By JOHN MOYLE
The Berejiklian government’s creation of a new super body has been met with a mix of doubt and cautious optimism.
Greater Sydney Parklands will oversee more than 6,000 hectares of public space across the Sydney Metropolitan area and will include Parramatta Park, Western Sydney Parklands, Centennial and Moore Park and Callan Park.
Three of the affected areas, Parramatta Park, Western Sydney Parklands and Centennial Park are currently overseen by trusts, which will each contribute a member to the new entity.
“Creating a single agency is a once-in-a generation opportunity to plan for our parklands and open spaces over the next 50 years as a connected network that forms the backbone of our city,” Rob Stokes, Minister Planning, Industry and Environment said.
Also included in the new body will be the newly purchased 412 Fernhill Estate at Mulgoa near Penrith.
“By combining boards and administrative functions, we will save money and resources that can be better funnelled into the core business of working closely with the community to create more and better open, green space,” Mr Stokes said.
In a statement to City Hub, Planning said that members of each of the trusts were closely involved in creating the new agency as part of the working committee.
Michael Waterhouse, president of Saving Moore Park said that the body is too big, too remote and that “you have a board with only one member who has any knowledge or experience with Centennial Park.”
That person is Patrick St John who is the chair of the Community Consultant Committee of the Centennial Parklands and whose appointment is guaranteed by the act by which Centennial Park operates.
“It remains unclear whether the new agency and trust will provide the needed commitment to protect the Centennial Parklands, particularly Moore Park from encroachment,” Alex Greenwich, Member for Sydney said.
“The minister told me that the organisation will implement the Moore Park Master Plan 2040, which includes the removal of event parking on Moore Park as an objective, however there is no plan or strategy to get there and it appears that on-grass parking will return when events resume.”
Saving Moore Park was formed over five years ago and currently has over 3,300 supporters.
Their latest newsletter lamented the state of Moore Park as being in a “disgraceful condition, with half bricks, concrete aggregate and tar poking through”.
Mr Waterhouse said “The premier has a program called Parks for People, but hello, they are putting cars on the park and she has agreed to it.”
“All of these problems stem from the major sporting clubs such as the SCG Trust and to a certain degree the sporting codes which are all about convenience in terms of proximity ( for parking).”
Saving Moore Park’s campaign to remove event parking is certainly gathering support with an increase in membership and cross party support from politicians Alex Greenwich, Jenny Leong, Majorie O’Neill and City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster.
The 60 hectare Callan Park located in Lilyfield differs from most of the other parks in that it does not have a trust with much of it being managed by a division of NSW Health and other parts by the Ambulance Service of NSW and Sydney Local Health.
It will not have a member represented on the Greater Sydney Parklands board.
Hall Greenland has been involved with Friends of Callan Park for 22 years and is optimistic about the new structure and the continued community involvement about the park’s future.
“All the other parks are represented by somebody on the board but Callan Park is not, which puts us at a disadvantage,” Hall Greenland, President, Friends of Callan Park said.
“At this stage we get community involvement in the management and consultation process.”
Callan Park has been the subject of sell off attempts from both sides of parliament and differs from most of the other parks in that it has a number of highly significant historic buildings with its grounds.
“We have been assured by the minister’s office that there will be robust community consultation in the management of Callan Park and that we will have access to the Greater Sydney Parklands board,” Hall Greenland said.
Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain said “Placing Callan Park under the management of the Greater Sydney Parklands means that for the first time there will be a dedicated agency responsible for making sure that Callan Park is properly funded, maintained and operated.
“We continue to support a trust for Callan Park and will do everything we can to ensure this new structure is transparent and accountable.”
A first “statement of good faith” by the government was to grant Callan Park $10 million.
“This money will be used to fund the landscape Structure Plan which aims to make Callan Park a more usable and beautiful space by opening up the parkland and restoring heritage buildings and landscapes,” Jamie Parker said.
The Landscape and Structure Plan proposes a number of specific changes on Callan Park including the creation of a pedestrian and cycling only space at the waterfront, improvements to road access, pedestrian paths and lighting across the site, plus the demolition of a number of intrusive buildings.
“This $10 million funding commitment exceeds anything promised or delivered by Liberal or Labor Governments over the past 20 years,” Jamie Parker said.
This amount almost doubles what was pitched by NSW Labor before the 2019 election and comes in addition to $2.4 million already spent annually on Callan Park for heritage restoration, 24/7 security and site management.
Hall Greenland said that the historic buildings in Callan Park alone will require much more than $10 million.
“Remediation of the buildings will require many multiples of the $10 million – we have always spoken in terms of $20-30 million,” Hall Greenland said.
All parties spoken to for this article agreed that the new structure will go some way towards protecting the parks from future sell-offs for development.
Michael Waterhouse noted that while Callan Park received $10 million Moore Park and Centennial Park received nothing.