Inner West Independent

Council and community oppose state government plans to privatise Callan Park

Community group Friends of Callan Park has fought for the park to host not-for-profit services only, which a new state government draft bill is proposing to change. Photo: Eva Baxter.

By EVA BAXTER

A new draft Bill from the state government has proposed a series of amendments to the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002.

The Act disallows any private or commercial uses on the site.

The Bill’s amendments to the Act include permitting 50 year potentially commercial leases in the heritage buildings, removing council as the consent authority and giving the minister those powers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the proposed laws would make it easier for arts, culture and food and drink premises to operate at the 61-hectare Callan Park as well as temporary structures such as a marquee to be put up.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Robert Stokes said the Act is “restrictive.”

The Act allows for health, educational and community facilities to be carried out at Callan Park, but they must be provided on a not-for-profit basis.

Mayor Porteous tabled the issue in her Mayoral Minute last night and opposed any changes to the Act.

“It’s absolutely critical that we protect the Act. It has protected the park, we need to protect it.

“We’ve probably never seen a risk so great as the risk that we are currently facing.

“Don’t be fooled by coffee carts and the benign proposals that the minister puts forward, this is really a gutting of the Callan Park Act which is being proposed,” she said.

Cafe spin

Cynthia Nadai, Secretary of Friends of Callan Park, said at last night’s meeting that the Act is “broad.”

She said it already allows for restaurants, cafes and temporary structures.

“It has to be by a not-for-profit or social enterprise, which sets the right tone for the site, and which could provide good resources back into the community which is what the site is all about,” she said.

President of Friends of Callan Park Hall Greenland said the focus on cafes is “misleading spin.”

He said the Laneway festival operated for many years in Callan Park in accordance with the Act.

“Contrary again to what the minister says, lease’s longer than 10 years are possible at Callan Park under the Act, but such leases must lay on the table of both houses of state Parliament and either house can disallow them by majority vote.

“The Bill would abolish such protection.

“Under the Act all DA’s at Callan Park must be determined by the local council. This is a further level of protection, residents get a say, and DA’s are decided at arm’s length from the minister.

“The Bill seeks to abolish this protection, too,” he said.

Nadai said the amendments allow the DPIE board the ability to rezone the land, the ability to undertake or facilitate business activities with the GSP estate, to commercialise the properties, to acquire and own supplementary land and enter arrangements with Property NSW.

Restrictive or protective?

The DPIE launched an expression of interest campaign for Callan Park’s Kirkbride complex last year and Mayor Porteous revealed We Help Ourselves is the successful tenderer. Photo: Eva Baxter.

Councillor Byrne said the Mayoral Minute proposing that there can never be any change to the Callan Park Act is “black and white.”

“It’s just a piece of legislation that can be improved upon through close, close analysis and public engagement and negotiation,” he said.

Councillor Byrne proposed three amendments to the Mayoral Minute. The first proposed that council request an urgent briefing with the minister instead of opposing all changes to the Act.

Byrnes second amendment proposed seeking clarification from the government about whether a cafe can operate within Callan Park under existing legislation and whether the Saint Jerome’s Laneway Festival constitutes a commercial use.

“The fact is that there is no Café operating within Callan Park now.

“I don’t consider it a matter of principle that a cafe that turned a profit shouldn’t be located in Callan Park,” he said.

Byrnes third amendment proposed looking into the feasibility of having a high school or TAFE at the Kirkbride site.

The Act allows for an educational facility defined to be a university or any other facility providing educational services on a not-for-profit basis, but does not include a secondary school or a primary school.

Mayor Porteous revealed We Help Ourselves, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation organisation already located in Callan Park is the successful tenderer for Kirkbride.

She said Byrne’s amendment would jeopardize the tender.

Councillor Byrne’s three amendments were tied 7 to 7 and defeated by the mayor’s casting vote.

The Mayoral minute was supported 13 to 1 with only Councillor Passas voting against.

Council opposes any changes to the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002, any commercial uses at Callan Park and 50-year leases (potentially commercial leases) on Kirkbride, Broughton Hall and the Convalescent Cottages.

Council calls for the retention of council as the consent authority and the establishment of the Callan Park and Broughton Hall Trust.

Council will write to the minister outlining council’s strong opposition to the Bill, make a submission on the bill and convene a public meeting to explain the Bill and the impact it will have on Callan Park.

Council will also fund $6000 worth of corflutes and banners to read: “Not for Sale: Hands off Callan Park.”

Health history

A spokesperson for Friends of Callan Park told the Independent FOCP are not preservationists and have been fighting since 1998 for the buildings to be utilised for mental health services.

FOCP’s vision incorporates more than cafes and restaurants.

“The place was bought for mental health services in 1874 and from 1876 until 2008 that was its core business.

“It’s not for plundering. It has a history. It has a past; it has a present and has a future and that future has to have more.

“There’s a dire need for additional modern community mental health services in the community today. We have long advocated for such services at Callan Park and the need has become more urgent as a consequence of the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

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