Green belt … feeding ducks at the Parklands.A STATE government plan to build a shopping centre in one of Sydney’s most important urban parks is a self-serving ”income generator” that rides roughshod over the public good, critics say.
The trust behind the proposal acknowledges ”philosophical questions” about building a retail precinct in the Western Sydney Parklands, but says the project is necessary to bolster revenue.
The 5300-hectare green space, hailed by the former premier Bob Carr as the ”the lungs of western Sydney”, was dedicated to the people of NSW in 2004. It stretches 27 kilometres from Quakers Hill to Leppington and attracts almost 1 million Sydneysiders a year.
The state-government appointed trust charged with managing the park has proposed a shopping centre spanning 16 hectares near Rooty Hill. It is designed to hold a supermarket, a large liquor store, specialty shops, car parks and bulky goods outlets.
It follows the approval of a larger business centre in the parklands near Wetherill Park this month.
Forty per cent of the park is earmarked as bushland. The rest has been allocated to business hubs, infrastructure, urban farming, tourism, sport and recreation, including the Wet ‘n’ Wild theme park which is under construction.
Blacktown council strongly objects to the plan, saying it flaunts the government’s own draft centres policy, which aims to concentrate retail and commercial activity, and will significantly affect housing and employment growth at Mount Druitt, Blacktown, Seven Hills and Rooty Hill.
In a submission, the council said the plan was a ”narrow focused approach to create an income generator for the [trust] as opposed to creating centres that serve local communities”.
It cited ”serious heritage, stormwater, traffic and environmental issues” and said the plan does nothing to prevent ”massive buildings with very limited architectural merit” being built in the park.
Westfield, which operates a shopping centre at Mount Druitt, said the proposal failed to properly consider the wider social and economic impact, focusing only on ”commercial benefit to the Parklands”.
The park aims to become self-funding, and its plan of management allows 2 per cent of the site to be leased as business hubs to create a long-term income stream. But Westfield says that goal is ”self serving” and does not justify the proposal on planning grounds.
The trust says the proposed site has low recreational and environmental value and is ”isolated from the main spine” of the park.
The director of the Western Sydney Parklands Trust, Suellen Fitzgerald, said the project would create 500 jobs and $120 million in capital investment.
”Many parklands around the world recognise that sustainable funding is key to their future … and we are committed to getting the balance right,” she said, adding that proposed land uses, such as a liquor outlet, were ”indicative only”.
The trust would respond to the issues raised in submissions, she said.
The debate comes as other parklands across Sydney embrace commercial models.
Centennial Park receives 4 per cent of its annual operating budget from the state government, down from 20 per cent a decade ago, plus one-off funding for capital works. It relies heavily on ”revenue-generating assets” such as Moore Park, Fox Studios and the equestrian centre.
Activists have long feared commercialisation of Parramatta Park, parts of which are world heritage listed. Parramatta State Liberal MP Geoff Lee reportedly said last year the park must become ”more financially sustainable by having more activities such as sport and concerts.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.