Questions remain over disused grounds

There are currently 19 neighbourhood ovals and three district playing fields sitting idle at the same time as experts rue the lack of safe and affordable sportsgrounds to assist in helping maintain healthy communities. The ACT Government intends to review the status of these potential sportsgrounds on a year-by-year basis. At current rates some communities could be waiting up to 6 or more years before their ovals and fields are given a red or green light for rejuvenation. Two of these (Lyneham and Watson) are in north Canberra. Can we really afford to have ovals sitting idle in areas with expanding populations when communities are eager to assist with forward planning and even labour if necessary?
The Canberra Times Monday 4 July 2011

Questions remain over disused grounds

By Chris Johnson
Chief Political Correspondent

More than 35ha of prime Canberra real estate remains virtually unused as a legacy of the eight-year drought. The disused land is made up of 21 sportgrounds and playing fields which could not be maintained during Canberra’s strict water restrictions. The Government has declined to indicate firm plans for the future of most of this land or to say whether it is still needed for organised sport. Maintenance of 21 ovals has been cut since 2002 because of drought.

A spokesman for Sport Minister Andrew Barr said the 2011-12 ACT budget had provided $1.111 million to begin restoration of these types of spaces beginning with the Isabella Plains neighbourhood oval and the Charnwood district playing field. He said Ngunnawal oval had been restored this financial year and Monash Oval had been replaced with a synthetic surface in 2009-10. Nicholls oval had been expanded and replaced with a synthetic surface with Federal Government support.

Mr Barr’s office was asked if disused grounds would be retained as open space, sold for development or restored as playing fields. His spokesman said the Government was prioritising the order in which the remaining 19 grounds or parts thereof would be restored with water-efficient couch grass or resurfaced with synthetic grass. “Further restoration will be considered in the budget process each year, based on priority and as the budget allows,” the spokesman said.

When water to most of the grounds was turned off about four years ago, most organised sport, particularly cricket and football codes, had to rationalise their use of remaining sportsgrounds. This particularly affected junior sport which had to share grounds and play earlier and later than previously.

ACT Opposition sport spokesman Steve Doszpot said yesterday though sports had managed with fewer grounds, they had been unable to expand junior programs. The Government had refused to provide a schedule of its priority for restoring grounds. Meanwhile, the cost of using sportgrounds had increased by about 58 per cent since 2009. “There is no doubt some parents have pulled their kids out of sport because they cannot keep up with the expense,” Mr Doszpot said. “I don’t think we can afford not to bring more of these grounds back on. We are talking about the health of our community.” On how much the Opposition would support being spent on restoration, he said, “Our task is to keep the Government accountable.”

Cricket ACT chief executive officer Mark Vergano said that when ground maintenance had been cut it had seemed marginal whether everyone could continue to play. But there had been good cooperation between sporting groups and the Government and sporting groups had been able to adapt. He said there were new grounds being made available, particularly in new, growing suburbs, so some closed grounds were potentially surplus to requirement.

Concern over grounds and support for sport in Canberra began well before water was cut off. At a meeting of sporting groups convened by ACTSport on April 30, 2006, it was unanimously agreed that since 2003 community sport had experienced reduced access to sportsgrounds, decreasing operational funding, lost revenues from sponsorship and increases in overall operating costs.

Table: List of neglected neighbourhood ovals and district playing fields:

Neighbourhood Ovals District Playing Fields
CharnwoodChisholm

Evatt

Farrer

Florey

Gilmore

Isabella Plains

Kaleen South

Lyneham

Macgregor

Mawson

Melba

Richardson

Spence

Theodore

Torrens

Watson

Bonython

CharnwoodHolt

Melba

Note: copyright of the material in this clipping resides with Fairfax Media. Usage permitted in accordance with the Australian Copyright Act 1968, Section 42: Fair dealing for purpose of reporting news. Source: The Canberra Times – 4 July 2011

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