Sydney Park is a treasured jewel of the inner suburbs. Over the last three decades, the former landfill site has been transformed into an urban oasis and wildlife haven, complete with wetlands, community gardens, children’s play area, skate park, sports oval and music amphitheatre. A generation of volunteers have taken part in tree plantings and seen their efforts bloom and grow.
Being in a densely populated area with high land values, the park faces ongoing pressures. A hectare of the park’s eastern flank was sliced off for the private WestConnex toll road which saw locals arrested in pitched battles to prevent trees being felled.
A new threat emerged in 2017, when property developers bought up land within the Sydney Park block for $147 million and announced plans to build 390 apartments. The parcel of land had been recommended in a 1982 Department of Planning report to be purchased by the NSW government and incorporated into the park.
The City of Sydney opposed the concept plans but was overruled by the state government controlled Sydney Central Planning Committee. At the same time, the Friends of Erskineville (FoE) launched a campaign to scrap the development. The latest revelation that the parent company of the developer, Hailiang Property Group, is based in the offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands, has added strength to the call. Final approval of detailed plans is currently before the Land and Environment Court.
At FoE we have pointed out that City of Sydney residents have a mere 17.7 square metres of public open space each. As the population grows, this figure will shrink unless suitable land can be purchased to compensate, and the developer contributions for this purpose fall very far short of what is needed. The location of the proposed apartments, adjacent to the sensitive wetlands, would place unacceptable pressure on the wildlife, from the much loved baby swans to migratory birds from Japan and Siberia.
An alternative, recommended by the Sydney Design Advisory Panel, is for a land swap, which would allow a more suitable site to be found. FoE is calling upon the Minister for Planning to intervene and return the land to the public so that the original vision for Sydney Park can be fulfilled.
Andrew Chuter is President of the Friends of Erskineville. The online petition can be found here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/defend-the-sydney-park-superblock