By TILEAH DOBSON
One of the largest and most beautiful parks in Sydney is currently under threat from property developers, according to the Friends of Erskineville community group.
The group has launched a campaign calling for NSW Minister of Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, to step in and save the 41.6-hectare Sydney Park from an apartment complex which would see 350 units built adjacent to the park’s renowned wetlands.
President of Friends of Erskineville, Andrew Chuter, told the Sentinel the apartment proposal, One Sydney Park, was the latest assault on Sydney Park, which has been impacted by the adjacent, newly built St Peters Interchange and WestConnex motorway.
“This park is targeted because of the value of the land and because the profit to be made by selling apartments virtually within it provides them a huge windfall,” Chuter said.
“The matter is currently before the Land and Environment Court. I think that the Planning Minister should step in and avoid any further embarrassment by trying to work out a land swap. This was recommended by the City of Sydney’s expert Design Advisory Panel but never properly investigated.
“There is a lot of disused industrial land nearby that could be appropriate. There’s also plenty of land across the road in the St Peters Interchange Park that was offered as compensation to the community for the bits of Sydney Park stripped off for WestConnex.”
The park holds cultural and community significance for residents of Sydney. It’s the home ground for South Sydney District Cricket Club and Newtown Swans Junior Australian Rules football team. It also hosts the St Peters Parkrun, a weekly 5km run held every Saturday that residents can join for free.
Sydney Park is home to various flora and fauna, with black swans being the stars for visitors and residents to admire. It’s also a stop for migratory birds from Japan and Siberia.
“It’s astonishing the variety of wildlife that has sprung up in Sydney Park since the former tip was converted 30 years ago. Bird watchers come from around Sydney to see the Latham’s Snipe or the Lewin’s Rail. Some of these birds migrate from Japan and Siberia. And of course, the baby black swans bring delight to thousands of visitors,” Chuter said.
Newtown resident and Labor Councillor Linda Scott has voiced her support for the campaign.
“I oppose, in the strongest possible terms, plans to allow private residences to be built inside our public parkland,” Scott said.
“For three decades Sydney Park has been an important green space for our local communities. As the Ashmore Estate was developed and the populations of Erskineville, Newtown, St Peters and Alexandria have grown, Sydney Park has acted as a backyard for people living in small inner-city spaces,” she said.
“Sydney Park has watched countless children grow up, including my own. Developers desire to build [these] apartments in this important public space threatens to put a stop to that.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has also spoken out on the importance Sydney Park holds for residents.
“Our parklands could not be more important. Trees, parks and access to open space are infrastructure as essential as roads and broadband internet. To help cool our city, combat climate change, and give people opportunities for exercise and mental health relief,” Moore said.
“Greater residential densities only work when they are accompanied by the appropriate infrastructure and amenity – such as enlarged and improved parklands.
“They not only offer places of solace and beauty, but incredibly important Covid-safe places for the community to enjoy in these particularly challenging times. Places to walk the dog, throw a ball, or exercise. Or just relax and appreciate the native flora and fauna now flourishing across the park.”
A petition in against the proposal has been launched online at https://actionnetwork.org/letters/defend-the-sydney-park-superblock.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes has been contacted for comment.
Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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