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Leichhardt skate park approval ‘conflicts’ with climate change commitment

Leichhardt skate park

Plans for a skate facility in Leichhardt Park has been approved. Credit: Flickr/Seattle Parks.

Opinion by GRETCHEN GAMBLE

Many in our community have been shocked to hear about Inner West Councils’ decision to remove a longstanding and well used local foreshore park and approve the removal of 45 mature trees for the Leichhardt skate park. This is environmental vandalism! Why on Earth did council choose this location for another skate park?

Council’s decision conflicts with every statement it makes about its commitment to climate change, sustainability, increasing tree canopy and protecting biodiversity. These are core values that drive Inner West Council’s plans and policies. These issues are the centre of political debate and at the heart of our community in the Inner West.

To make matters worse, council ignored our community. Its report showed an 86 per cent opposition to the skate park. Our community wanted to keep our park.

The first priority of the Inner West Community Strategic Plan (CSP) is an “ecologically sustainable Inner West”.  Our whole community is asked to participate in the creation of the CSP. We have clearly been ignored.

Leichhardt skate park

Plans for the Inner West skate park were on public exhibition until April 4. Photo: Inner West Council.

Never before in the history of the Inner West has our council (both past and current) ever approved the removal of an entire longstanding and well used public park and the removal of 45 mature native trees. Labor was disrespectful and shameful, making numerous derogatory references about our park.

The Inner West has the second-lowest open green space ratio of any NSW council. We need more green space and we are desperate for it. Look at the demand for our parks during the pandemic. It’s not as if skate parks are in short supply in our area.  These include a brand new one only two kilometres away and on a transport route.

Once gone, we know this land can’t be replaced. There is simply no land and council can’t afford it anyway. At a minimum, the parkland which is being handed over for much more limited use must be in the order of $5 million. What are 45 mature trees worth?

Leichhardt skate park a ‘Labor policy’

Our council is very vocal in the national and state climate debate. We voice our opinion and ask many other councils, towns and communities to adjust in order to achieve the best outcomes for the environment. We ask companies and businesses to make significant adjustments to improve their environmental practices. We demand change even if it affects businesses, employment, incomes and families. We put up climate change signs on every street. I have them on display. We ask others to make difficult decisions about climate change, yet Inner West Council will remove parklands and trees even when demand for another skate park is not critical. It is a Labor policy and Labor has the majority – that’s why this is being done.

The approval of the Leichhardt skate park at this location completely overrides our commitment to climate change and the environment. It dismisses our critical need for green space and it ignores the community with 86 per cent of the many submissions wanting to keep our green open space parkland. And let’s not forget the health benefits and emotional attachment for residents of all ages that we have to our parks.

Council’s action here clearly shows that it can march into any park in the future and simply remove it. The next one could be yours!

Gretchen Gamble is a member of the Inner West community who has lived in Annandale for 50 years. 

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