IMAGINE this. You have bought a home and paid extra for views of the hills and to be opposite a quiet park alongside a pond with bird life and other animals.
Sounds good. But what if the government decides it needs to make up for its lack of provision of amenities in the area by plonking a supersized activity centre on that peaceful parkland?
It’s happening in Coombs. Earlier this year, the government announced the building of a large playspace on Edgeworth Parade alongside the Holdens Creek Pond. To the rest of the city, this sounded great. It was also unusual, as this government is not known for its initiatives on community facilities (ask the people in Woden and Dickson).
Although the site remains on the plans as a small local park, it is a bare patch as the government has reneged on its commitment to have the park completed by summer, 2017. Then to make matters worse, the government carried out one of its infamous “Have-Your-Say” surveys structured to deliver skewed results. The results were generally positive to the questions as they were asked. The local school provided a long list of its desired facilities, most of which should have come with the school or have been made available across the suburb.
It is these questionable survey results that are used to justify overriding of the serious concerns of the residents most affected – those who live nearby and paid the extra to do so. The residents agree that these facilities are needed and are overdue. Just that this parkland space on Edgeworth Parade was not meant to be this massive centre of activity.
The government is refusing to talk to the residents and address their issues. They have been told in very blunt terms – that the plonking on this quiet suburban site of this major play activities park is non-negotiable.
That’s an interesting take on the government mantra of putting “people first”. Part of the reasoning is that there was overwhelming support for this large activity centre.
This claim is based on two things. One is the inappropriate survey. The other is more disingenuous. Once the plans had been finalised with no community consultations, residents were given a couple of hours to meet with the designers – not to have their issues discussed but to be informed of what was about to land on their doorstep. That’s what this government now says is the extensive consultations.
You have to sympathise with the Coombs residents. Planning has worked against them ever since a certain planning minister put in place inappropriate and anti-residents’ planning processes for this suburb. That, of course, was Andrew Barr, now chief minister, who has continued to deliver planning travesties across the city along with “people-last” initiatives such as what has been happening in Coombs.
The minister directly responsible today for this shameful planning shambles is Yvette Berry, the Minister for Suburban Development. It is her office that has the reputation for not being kind to residents who have alternative views to what has been sold by the bureaucracy to the minister.
What’s the way forward? The community and sports facilities proposed are definitely needed in the area but should not be located on this particular site. If they are to be on one site, this level of major play centre requires an easily accessible site (not one with narrow roads), needs to have generous parking (not the 15 or so allocated) and needs to be not immediately near to houses.
There’s the opportunity to work with residents to deliver to this suburb appropriately placed community and sports activity centres as well as to deliver on some of the other overdue facilities (shops, art centre, etcetera).
It is time – and overdue – for Yvette Berry and her office to show some humanity and be nice to the people of Coombs.
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Ian Meikle, editor