Submission from Associate Professor Simon Lumsden Environment and Society/Philosophy UNSW to the Callan Park Landscape Plan
I thank the government for preparing the Draft Landscape Structure Plan and am appreciative of the opportunity to provide feedback on it. I note the following issues.
1. Lack of formal and ongoing community involvement in park planning and management. The ongoing management and planning of the park should be by a trust that has a diverse and strong local representation. Without strong local representation the ongoing management and planning of the park will not reflect the diverse voices of the area and will be dominated by political interests, organised sport or the internal concerns of the centralised management authority.
The residents of the suburbs immediately surrounding Callan park are a highly educated, skilled and very community minded collection of people, who have the motivation, talent and ability to contribute constructively and creatively to the long- term vision of the site. That they have been excluded, and will be excluded, from formal participation of the management and long-term vision for the park, beyond this type of consultation is highly problematic.
Currently a large percentage of the people who use the park on a daily basis are older women, many of whom are single. Older single women and older women couples are a large group in this community, and their interests are regularly disregarded, with priority given to the interests of families and sporting clubs. Dog walking in particular is critically important for this section of the population and the ongoing management of the park should ensure that the interests and concerns of this significant group of park users are not dominated by single issue organised groups like sporting clubs.
Without proper community representation from the diverse users of the park it is very likely that sporting groups, which are well organised, will dominate management of the park. Local politicians are often aligned with these groups, because they are organised and so they are a good basis of support for local political interests. That sporting clubs are organised and can mobilise support does not make them broadly representative of the diverse interests of the area.
The best way to get the very high levels of expertise that reside in the area to be involved in the many projects on the site as it develops would be establishing a genuinely participatory management structure (a park trust). There is a huge amount of goodwill in the area towards this site and many people will be happy to share their expertise if the ongoing management structure is inclusive.
- Current plan is not a unified and coherent vision for the park. Because the current plan does not include four key sections of Callan Park the current proposal is limited in its capacity to provide a unified vision and plan for the park. A coherent integrated management of the site requires all parts of the park be integrated into the plan for the park’s future. I suggest that the future management of the park should look to have a single authority managing the whole of the park. And as per point 1, that authority should have strong community representation, preferably a trust.In the interim, management of all parts of the park including those aspects not formally included, such as Kirkbride, Nurses Quarters, etc, should have a coherent management plan with regard to issues such as the revegetation of the park and weed control.
- Restrict expenditure to modest projects. 10 million is a very limited amount of money. I suggest restricting the use of this money to fairly modest and urgent tasks for the moment, rather than expensive bold visions, until such time as much more money is available and more ambitious plans can be realised.
- Immediately restrict speed limit to 10km. Currently the functioning footpaths in the park, especially ones that, for example, someone pushing a pram could use, are extremely limited. This means that very many park users must use the road to navigate their way round the park. This places them in the path of motor vehicles. The first use of the 10 million should be adequate signage indicating pedestrians have right of way and limiting speed limit to 10km through the entire site.
- Building demolition. Rather than demolishing buildings money would be best spent on making sure the existing buildings that are likely to be preserved are maintained to ensure their long-term survival. Buildings that will certainly be demolished should be fenced off and secured until such time as adequate finances are available to demolish them.
- Native wildlife and demolition/renovation of buildings: Many of the buildings in the park are dwelling and nesting sites for native wildlife. There is in particular a large population of microbats in the park, as well as marsupials using buildings as dwelling or nesting sites. Demolition and renovation of any building, including sheds and garages must involve assessment of wildlife present and provide alternative nesting sites if wildlife is present, and appropriately trained professionals should remove animals before any demolition or renovation.N.B. Before any demolition/renovation occurs there is an urgent need for appropriate habitat and potential nesting sites to be established adjacent to the buildings proposed for demolition/renovation. When the roof, ceiling and eaves at Bonnyview were repaired recently many marsupials were deprived of their nesting site and no nesting boxes were installed prior to this renovation. This harmful mistake should not be repeated again.
- Native species re-vegetation: The current plan has limited allocation for bush regeneration. This is surprising given it lists highly and consistently as a priority for the site. Bush regeneration should be greatly expanded from the current proposal by
developing and connecting the existing pockets of native vegetation — some of which are established and some are more recent plantings. Recent areas of bush regeneration are along Military Drive and there is also a juvenile grove of Paperbarks and Lilly Pillys near B204 and B210, which could be integrated with the fairly densely forested section at the back of the security building (cnr Cottage Way and Wharf RD).
Native animals, especially bird diversity, has suffered significantly in the park in the last 10 years. As much of the park as possible should be set aside for native plant revegetation — looking especially at parts of the park, say for example along the Manning St border that is likely to be less popular with visitors, to create dense habitat for a variety of species.
In general where there are existing gardens and groves of trees opportunities should be explored for bush regeneration.
Opportunity to allow for Mangroves and Saltmarsh to re-establish themselves should also be explored.
- Establish Wetland on site of current pool: The proposal includes the possibility of the conversion of former swimming pool into a pond or water treatment site. I would suggest expanding this idea to make this area into a wetland. The wetland at Jubilee park (Glebe point) is small but manages to make significant impact in its enhancement of the biodiversity of the area. The pool site in Callan park is much larger than the wetland in Glebe. It would make an excellent wetland, by converting the existing pool into a large pond and developing the surrounding areas as wetland. A wetland would be a boon for the biodiversity of the park. It would need to be fenced off from dogs, though an elevated board walk across it would be a great attraction. The location of the pool is also a perfect drainage point, functioning as a natural dam. Major stormwater drains run nearby and could be diverted into the wetland to stop unnecessary/contaminated run off going into harbour. The wetland could also function as an important filtration site for water run-off before it heads into the harbour.
- Off-leash dog areas. Dogwalkers have been the main and dominant group using the park for non-sport recreation for many years. The plan should respect and acknowledge that existing use by enhancing and enriching the off-leash dog walking in the park. At least 30ha of the site should be designated for off-leash dog walking. This would mirror the arrangement at Centennial Park (see diagram below).Companion animals are hugely important in areas like Rozelle, Lilyfield and Balmain and the inner-west more broadly. Their importance will only grow with an increasingly ageing population, and a critical need to overcome isolation. Also, the recent burgeoning of dog ownership as a consequence of the pandemic means that there will need to be large and appropriate areas for dogs to be walked off leash. The social interaction that dog walking provides is critically important for building community and serves to overcome isolation and establish social solidarity. The health benefits of companion animals are very well documented.
There is a need for two aspects to support and enhance dog ownership in this area.
- Specific off-leash dog areas that are either adequately fenced or away from main roads; there are many options for this in the park — existing practice could work as a guide (the area adjacent to the giant bamboo) has been a popular area for many years, but the area between the Balmain Rd Oval and the Ambulance precinct could also work. These areas need to be near where people live — i.e. near Balmain RD and Cecily Street gates.The existing practice of allowing off-leash dog walking when ovals are not formally used should also be continued.
- Large and continuous areas for off-leash dog walking. What is needed is large areas where dogs can walk freely for extended periods, as this is both beneficial for exercising the dogs, and also their human companions. The model, as with Centennial Park, where a core 40-50% of the park is set aside where dogs must be on-leash. And at least 50% of the park, for example, the outer rim of the park should set aside for off-leash walking. Again the model of Centennial Park is a good one here, with a large outer perimeter allocated for off-leash dog walking. In Centennial park the large outer ring of the park (marked in dark green here) is off-leash.
- Removal/relocation of cat colony. Cats take a huge toll on native wildlife and the cats should be removed from the park as soon as possible. Moreover, the people who feed these cats at the moment should be under strict instruction to not feed birds, as is the current practice. The feeding of Mynas with stale bread has led to a boon in their population. Also, the cat feeding inadvertently also increases the population of Corvids and Currawongs, as these are also the beneficiary of cat-food. Corvids and Currawongs hunt smaller native birds, putting further pressure on what little avian life remains beyond Mynas.In the interim I suggest the cats are desexed and securely housed until such time as the population can be relocated, rehomed or dies naturally. The feeding of this colony needs to be strictly regulated.
- Weed Control should be an immediate priority — currently Celtis Sinensis is the major weed in the park. African Olive and Camphor Laurel also have significant infestations in the park, some of which were formally planted many years ago. The camphor laurels are diseased and dying.The park is a source of infestation of woody weeds for surrounding suburbs. All these woody weeds should be removed as quickly as possible and replaced with native vegetation that is likely to provide food and habitat for diverse native species. Particular attention should be paid to planting that discourages Myna bird populations.
- Building demolition. I agree with most of the suggestions for demolition, but those buildings that are in relatively good condition and for which there are community proposals for reuse, serious consideration should be given to repurposing those buildings.
- Cycle paths. Any proposed bicycle path should be physically separated from pedestrians. There is very inadequate cycle infrastructure in Sydney. Cycling is best encouraged by building designated bike lanes throughout the city, rather than establishing bike riding circuits in Sydney’s limited open public space. Any path in the park should be a throughfare for cyclists to other parts of the city rather than an internal circuit for riding. The Bay Run is a better location for a designated bicycle circuit, since it is not predominantly a site for passive recreation, but again in the case of the Bay Run cyclists should be physically separated from pedestrians, to avoid conflict with pedestrians and dog walkers.
- Harbour Pool. The proximity of the proposed pool to Callan Pt and the historical significance of this site and its potential to both visually damage the site and disturb the site should be considered. It may also prevent and limit the possibility of the regeneration of mangroves in this area.Kind regards, Simon Lumsden