REVEALED: The state government is splitting up Callan Park and planning to hand it over to an agency dominated by people from the big end of town… There is a better alternative.
We have some disappointing news about Callan Park to alert you to.
The ownership of Callan Park has been split into two parts by the Minister for Planning Mr Rob Stokes. He’s done this without any public consultation or publicity.
The larger part, encompassing 62% of the site, has been given to the Centennial Park Trust (see map at the end of this post). This Trust is now controlled by the new Greater Sydney Parklands (GSP) agency. The board of this agency is almost entirely made up of people from the Big End of town – from legal firms and finance and development corporations.
As the investigative journalist Wendy Bacon has discovered about the GSP: ‘Of the 7 directors, 6 have property development experience – two have worked in Sydney’s very top corporate law firms.’ Not exactly ideal qualifications for managing a heritage/mental health site such as Callan Park, one would have thought.
How this GSP would work is the subject of a White Paper recently issued by the Minister. What it says about how the GSP would fund parks is worrying – when it is not confused and contradictory. It boasts that the government has given the GSP $108 million – but this is peanuts compared to the nearly $2 billion (or 20 times more) it’s spending on two new stadiums. It then adds, ‘However this must be matched with the development of an ongoing sustainable funding model for the future.’ There are danger signals like this scattered through the White Paper. This sounds like the old neoliberal mantra about ‘parks paying for themselves’. In the same vein the White Paper offers a community consultative committee for Callan Park but lists its first duty as ‘to advise … on revenue generation’.
Surely it’s the responsibility of governments to fund major parks as they do hospitals, courts and schools. The Minister admits in the White Paper that this is the widespread public view.
Thank heavens we have the protective Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act which bans the sale or privatisation of any of Callan Park but there is always the danger of commercialisation. If Callan Park is controlled by the GSP then this danger is ever-present as we know some of the GSP members are not great fans of the Callan Park Act.
The other 38% of the site remains in the ownership of NSW Health. But the splitting up of Callan Park into various bits and pieces is a recipe for chaotic management.
This is not good enough for Callan Park. The Minister has proved a friend of Callan Park to this point. It would be a pity for him to revert to type. We need to advise him that this magnificent site needs and deserves:
1. its own Callan Park Trust to run it.
The board of this Trust should include experts in heritage, park management and mental health along with First Nations and local representatives. Such a board is better qualified (and safer) than the board of the Greater Sydney Parklands to manage our major Inner West Park. Residents have proved to be the best custodians of Callan Park – they have saved it from developers a number of times – and deserve to be represented on the board.
2. To be managed as one coordinated site, not split up into bits and pieces.
The Friends of Callan Park hope you agree. We will soon have an online petition to advise Mr Stokes that Callan Park needs holistic management by its own trusted Trust. The whole White Paper will also be discussed at our next general meeting on Monday, 21 June at 6.3pm:
By ZOOM only: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84541202331
by phone: 8015 6011
Meeting ID: 845 4120 2331
If you have not already done so, please sign the petition here.
– Hall Greenland, president FoCP