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Protecting our Parklands

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on February 11, 2021 in Other

Worth protecting. Photo: Bart Cummings

We all love our parks and are very fortunate in the Eastern Suburbs to live with some of the greatest parklands in Australia. Indeed, few residents of cities anywhere in the world enjoy the extensive parklands that lie at our doorstep. Everywhere, thanks to our wise ancestors and local councillors, we continue to enjoy open green spaces close to our homes. These spaces offer us an extension to our homes, a place to exercise, enjoy, meet, get away, find peace and socialise. They also provide a connection with nature and places of security for fauna and flora. These green spaces refresh the very air that we breathe.
Many of our favourite parks are quite small, even little triangles of green at the end of a street, but they are important to our lifestyle. They provide places where we can sit, read or just contemplate, where children can run amok and the lonely can find a stranger to chat with. During my childhood, a small park in Hewlett Street, Bronte, was the place we all headed to after school to run, play and catch up with friends. Such spaces have become even more important as apartments have replaced houses with yards, and they have never been as important as they have been during COVID-19.
Our small local parks provide an incredibly important contribution to our lifestyle, but we also enjoy the greatest parklands in Sydney and, within an urban context, maybe the world, running from Queens Park, through Centennial Park and into Moore Park. Centennial Parklands is the name given to this group of three urban parklands located on Gadigal land in the Eastern Suburbs of Eora country, Sydney. It comprises approximately 360 hectares. None of my words could begin to capture the significance of this area for the park’s Indigenous owners.
Every family has their own story of the significance of this parkland in their lives. Feeding the ducks, picnics with friends and family, walking the internal and external paths, school sporting events, exercising our beloved pets, and in more recent times the night cinemas. Many marriages and other momentous moments have also been celebrated in this space.
Queens Park, Centennial Park and Moore Park have been recognised as very important Australian sites, protected by New South Wales state law under the control of an independent trust. This prevents any government of the day selling land from the parklands without the consent of the parliament. The New South Wales minister for planning has announced that he will be dissolving the current trust and handing over the management of the public parks to a super agency called the Greater Sydney Parklands. This agency will have oversight of Centennial Park, Moore Park Trusts, Parramatta Park Trust and the Western Sydney Parklands Trust, as well as the Callan Park Hospital site and Fernhill Estate in Mulgoa.
Bigger is not better, and the centralising of power and decision making away from residents rarely results in better outcomes. Under the New South Wales Government proposal, our heritage parklands will no longer be protected by their independent trusts and will be put at greater risk of commercialisation and reduction. You can sign my petition against these changes at marjorieoneill.com.au/campaigns/save-our-parks.
As we enjoy our next park activity, let’s consciously register the importance of the place and commit to ensuring the protection of the space.

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