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Community group demands the return of their oval

Florey Oval in its current state over the summer. Photo: Facebook

RESIDENTS on social media have lashed out against government inaction over a derelict community oval that has laid dormant for years.

But government figures say they do plan to consult with the wider Florey community further to develop a timeline about possibly restoring the facility back to its former glory.

Florey Oval had previously been a sporting and recreational hub of the Belconnen suburb in the north-west of Canberra.

But neglect over time has seen the sizeable grass facility fall into considerable disrepair, leaving the surface unfit and unsafe to hold organised activities.

“It is disappointing given the verbal assurances prior to the ACT election last year,” Gay Robertson, a spokesperson for Florey Oval Community group, told members.

The Canberra Liberals had advocated to upgrade the oval in an election commitment.

But Minister for Sport and Recreation, Yvette Berry, who stood firm on community ovals, topped the popular vote on behalf of Labor in the seat of Ginninderra that takes in Florey.

Despite timeline promises that suggests an optimistic future ahead for Florey Oval, the government has not shied away from a policy of ground rationalisation.

“The advice prior to the ACT elections was that this (timeline) was already slated for action as business as usual,” Ms Robertson said.

“We need the department responsible to consult with the community.”

Labor, which has held the balance of power in ACT politics since 2004, has blamed “severe drought condition” throughout the first 20 years of the century for its direction following irrigation of similar ovals had ceased to assist with compliance of water restrictions.

It comes after reports that for only the second time since 2013 that all four ACT dams have reached 100 per cent capacity. Just 13 months earlier, dams were below 45 per cent.

Several grounds including Florey Oval that had seen organised sport being “under-utilised” were subject of being maintained as dry land ovals within an “urban open space system”.

“They are not suitable nor intended for formal sporting use, but are suitable as an informal recreation play space for the local community,” Ms Berry said in a letter to the Florey Oval Community group.

Ms Berry said Florey Oval has “not been identified as a high priority for future restoration”, citing its large size, lack of complementary amenities such as changerooms and toilets and a lack of demand from nearby sporting bodies.

Sports grounds in nearby Page, Latham and Scullin have been given priority for irrigation.

“The government’s focus to date has been on maximising the functionality and the use of existing irrigated sports grounds in established suburbs rather than creating additional facilities,” Ms Berry said. 

But new plans to consult with Florey Primary School has given the community hope that the oval would be better maintained for students.

Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate as the land custodian are collaboratively working with the Education Directorate to determine “further opportunities”.

“The provision of improved community recreation facilities will be considered in light of competing priorities and with appropriate community consultation,” Ms Berry said.

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Andrew Mathieson

Andrew Mathieson

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