Feb 28, 2010

The City’s Parks for the City’s People

Council’s has a clear policy of allocating its active recreation open space areas to community-based sporting clubs, which cater predominantly for children. It is pleasing to observe other councils such as Marrickville Council and Randwick City Council are adopting similar policies, which are also being implemented by other councils. When you consider what I said at http://botanybaycitycouncil.blogspot.com/2010/02/sporting-clubs-more-than-sporting-clubs_14.html it is easy to appreciate the vital part our community-based sporting clubs play in our community.

In 2009 our policy has returned dividends to this City more tangibly. As well as using the facilities these community clubs also protect them, cooperate with the Council and prevent the overuse of the grounds. That has in one year saved thousands of dollars simply in not having to returf parks, such as Rowland, Booralee and Jellicoe Parks, as the community-based clubs policed and monitored their use and actively worked with Council ground staff.

Open space in this City, as is the case right throughout the eastern suburbs and the inner city, is at a premium. Everybody within the entire region demands access to open space for active recreation and they would constantly use almost every blade of grass if given the opportunity. To be able to maintain those facilities for community benefit there is only a limited amount of use that these open spaces can receive before they are irreparably damaged. Overuse that destroys grass covering, for example, will result not only in the cost of returfing but also the grass surface cannot recover until the following summer.

But there is another consideration that the Council must take into account in the use of its open space areas. On Sunday, as I was passing L’Estrange Park at Mascot, I noticed a father kicking a football around with his three children all of them looked like two and three and four years of age. As I looked around the park I saw other little children playing ball games and generally running around utilising that open space area.

On seeing that I then realised something I perhaps should have realised before, and that is, that the Council needs to ensure that its open space areas that are used for active recreation for organised sports should also be available to the community for recreation that is not organised. For example, the Council cannot lock up open parks for the entire day light hours during winter. The City’s parks are there for the City’s’ people.

As a result, Council has decided that the community based sporting clubs allocated our parks can only utilise that park for their own training purposes and for their home games in their competitions, and no other purpose. Council has done this to ensure that when the local community-based sporting club has exhausted its own use of the open space area then the open space area is available to the general public. The City’s Parks are for the City’s people.

Feb 27, 2010

Swine Flu Vaccinations

We may not have read about it for some time but swine flu continues to cause substantial illness across the world and is still a threat to Australia.  Vaccination is the best primary prevention of swine flu and, in conjunction with South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service, there will be special free vaccination clinics Thursday of this week.  Medical advice is that children under 10 should have the vaccination along with people who care for children.  It’s children and those who care for children who the clinic will specifically target this week.  For children under 10, a repeat dose of the vaccine is required one month after the first. We’re doing it at the Central Library at Eastgardens shopping centre on Thursday March 4.  The next clinic, to ensure children under 10 are protected will be held on Thursday April 1. On both dates, the clinics will run between 1.00pm and 3.00pm and again at night between 5.00pm and 7.00pm.  By vaccinating children under 10 and those who care for them we can be better prepared for the winter flu season and help halt the spread of this life threatening disease.

Feb 26, 2010

St Patrick¹s Day Brekkie

The Windgap Foundation, a great Eastlakes-based organisation which really helps those with a disability, is holding a special St Patrick’s Day Breakfast as a fundraiser – and it’s something worth supporting. Windgap has been helping people with a disability for longer than I can remember (decades and more) and they do tremendous work.  My only complaint about them is they never tell anyone all the good deeds they do.  That’s not a trite comment but one which shows the depth of their dedication.  The Paddy’s Day breakfast will be held at the Randwick Labor Club, at the top of Alison Road in Randwick on Wednesday, March 17 (when else!) and will be on between 8.00am and 11.00am.  Tickets are just $35 and you can get a table of 10 for $350. Get a group together and celebrate the patron saint of the Irish in green Irish tradition along with some fine Irish entertainment from Shindig.  You can book through Windgap by calling either Gina or Noreen on 8337 3600.  I can’t say enough about Windgap and the work they do.  Everyone can help by having an Irish start to St Patrick’s Day.

Feb 24, 2010

The New Mascot Railway Station Park

Council has completed the new park entry to Mascot Railway Station. Once a dead end unsightly closed road. With the attractive new residential developments being contructed in the Mascot Station District, this attractive new park will make a pleasant area to and from Mascot Railway Station.

Trucks, Congestion and Port Botany

I was concerned to read a week or so ago a media release from the new Minister for Ports in the NSW Government announcing in effect that one new rail freight service to Port Botany by P&O Trans Australia would solve not only the local traffic problems we have, and will have, but also that the service would ease congestion on the M5East.
Then, last Sunday, our Premier announced the State Government’s Metropolitan Transport Plan Connecting the City of Cities.  In it, is the statement that there are to be improvements to the Botany and Enfield rail yards to support increased movement of containers to and from Port Botany.
I welcome that statement. Improvements to the Botany and Enfield rail yards were commenced last year. The rail yard work is heading rapidly towards completion and is being undertaken by Australian Rail Track Corporation, the Commonwealth owned national rail track provider, utilising Commonwealth funds.
The Metropolitan Transport Plan also states that the rail yard works will assist in meeting “our State Plan target of 40 per cent of containers by rail.”
The Premier, who knows this area and this issue better than most, restates the government’s policy target of 40 per cent by rail.  This was the figure used by Sydney Ports Corporation in its Environmental Impact Statement for the Port Botany Expansion in November 2003 – going on for six years ago.
Despite repeated conversations with this State’s bureaucratic advisors, the 40 per cent seems to have become an almost mythical figure, restated in print in successive State Government documents and reports.
When the 40 per cent was first announced, rail accounted for 25 per cent of container traffic.  As Council is all too aware, the current rail proportion of container movements is somewhere around 17 per cent.  Even with the Botany and Enfield rail yard upgrades and the long term duplication of the Port Botany to Enfield rail line, achieving 40 per cent with the current port transport access charges and policies is really a bridge too far.
We know 80 per cent of the containers coming across the wharves at Port Botany are slated for delivery within the growing Sydney metropolitan area.  We know that road transport has a distinct price advantage to rail and that competition within the trucking industry is such that this price advantage will continue to grow.
What we also know is that the number of containers will rise inexorably to 3.2 million containers allowed by the consent for the Port Botany expansion.
That expansion is well underway.  All you need to do is go down Foreshore Road and have a look.  Hills of sand, giant concrete revetment pieces, the new boat ramps, the overbridge and much, much more.  It’s all there to see.
This is on schedule for commencement of operation in 2013. The operator has been selected and one can imagine spots already booked for container vessels and freight forwarders.
About a month ago, the Minister for Ports announced that for the six months up to December 31, almost a million boxes passed through Port Botany.
A week before he made that announcement, the same Minister announced that the new P&O freight train service would relieve truck congestion.  Some 136 truck trips would be deleted every day by this new service, which the Minister described as a “milestone”.
Emissions would be reduced, M5East congestion relieved and the world would be rosy.
Let’s look at the facts.  Forty per cent of boxes by rail mean 1.9 million boxes still go by road.  If the figure hits 20 per cent, then 2.5 million boxes on the road.  And, by road, I mean Foreshore Road, Bunnerong Road, Southern Cross Drive and the M5East. They are the only routes for container trucks – and they all have their origins in our City.
With 40 per cent rail we would still have over 5,000 truck movements a day. If it was 20 per cent then it means over 6,800 trucks a day.  And in light of this, 136 trucks less a day is certainly no panacea.  Whilst any reduction is an improvement, the numbers must be put into proper perspective.
If you add to this indication of traffic doom for our City, research by the National Health and Medical Research Council on vehicle emissions then the situation gets worse.  In the past I’ve used the research by the NH&MRC (one of the most respected and credible national research centres) to warn of a pollution nightmare.  NH&MRC states that the emissions from one heavy truck equal that of 10 to 15 cars.  Extrapolate this for the daily truck movements based on 20 per cent rail then the emission we would have each day would be equivalent to 85,000 plus cars – and that’s on top of what we already have.
Bureaucrats continue to misinform Ministers – something when it comes to Port Botany is all too familiar.
But, putting aside government claims, what did concern me about the Premier’s weekend transport plan is that the doubling of lanes in the M5East has been shelved. There are a lot of good initiatives in the Premier’s transport plan for Sydney overall – and they are to be welcomed.
However, scrapping the M5East duplication means that another solution must be found to the congestion, which the Premier acknowledges is costing NSW $3.5 billion a year – and is growing.
Putting aside the costs on congestion in dollar terms, we need to look at the cost in human terms and in environment costs.
In the end, port related road congestion will only be solved with the involvement of the Australian Government.  The Prime Minister acknowledges this as too does the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.  Even on Monday of this week, Australia’s Infrastructure Co-ordinator Michael Deegan placed unlocking port bottlenecks via better road and rail services as a major priority.
What troubles me the most is that everyone talks about the problem and everyone knows about the problem but nothing is done.
In the meantime, the Port Botany expansion continues unabated, there is no decision on new intermodal operations and the people and environmental costs are not addressed.
Even though we are but a small player compared with the State and Australian governments, we still have a voice and we still need to be able to represent the views and aspirations of our residents.  We’re not NIMBY’s.  Indeed, this issue goes beyond our City’s boundaries.  If it is not addressed then Sydney traffic will become chaotic and with a continuous cloud of pollution overhead.
I want to get SSROC involved as a means of involving and co-ordinating local government.  I want our local Member of Parliament Michael Daley involved and I want the federal Minister for Infrastructure involved.  I recommend that we do this via SSROC – and we do it quickly.
If we don’t, the legacy we leave the future residents of the City of Botany Bay – and the people of Sydney – will totally destroy the ideal of all generations to leave things better for future generations.

Feb 20, 2010

Tracing Family Histories

At some stage all of us think about our family history – who were our forebears, where did they live, what did they do and how did they come to settle in Australia?  From coming to these shores in chains (now a claim of some standing and not an embarrassment) or by choice, we all have a history stretching back decades or centuries and we all have some curiosity.  A workshop in the Central Library at Eastgardens will help those interested in genealogy to unlock their family history.  The workshop will guide you through the basics of Ancestry.com, a website that assists in tracing family histories and creating family trees.  The workshop will be held on Saturday March 27 beginning at 1.30pm and going through to 3.30pm.  Bookings are essential and can be made by calling the library on 9366 3888. It should be an interesting session and who knows where your own family history can lead you.

Immunisation Clinics

The next free immunisation clinic will be held on Thursday March 4 at the usual locations – Mascot Early Childhood Centre, 51 Coward Street, Mascot between 9.00am and 10.00am and the Central Library at Eastgardens between 2.00pm and 3.00pm and later that day between 6.00pm and 7.00pm. Immunisation is the safest and most effective way of giving young children protection against life threatening diseases.

Youth Week Art Competition

It’s a couple of months away but I’d to give some advance notice to lour local aspiring Picassos and Andy Warhols. The 2010 Youth Week Art Competition is just over the horizon and now is the time to get the creative thoughts going and begin to get the entries ready. The theme for this year’s competition is “Our Environment” – a topic as big as your imaginations.  The competition is open to anyone aged between 12 and 24 (we do have different age groupings) who lives in our City. The works of art must be no larger than an A3 size and can reflect any aspect of the environment.  Entries have to be in by 4.00pm on Friday April 9 and have to be delivered to the Community Services Section at the Central Library at Eastgardens.  There are prizes in the different categories and all works will be exhibited at the Central Library during Youth Week – April 10 to April 25. For more information, please contact Patrick or Yasemin on 9366 3889.

Lionel Bowen Scholarship

March is when the university year begins and it’s also the month where we urge our local tertiary students to prepare their applications for the Lionel Bowen Scholarship. The scholarship, valued at approximately $2000, provides assistance for the first year of tertiary study or special research for a student who lives within our City.  The City of Botany Bay, together with local industry, established the scholarship to pay tribute to, and recognise, the outstanding achievements and service to Australia, by the Honourable Lionel Bowen, AC, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Member for Kingsford Smith who retired from public office in 1990.  Application Forms are available from my office at the Eastgardens shopping centre or from Council’s Administrative Centre in Coward Street, Mascot. I’d urge all local eligible students to pick one up and make sure it’s lodged with us by the end of March. Then our selection panel will go through all the applications to decide who will be the Lionel Bowen Scholar for 2010.

Feb 16, 2010

Parks, Playgrounds and Sporting Fields

Across our City, you find them in about every second or third street. They are big and they are small – and in between. Apart from the very streets and roads people walk along or drive on, they are, perhaps the most used local infrastructure we have. I refer, of course, to our parks, our playgrounds and our sporting fields.

We have a myriad of places that are green, where the space is open and where the level of facilities or the extent of physical exertion is up to the individual.

We have our big parks – Sir Joseph Banks Park, Mutch Park, L’Estrange Park, Rowland Park, Booralee Park and more. But then we have the pocket parks – equal to one or two blocks of land with some tales, playground equipment and lawns and shrubs.

The way we plan recreation space in this city is to align outcomes to census data. We look where the various age groups are and what the immediate facilities are. It’s no point having a playground for toddlers where there are few toddlers and more teens and sub teens.

Our sporting fields are under a great degree of stress. We have a demand we’re not able to fully meet. Like many adjoining local councils we have begun to give priority to local teams ahead of teams from outside our City. We make no apology for that, although I know it has upset more than a few sporting officials.

But our parks and our playgrounds are open to everyone, although those who use them the most usually come from the immediate area. If you live in an apartment or a home with a small backyard, then the park or playground down the street or around the corner becomes your extended backyard.

To ensure that all our residents are aware of the parks, playgrounds and sporting fields throughout our City I propose that, in the next issue, we use our publication Your City to provide a special lift-out section that sets out the locations of all the parks, playground and sporting fields and what facilities are available at each location. We’ve done special lift-out sections in previous editions of Your City and they have been well received by our residents.

Talking of something that’s been well received, go down to the new playground at Booralee Park just off Daniel Street.

I was there the other weekend and it was a great sight. There, under the shade of wide fig tree canopies, I saw a lot of kids just being kids and enjoying themselves on the new equipment. This playground, with its setting and its equipment has quickly become a local meeting place.

There are climbing equipment, slides, swings, wild net and the fortress combinations for the younger children. There are splashes of colour against the subdued soft fall and the landscaped areas. It is truly a great sight. But the best part was the sound of kids enjoying themselves as they played. Laughter, shouts and loud exchanges between the kids were, in my mind, the best advertisement for this new playground.

I also saw more than a few contented parents and carers on the sitting wall or the benches, sitting in the shade watching their children having a great time. What we’ve done down in Booralee is create a playground, with a few challenges, for different age groups. The age groups are separated so everyone gets a fair share of the equipment. I urge everyone to go down to Booralee and have a look – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Feb 15, 2010

Sporting Clubs more than Sporting Clubs

Our local sporting clubs - cricket, soccer, league and little A’s – do more than just provide competitive sport for local kids.  Sure there is competition on a weekly basis, and training throughout the week, but the clubs and the volunteers who manage the clubs do a whole lot more for the community, and some very special kids. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting Jellicoe Park to speak to the Pagewood Botany Football Club, where the Premier Kristina Keneally and I are patrons.  It was an opportunity to meet some of the parents and say thank you for all their hard work.  While there I came across a thank you card on the notice board which read “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”  Curious I read it, and when I did I couldn’t help but cry.  The club officials explained to me that a very sick young boy who sadly has now passed away, came wanting to play football. According to his mum this “special little boy”, found great joy through soccer and his team mates made him feel one of them and nothing else. He came to play each week and even if he could only manage five minutes on the field that was enough to be important for the young boy. For his mum it was important that her special boy was never made to feel any different than any of the other players. The club his mum wrote was “a very special family”.
And that’s probably a good description of our local sporting clubs – families and not just clubs.  The local sporting clubs that look after our children are a part of the community and they go far beyond turning out children’s teams for weekly competition. What is the case for this club is I am certain replicated in our other junior sporting clubs in our city we just don’t know about it.  They don’t tell … they don’t ask for recognition.  When I read about this special young boy and his mums views about what the club had done, I expressed my feelings to the Club President, George Lundy and asked him why he hadn’t said anything. He was surprised I even asked.  “That’s just what we do,” was his response.  
He, like our other volunteers, may think that that is what their club does but to me, and many like me, it shows that the clubs go beyond sport and become a part of a wider caring community.  They may think it’s nothing special – but I do and I know the community would agree.

First in a series of foreign language talks

As part of our library service for those from a non-English speaking background, we’re about to begin a series of talks and discussions in foreign languages. Our strong local Chinese community has the honour of being first when, the Central Library at Eastgardens plays host to Dr. Thomas Chiu.  Dr. Chiu is the author of many articles in the Sing Tao newspaper and has just published a book called Can Australia say no to China. On Friday February 19, Dr. Chiu will be talking in Cantonese and on Wednesday February 24 he will be speaking in Mandarin.  Both talks are at 6.00pm and admission is free. You’ll need to book, so give Wanda or Lin our Multicultural Services Librarians a call on 9366 3888.