In late 2019 it appeared that our meetings during the year with the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, and the deputy secretary of his department with responsibility for Callan Park, Alex O’Mara, have borne some fruit with both writing to us.
It appears that it is only a matter of time before the Landscape Structure Plan goes on public exhibition. This plan was drafted 18 months ago by two landscape architecture practices but has yet to be finalised for public comment.
Now the Minister has written to our local MP Jamie Parker that “the draft Landscape Structure Plan is currently being prepared for public exhibition”.
The deputy secretary is a little more circumspect in writing directly to the Friends on October 28 that “Work towards developing improvements for Callan Park continues through the Landscape Structure Plan and through other discussions. I will keep you informed of the opportunities to be involved as they develop over the coming months.”
Nevertheless it does appear that we can expect the public exhibition in 2020. That will represent some progress although the crucial questions of funding any plan and the management structure for the site are yet to be resolved.
Unfortunately many in this state government are enamoured with the idea of the park ‘paying for itself.’ The runs against the idea of places like Callan Park being public benefits that are paid for out of public revenues. It is for places like this that we pay taxes. The commercialising concept also runs up against the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act which rules out purely for-profit activity at Callan Park.
On the other hand it is worth noting, as regular visitors may have noticed, that the wonderful 1880s farm manager’s cottage on the brow of the hill in the middle of Callan Park and overlooking Iron Cove has recently received some urgent repairs and looks all the better for it. The onsite management of the site has certainly improved during 2019.
As for the future management, the Minister has been quite frank about his preference for an overarching Trust that manages all of Sydney’s major parks. The Friends have been equally frank that our preference is for a stand-alone, specific Trust for Callan Park with strong community representation on any such Trust. The community fought long and hard to protect this site from sell-off and developers and we believe they deserve a real say in its continued protection and management.
These are clearly matters that will be the subject of continued conversations with the government. Meanwhile progress with the Landscape Structure Plan and the ongoing contact with the Minister and his department are encouraging signs that Callan Park may at last receive the attention that it deserves from government.