By ALLISON HORE
If you’ve ever found yourself busting for the loo at Camperdown Memorial Park in Newtown you’ve probably found yourself wondering, why aren’t there toilets here?
Liz Atkins, a Greens candidate in the upcoming Inner West Council elections, is asking the same thing.
In late 2018 the Inner West council unveiled a plan to reduce “anti-social behaviour” at the Newtown park. This followed a series of community complaints reports quoted residents around the park complaining of the park being “used as a pub” “with escalating levels of underage drinking, drug use, threats of violence and public defecation.”
The plan involved the construction of public toilets among other measures. A budget for the project was allocated, and construction on the toilets was set to begin in 2019.
However, come 2021, work on the promised toilets hasn’t even begun.
Ms. Atkins has started a petition for the promised public toilets to be installed in the park. She says all the important research and consultation into the issue has been done, so she cannot understand what is so hard about putting in the toilet block at this stage.
“There was a motion by Pauline Lockie and Louise Steer, and the council agreed,” she said.
“They said it would be built in 2019, I guess we all know COVID happened but there was plenty of construction during COVID, I can’t see a reason why it would be delayed.”
Who gives a crap?
According to the National Public Toilet Map, created as part of the Australian government’s continence program, the nearest public toilets to Camperdown Memorial Park are in the Newtown library and at Newtown station. These toilets are not available 24 hours a day, and in the case of the station, can only be used by passengers who have tapped on.
Park users often have to head to a nearby pub to relieve themselves. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, usually these toilets are only available for customers.
“Lots of people don’t want to go to the pub to use the toilet, especially with little kids. And with COVID restrictions you can’t always go to the pub just to use the toilet,” she said.
“There’s all sorts of issues across the board with public toilets in the Inner West, but especially in the Damun ward.”
As well as the public safety plan for the park, the Inner West Council has developed a Public Toilet Strategy which sets the best practice design guidelines for public toilet facilities on council properties and lays out a strategy for upgrading existing facilities and building new ones. Council hoped the strategy would “deliver public toilets which are best practice in public toilet design, hygiene, safety and maintenance.”
Noted in the strategy was the toilet block planned for Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.
Despite the public showing their support for the strategy, progress on its approval and adoption has stalled since the public engagement period closed in July last year. 68 percent of the people who responded to the council’s survey said they supported the public toilet strategy; the remaining 32 percent were unsure or neutral about the plan.
“We live in a great part of the world, it’s already quite an attractive place to live, but it could be more attractive,” Liz Atkins said.
“But issues like public toilets and tree canopy, are some of the things that have got me interested in running for council.”
Ms. Atkin’s petition for the toilet block to be built in the back can be signed online.