win because it would create jobs, but also “$678m per year to the NSW economy in turnover and add more than $300m to the Gross State Product every year,” they said.
Mr Waterhouse said, “This park is more than 150 years old and has suffered serious degradation and under-investment over many years.
“Different agencies of government have progressively taken slices of the park – not least for the Eastern Suburbs light rail. Some areas are used extensively for car parking. Facilities for community use are limited. Kippax Lake is often seriously polluted by water run-off from surrounding streets. The list goes on,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, said the council would not make specific comments on the issue until a full proposal had been viewed.
“After a long history of blatant land grabs and empire building, our community’s learnt not to take the SCG Trust’s pitches at face value. The Lord Mayor will need to see the full proposal, including full details of the impacts on the park, before making judgment,” they said.