The Future of our Parklands
Welcome to what I hope will be a great year for you all and for Moore Park.
The Greater Sydney Parklands Trust (GSPT) Bill, currently the subject of an inquiry by a Legislative Council Select Committee, is a source of concern to many people. Most endorse the Bill’s objectives, particularly the delivery of “world-class and ecologically sustainable parklands for the public”, just not what’s proposed to achieve these.
Certainly, there are problems with the Bill. Whereas once individual parklands had their own Boards and management, these have been replaced by a highly centralised Board and management structure. Community trustee boards, or CTBs, are proposed but these will be advisory, weak and have little meaningful linkage to local communities.
The potential commercialisation of parklands and the lack of any Government commitment to fund parklands appropriately are also lightning rods for disagreement.
Issues such as these have led some to want the Bill thrown out altogether. Others (and Saving Moore Park is in this camp) believe the Bill is inadequate in some respects but is good in others. So if the Bill were thrown out, out would go the good as well as the bad.
What would be lost?
The Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, has persuaded the Government to accept an amendment limiting the length of leases on Centennial Park and Moore Park land to 50 years rather than 99, with every lease of 10 years or more in all parks within Greater Sydney Parklands being subject to an open tender process. This has obvious implications for the unsolicited proposal for the Entertainment Quarter currently before the Government.
The Bill focuses on the future of our parklands, proposing the establishment of a Blue-Green grid committee to advocate for a long-term vision for quality parklands across Greater Sydney. Without the Bill, nothing will happen.
The Bill proposes a community trustee board for each parkland. This will replace the existing Centennial Parklands Community Consultative Committee - an advisory group which has no formal links to the community and few people know exists.
And the Bill legislates for the permanent removal of car parking on the grass at Moore Park. Without this, the Minister can reinstate on-grass car parking at the stroke of a pen. And notwithstanding the proposed establishment of a large new carpark close to the new SFS, the Alliance of Moore Park Sports are resolutely pushing for this outcome, doubtless with the active support of the SCG Trust Board under its new name ‘Venues NSW’.
Can the Bill be amended to rectify its deficiencies?
We believe it can be, and have made a detailed submission to the Select Committee, which you can see here. This addresses every major concern that has been raised. What makes our approach different to most other submissions is that we suggest practical solutions.
Specific concerns we address include:
The need for a Plan of Management for each Parkland
Absence of any financial commitment by the Government
The need for effective community trustee boards
The Commercialisation of Parklands
Car parking on Moore Park – look out for the maps at Appendix A to the submission
Compulsory acquisition of public and private land
Government Agency may develop the GSPT Estate
The Bill concentrates too much power in the hands of the Minister of the day
Transparency and governance of the GSP Trust
Two key themes govern many of the solutions we suggest. Firstly, the Bill should place more emphasis on ensuring transparency. Legislation can never cover every eventuality, but if transparency on all important issues is enshrined throughout the Bill, this will be a big step towards minimising activities which are out of keeping with its objectives.
Secondly, the Bill must ensure effective interaction with, and accountability to, local communities. To be effective advocates for their local communities, we believe Community Trustee Boards need to interact with them, gathering views on specific issues and using social media to provide feedback on parkland issues affecting them. Their views must then be actively, not just politely, considered by the GSP Trust.
These two themes combine to form a model which might be called ‘transparency with teeth’.
Add to this our suggestion that there be a regional manager responsible for each of the parklands and you have a structure which will enable the delivery of world-class and ecologically sustainable parklands for the people of New South Wales well into the future.
17 January 2022