Community news

Save our parks – public rally

The save our parks public rally was extremely well attended on Tuesday night. It was plain that the Council’s approach to selling our neighbourhood parks is devoid of logic and proper governance.

By contrast the event was professionally organised and well focused with 11 speakers (the majority sticking to the time allocated) plus a a good question and answer time at the end.

There was one single statement that summarised the resolve of the community: “We don’t give our consent for Council to sell these parks.”

The following is a copy of the speech given in defence of the Benjamin Parker Reserve and the Wamberal Memorial Hall park.

Tonight two parks in Wamberal are under threat and I would like to place them in context: to go from the particular details and then to some of the general principles involved.

Benjamin Parker Reserve

Benjamin Parker Reserve is a park on Dover Road, Lakeview Road and Prince Street, Wamberal with views south over Terrigal and the Skillion.

The land was granted to Mr Willoughby Bean in May 1833 and this grant was subdivided into small farms known as the Gosford Model Farms Estate in the 1880s.

With the declining viability of agriculture after World War 11, Benjamin F Parker and Son subdivided the land and donated the reserve to the community.

The Terrigal-Wamberal Apex Club undertook landscaping – at no cost to Council and suggested the gifted reserve be named after its donor, Benjamin Parker.

Wamberal Memorial Hall / School of Arts

After the shocking loss of life in World War 1, many memorials were built in the 1920s. Wamberal Memorial Hall is one of these.

It was opened on 1 January 1921 by the parliamentarian and Kings Counsel, the Honourable Mr EJ Loxton, MLA whose family had pioneered much of North Sydney.

In his opening speech, he expressed satisfaction that the trees had been retained around the building whilst observing that “the beauty of Wamberal is the trees… remove the trees and the charm will be gone.”

That statement was true 95 years ago and it is still true today.

I think it is false to claim that Council is backward; after all if they had the vision and foresight of the people of 95 years ago, we would not be here tonight.

No, we are here because this Council is simply devoid of both vision and reason.

The need for parks

Wamberal is very hilly so if you have small children it is not always feasible to walk them to the beach especially when there is not one safe pedestrian crossing on Ocean View Drive. Thanks Council!

“the beauty of Wamberal is the trees… remove the trees and the charm will be gone.” EJ Loxton KC, MLA 1921

And shady trees, picnics, flying kites, running, jumping, skipping, playing chasings and catching balls are essential for kids – and would likely benefit many adults I dare say.

Council has falsely, and perhaps maliciously, claimed that these park have “…little community benefit” and “…no foreseeable use for the community going forward.” But to digress a little, I am frankly staggered how any so-called “professional report” could include such meaningless dribble like “going forward”.

Now obviously, if the parks have no community value, then ipso facto, we can then assume they would have a benefit to developers and donors “going backwards”.

Wamberal needs more open space and Council does not spend anything on community development in the area.

Parks also unite people: they encourage altruism and community spirit. For example, the Apex club landscaped the Benjamin Parker Reserve at NO cost to Council – but now the Council is whining about the cost of fuel for a lawn mower to run over the grass a few times a year.

Council is misleading the residents and the residents know it.

Council made NO effort to communicate this sell off: it was Jane Smith of the CEN who alerted people to what Council was up to.

And just because the current Council doesn’t see a use for parks and reserves that does not mean there won’t be a significant need for parks in the future – and buying back land we already own will be more expensive that any amount of lawn mowing!

There are no “new or better amenities” that brands these parks “redundant.” There is in fact a desperate need for more parks but this Council is hell bent on taking all the playground equipment out and selling the parks for development. And another reality is that Council can give permission for ANYTHING to be built on these reserves even if it is outside the allowable planning parameters.

The local government and NSW planning systems are completely broken.

As a society we are in desperate need for a good land use planning system that includes more parks and open spaces. The current system is broken and the main players seem unwilling or incapable of fixing it.

The default position of Council should be to retain and protect parks, not flog them off.

And as for the so called $140M infrastructure “backlog” perhaps if Council was not in such a state of perpetual chaos and stopped bleeding revenue by giving developers massive discounts for no benefit to ratepayers, then they would have more credibility.

No doubt like many others you have observed that despite almost 4 years of an almost anything goes development approval regime, not one new substantial business has started up in Gosford City.

But perhaps, just perhaps, that by saving our parks, we can begin to see a change for the better.

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