Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Desperate locals push for parks, not houses

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Where do the children play? Residents reject proposal to turn parks into houses

The first Ed Boyd knew of the council’s idea to turn five small parks into housing lots was when he read an article in the Independent at home on a Wednesday evening.

He was stirred to action and immediately organised a public rally under the camphor laurel tree in Sunnyside Park on Sandilands St in Casino.

Residents
Keep our park: At left residents Greg Presbury, Steve Bryant, Lorraine Kuhn, Patrick Deegan, Dianne Wilcox, Ed Boyd, Andy Shaw, Joyce Ross, Barbara Shaw and Ruth Deacon gathered at Sunnyside Park in Casino in protest against the move to turn green space into housing blocks. Photo: Susanna Freymark

More than 25 residents showed up at short notice, all of them desperate to keep the green space nestled among their homes.

The first part of Richmond Valley Council’s process is to reclassify the parks – RSM Park, Dan Phelan Park, Sunnyside Park, Melaleuca Park and Russell Park – as operational land. This leaves the door open to residential development.

The parks cost the council $11,000 a year in mowing and maintenance.

Sunnyside, like the other small parks on the list, is overgrown – with the grass knee-high in places. The parts of the park that have been mowed were done by residents next door.

Dianne Wilcox said she didn’t want to lose the space, “Our grandkids come to the park, we don’t want them playing electronics all the time – so we go to the park.”

Child in park
Playing space: Zahli, 3, wrings as much joy as she can out of running free across the grass at Sunnyside Park in Casino – one of five green spaces Richmond Valley Council wants to turn into houses. Photo: Susanna Freymark

Mr Boyd said Sunnyside Park was central to the neighbourhood.

He’d like to see the park mowed regularly, a covered seat and table erected and even some adult outdoor gym equipment.

Melaleuca Park on Rosewood St is overgrown and strewn with piles of junk and tyres. A caravan sits on the block.
Affordable housing is urgently needed in Casino and the council’s proposal to use the five parks for homes is one way to meet the demand.

Council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said the five parks were originally identified as surplus to requirements in a review of facility needs that looked at the level of use of parks and other community spaces.

Andy and Barbara Shaw, who have lived in Casino all their lives, don’t agree.

They used to play cricket in Melaleuca Park with the grandchildren.

Melaleuca Park has deteriorated in the past five years, he said.

“We usually have to mow it,” Mr Shaw said.

“They need to look to the future, if we lose our parks, we won’t get them back.”

The sale of the parks could bring in about $100,000 each and the council has said that sale proceeds would be invested in upgrades for the more popular parks in Casino, such as Crawford Square in South Casino.

The issue of more housing is one the council grapples with.

“Some may be surprised to know that future availability of residential land in Casino is limited, due to the low-lying areas surrounding much of the current urban space,” Mr Macdonald said.

“Where possible, council would like to provide opportunities for new housing within the urban area, this allows for efficient use of existing council services, such as roads, water and sewer services.”

Mr Macdonald said there would be proper community consultation before any decision was made.

“There are multiple steps along the way to ensure the community has its voice heard, including two phases of community consultation for 28 days and a public hearing to be chaired by an independent person,” he said.

Richmond River Independent 10 March 2021

The next public meeting about saving the parks is on Friday, March 19 at 5.30pm in Sunnyside Park on the corner of Sandilands and Colches streets. For more information contact Ed Boyd on 0427 227 021.

This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 10 March 2021.

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