August 2015


Defending Urban Sanctuaries

The Total Environment Centre (TEC) has launched a campaign and a DIY toolkit to help communities defend and preserve Sydney's parks and green spaces – a situation which TEC's executive director Jeff Angel says is urgent.

"Councils are rezoning public space for commercial use, surplus crown lands are proposed for sale and poorly planned infrastructure projects are threatening parks and urban trees. We have documented dozens of threatened areas. The government talks about a ‘green grid'' in its plans but it has to be built on the existing foundation of open space, otherwise we will go backwards," he said.

"With Sydney and other metro regions losing vital natural and green areas that not only contribute to the beauty of the metropolis but also the health and well being of its citizens, we call on the State government to give greater statutory protection to parks and remnant bushland."

The Urban Sanctuary Defenders toolkit was created so that any community group can fight back when a much-loved tree, grassy area or park is under siege from developers or rezoning, said TEC's Urban Sanctuary Campaigner, Dave Burgess.

NSW has had a long history of poor planning and that competition for urban land by developers and infrastructure projects has repeatedly pushed aside environmental and community interests, resulting in a loss of native vegetation and connectivity between natural areas, as well as degradation of water resources, urban sprawl and pollution.

In 2014 the NSW Government proposed A Plan for Growing Sydney that envisaged a ‘Green
Grid' that could link open spaces, parks, bushland and waterways with tree-lined walkways and cycleways and create green connections between homes, workplaces and leisure facilities.

Unfortunately many of the areas required for a ‘Green Grid' could be threatened by a new review into how Crown lands are administered in NSW," says the TEC.

Six big threats are: lack of planning, the sell-off of public and crown land, road and infrastructure projects, the loss of tree cover, privatization or semi-privatization of public spaces for commercial activities, and illegal activities such as by developers or dumpers.

The toolkit draws on the experience of TEC campaigns and communities it has worked with over the last 40 years. It outlines how to run a public campaign. This includes how to define the issue, setting goals, getting the message out, identifying allies and opponents, developing a strategy and tactics, and marshaling resources.

Mr Burgess says activists need to be creative, organized, aware of the tricks played by developers and their government allies, and committed to staying the course.

With the metropolitan population is growing in size and density, we need more quality open space, not less, said Mr Angel.





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