Benjamin Parker Reserve

Public meeting on parks – what happened on July 6

Further disappointment with Council is the outcome of todays public meeting concerning the sale of community parks like Benjamin Parker Reserve and 11 other parks across the Central Coast.

On a day when the Central Coast Express Advocate published a two page spread on the Wamberal Memorial Hall, Council could not provide clear answers or information about the process and the lack of consistency frustrated the audiences at both meetings.

Council struggled to defend the indefensible and incoherent processes created by Council to sell our community assets judging by the response of the public. Many considered Council’s responses as completely inadequate

However, Council has been consistent in this regard: it refuses to provide information about why these parks where chosen to be sold in the first place and why they are continuing this process and wasting ratepayers money!

The failure to give the public essential information means that there is an inherent unfairness because the community cannot challenge Council’s decision.

After nine months, surely they can release all the documents relating to the land sale strategy: freedom of information requests for these and other documents have been universally declined by Council staff.

Astonishment is the polite word for the response by the public that Council had answered every letter and email sent to them but they did promise to respond if everyone sends them in again. As one attendee commented, one really wonders at how badly managed the basic administration procedures must be in Council!

The overwhelming response by the public was that Council is not being honest and transparent by withholding critical information from the public and this lack of basic information about how these parks got on the hit list nor give a clear understanding of the future steps.

Submissions

Submissions close on July 20 and who knows may be Council might even allow you to email your submission (currently they only support snail mail and carrier pigeon)

There is more information about how to lodge a submission wiht draft letters, dot points and academic references on our Help save Benjamin Parker Reserve web post.

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Highlights

  • Many members form all over the Central Coast and from all walks of life spoke articulately and passionately about their parks and the inadequacy of Councils processes.
  • The representative from the Terrigal-Wamberal Returned Services League gave an excellent speech in defence of Wamberal Memorial Hall.
  • A resident who lived next to Benjamin Parker Reserve for 42 years spoke about how this and other parks are needed for the mental, social and physical needs of all residents for people of all ages.
  • A highly respected property valuer spoke about the essential importance of parks and green spaces to society and added to the desirability of the region.as a whole.
  • Even if there was clear, evidence based decision-making by Council, no one would trust them to prudently spend the proceeds of any sale
  • Community members maintain many parks like those at Forresters Beach, East Gosford and Umina, not Council.
  • Council simply has NO MANDATE to sell our community parks regardless of their classification.
  • Council is betraying the good will and memory of those philanthropic owners who privately donated land to the community.
  • Why would anyone donate land when the custodians of those community gifts (ie Council) simply want to sell it off to developers.
  • Council needs to drastically improve its consultation practices if it wants to meet the standards of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)
  • Council is merely pretending to “seek the views of the community” and thus pretending to comply with the Act.
  • The sale of these parks has never been posted on Central Coast Councils “Have Your Say” website nor is there an email address or online form to lodge submissions.
  • The community is infuriated by the inflexible and intransigent attitude from Council to having meetings that meet the reasonable needs of commuters, business owners, families and workers.
  • There is not an excess of community land but a shortfall. To match Wagga Council for example, Council would need to build a further 180 playgrounds. That is the extent of the shortage of parks in the Gosford area alone.
  • There is no benchmarking or other evidence to prove there is an excess of parks as claimed by Council.
  • Council has not used demographic data to identify what the community needs nor taken population growth into account.
  • The key characteristics of each area has not been identified and there is no analysis of current or future playground catchments.
  • In urban areas, the distance to a playground or park should be 500 metres not 1.5 kilometres as proposed by Council
  • Council has no plans of management for these parks.
  • We need a hierarchy of playground settings from minor to major to suburban to regional playgrounds.
  • Council could not provide answers as to why they removed the playground equipment from these parks.
  • Relying on one park in Wairakei Road, Wamberal forces people to drive to an overcrowded park on a dangerous, narrow road where it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs.
  • There is massive community opposition to the sale of these parks as seen by protests, petitions and the media.
  • The public want Council to reform: to become an innovative and trustworthy organisation that works with the community to create a dynamic and exciting region.

 

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