A quick update on the fate of the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust Bill which was passed – with amendments – by the Legislative Council or Upper House of the NSW Parliament on Thursday night. The amendments need to be agreed to by the Legislative Assembly or Lower House, but this seems to be assured as the government supported all the Upper House amendments on Thursday night and they have a majority in the Lower House.
The short version on the amended Bill is that it is not as bad as in its original form – thanks to lobbying by the Alliance for Public Parklands of which the Friends is a component. As you know a series of amendments moved by Jamie Parker, our local MP, in the Lower House restored the protections for Callan Park in the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002 that the Bill originally sought to abolish. Those amendments from Mr Parker were accepted by the Upper House too.
Thursday night’s amendments agreed to in the Upper House strengthened the Community Trustee Boards (CTBs) that must be appointed for each parkland. The amendments do the following:
- CTBs now must agree to the park plans of management (however the attempt by the Greens to have CBTs approve all leases over 10 years failed)
- CTBs can object to moneys raised at their parkland being transferred and spent on another
- Members of CTBs will be appointed for 5 years rather than two
- Local Councils will appoint at least one member of the CBT – and in the case where a parkland abuts several councils then there can be 3 appointed with the proviso that Councils which miss out can send observers who can speak but not vote.
While these changes are welcome as they give the CTBs some real power, the fact remains that the appointments to the CTBs will be done by the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust Board and the Minister. The Callan Park CBT will certainly not be the Callan Park & Broughton Hall Trust we have campaigned for.
Other major amendments were
- There is to be no net reduction in bushland and open space in the GSP estate. (But the danger here is ‘net’, meaning that genuine bushland or parkland can be sacrificed and compensated by lower standard land elsewhere. The stage is set for some battles over this.)
- Decisions of the GSPT Board must be made public in a ‘timely manner’.
- The GSP Trust is to investigate adding Chipping Norton Lakes and Lake Gillawarna in south-west Sydney and the Millennium Parks at Homebush Bay to the GSPT estate and make a recommendation to parliament.
- Carparking on Moore Park is to be phased out over the next 3 years.
- Parliament is to review the working of the legislation after two years of operation.
- Any lease over 10 years is to go out for public tender.
However, on the issue of leases, provisions for 99-year leases for the Showground lands were restored. At Callan Park leases over 10 years still have to be reported to parliament and either house can disallow – except for Kirkbride, Broughton Hall and the Convalescent Cottages where leases up to 50-years can be granted by the Minister.
Finally we are now dealing with a legalised GSP Board, defined as both a corporation and a government agency, whose composition inspires no confidence – they appear to be the usual suspects that a Liberal minister would appoint. Their proceedings over the past two years have remained secret – not a single copy of their board minutes has seen the light of day. What their terms of engagement or fees are, is likewise a state secret. The way the progressing of the Landscape Structure Plans being handled (the Mound, the $1m toilet block on the foreshore) reflects a bureaucratic arrogance and indifference to community opinion and expertise that does not augur well for the future.
In short, community vigilance remains as essential as ever.