At a Council meeting on the 15th of March, the Lord Mayor moved a mayoral minute (delivered to councillors 25 minutes before the meeting), which was supported Clover Moore Party “independents” and the Liberal Councillor, to abandon plans to build a skate park at the Millers Point site underneath a busy freeway (for background information on the site, see this previous post).
This is a massive blow for the skateboarding community of the City and young people generally, but it shouldn’t have to be this way. The Lord Mayor’s reasons for abandoning the plans are based on a number of incorrect and poorly evidenced assumptions and it seems as though she is running scared from the hype campaign created by a small group of very vocal residents with a serious case of “Not In My Backyard”.
This spineless backdown by the Lord Mayor is the second time a perfectly good proposed site has been junked for her perceived political benefit. Prior to this a very advanced design for a skate park in Prince Alfred Park was deleted from the plan at the last minute following ill informed and prejudiced opposition by a handful of her supporters many of whom you will see handing out ‘how to votes’ for her at the next election.
The first reason given for cancelling the plan is that it will be “affected by” the cycleway planned to be built next to the proposed skate park site. This is a flimsy excuse at best and the Lord Mayor has made no attempt to explain what exactly “affected by” means in this context. The cycleway has been on the drawing board since before the planning for the skate park was initiated and there had been no suggestion that these two plans were in conflict before now. The skate park was planned for a small plaza area next to the cycleway and would interfere with it no more than an adjacent café or children’s playground would.
The importance of the site as a pedestrian access way between Wynyard and Barangaroo is also listed as a reason to reject the plans, however with solid plans for a cycleway adjacent to the skate park site it’s difficult to see what the connection is between the skate park and pedestrian access. Skaters will likely use the cycleway to skate to the site as cycleways are designed to be more sympathetic to the needs of wheeled vehicles than pedestrian footpaths are, providing a smoother and more enjoyable ride. Unless Clover Moore has secret plans to abandon the cycleway as well (which would entirely destroy her first argument against the skate park) there will be already in place a separated path for skaters to use so they don’t conflict with pedestrians. Further the pedestrian link between Kent St and York St through to Wynyard station passes past the proposed skate park not through it. The only real conflict in that area will be between pedestrians & cyclists.
The final argument against the plan is the many unfounded objections raised by local residents of noise, antisocial behaviour, graffiti and the like. I am a local resident myself and have dealt with most of these arguments in my previous post on this matter. However one argument that I haven’t tackled previously, which has been trotted out again, is one to the effect that because the site is small, skaters will quickly get bored of it.
This is yet another baseless skater stereotype. While a small site may not attract large numbers of regular visitors from outside the area (a situation that I imagine would please many of the objectors) one only need to briefly look through online skateboarding forums to realise how passionate skaters are about their local parks, even if they are small. A site such as this will likely serve as a hub for local skaters from the younger end of the spectrum for whom it is not easy to travel to Waterloo or other outlying skate parks. This could include primary school children and young teenagers skating with their friends as well as children as young as four skating under the supervision of their parents. Older skaters respect the different needs of young skaters and the two can share the same space with very little conflict. I think even those members of the community who adhere to the stereotypes of skaters as habitual perpetrators of antisocial and criminal behaviour will acknowledge that the presence of young children and parents at the site is likely to severely curtail any such activities.
This disgraceful decision by the increasingly autocratic Lord Mayor and her compliant Clover Moore Party “independents” reminds me of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In the film a mythical society keeps its children underground because they are seen to be noisy, smelly and troublesome. The town even has a child catcher who scours the town for children using a rattling toy as a lure. Once captured they are bundled into a wooden cage that is mounted on a horse drawn cart and despatched to the underground cave where they won’t bother anyone.
Well at least the young people of Clover Moore’s City know where they belong now. Not in her backyard. And she doesn’t even need to explain herself anymore. She has the numbers and as we have seen from politicians of her kind in the NSW state government – that’s all that matters!
I can only interpret Clover Moore’s actions on this as nothing more than a political move attempting to pander to populist ill-informed hysteria. I would recommend that all members of the community who want to see this skate park go ahead write to her and her team on Council and tell them how you feel about this decision, how misguided she is in falling for the same unfair stereotypes dragged out again and again and how it will affect your vote at the next state or local council election. Maybe she will see that abandoning such a well loved plan is not the way to win popularity and we will once again see the park inner Sydney wants and deserves back on the agenda.