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Extra funding needed for Sydney’s main parklands to meet rising demand

Up to $20 million a year in extra funding will be needed for Sydney’s best-known parklands to meet growing demand and enable them to become sustainable over the long term, according to a super agency set up last year to manage them.

The forecast comes as a white paper lays out the government’s ambition to pass laws this year to create an umbrella Greater Sydney Parklands Trust, while retaining three existing trusts which have long overseen the city’s main parks.

Greater Sydney Parklands was set up as an overarching agency last July through administrative arrangements to oversee Centennial Park and Moore Park, Callan Park, Parramatta Park, Western Sydney Parkland and Fernhill Estate.

The move drew criticism from the Opposition and community groups concerned about a loss of local voices in decision-making on the parks.

To allay those concerns, the white paper proposes setting up community trustee boards to represent local views on the parks.

The paper is short on detail on solutions for realising extra revenue for the parks but maintains that funding models should not rely on “over commercialisation” of them. It proposes to restrict “any major new commercial activities” to existing areas in the parks where they occur.

Greater Sydney Parklands said investigations were under way into whether land owned by the Office of Strategic Lands in business locations could be vested to it and used to generate up to $20 million a year in perpetuity for the parklands.

“It is not intended for this to replace government funding contributions,” it said.

The release of the white paper comes as the Berejiklian government relies on crossbench MPs to pass legislation through both the lower and upper house of parliament.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the white paper mapped a pathway for legislation that would strengthen protections for the parks by unilaterally prohibiting their sale, introducing new limits on commercial activities and developing a sustainable funding model.

“We need to shift our way of managing individual parks to a model that benefits greater Sydney as a whole,” he said. “The white paper proposes a new Greater Sydney Parklands Trust to act as a city-wide champion for existing and, excitingly, future parks.”

Key independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said debate about any new legislation would ensure concerns about commercialisation of the city’s parks were heard.

“I will be working to protect the parklands and to make sure that the community has a seat at the table in terms of the community trustee boards, and that the parklands have proper funding,” he said. “The government needs to invest in it.”

Labor sport and recreation spokeswoman Lynda Voltz said the opposition was likely to reject any notion that the parks would have to become self funding.

“Any new Act and structure which requires western Sydney and Western Sydney Parklands to be sold off to underpin the other parks is not acceptable. There is every indication from this government that is what they want to do,” she said.

Alliance for Public Parklands, a new group of community representatives from across Sydney, said it would review the white paper to ensure any new proposals were in the public interest.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald