Every afternoon, every lunch break, every weekend, a battle is played out on park benches, sporting fields and baby swings across the inner west. Open and green spaces are at a premium and every square metre of grass is accounted for. Residents using these spaces in a variety of ways crash into each other, sometimes quite literally. The former Marrickville council area has less green space than almost every other local government area in New South Wales. And as our population grows and density increases, the pressure on our open spaces only intensifies. Across this State, our parks, reserves, beaches, wetlands, foreshores and trees are under threat. But what is also under threat is the vision of a truly liveable city, defined by its sustainability, creativity and accessibility.
The benefits of open and green spaces are undeniable. They enhance our local environment, providing vital habitat for native fauna and offsetting carbon emissions. They make our cities more liveable, creating microclimates that reduce urban heat and improve air and water quality. They improve public health, giving our kids somewhere to run and be wild. They ensure that our sports teams have somewhere to play. They improve local economies, promoting tourism and benefiting local small businesses. While we know the benefits, far too often in the city we take our open spaces and wild places for granted. We know their value, but perhaps fail to appreciate how at risk they are.
The Total Environment Centre's SOS Green Spaces campaign is about educating the community about just how precious and threatened our wild places are. The centre has released a map, which I recommend to members. It tracks the threatened green spaces across the Sydney region. Unfortunately, more than 80 green spaces are at risk, including the Reg Coady Reserve in my electorate in Haberfield. The campaign also identifies Callan Park in Balmain and Sydney Park in St Peters as threatened, and notes that Ashfield Park is an example of where a community campaign resulted in green space being saved. I acknowledge the Save Ashfield Park group for its incredible work on this front.
Reg Coady Reserve is a small parcel of land on the banks of Iron Cove Creek. It is an unassuming piece of land that has become a flashpoint in the WestConnex campaign. The reserve was regularly used by residents for walking, dog walking and kicking around a ball. It was an important link between Timbrell Park and the busy Ramsay Street, and it was used by students at the nearby Dobroyd Point Public School. When the environmental impact statement for the WestConnex M4 was released, it was clear that Reg Coady Reserve would be decimated. Century-old fig trees would make way for a giant turning circle for trucks hauling spoil 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once construction started, residents started reporting the removal of additional trees. My office received complaints that cars were parking in sections of the reserve not already dedicated for WestConnex construction and that pedestrian access through the reserve had been cut off altogether.
At the same time, trees along the route from Homebush to Haberfield were being ripped up, heritage homes were being destroyed, local roads were being filled with rat runners—all for a polluting toll road and unfiltered exhaust stacks. Along the entire length of the project, WestConnex is destroying open spaces in the city. From Cintra Park to Sydney Park, WestConnex is carving up our parks as it carves up our communities. Other spaces at risk in the inner west include the tracts of land along the banks of the Cooks River. Heritage trees across Haberfield were lopped by Ausgrid, which has apologised and will replace those trees as a result of concerted community pressure. The Berejiklian Government continues to propose extensive rezoning along the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor, with no planning for open or green spaces. If the plans go ahead, 100,000 extra people will be crammed along the corridor, without any extra parks or places to play.
The Government has promised that the Greater Sydney Commission will take a more overarching view of planning that will lead to better environmental outcomes. I believe that that is a goal that we can all support. But I note that in the first draft of the plans, there was not a single new open space proposed in the electorate of Summer Hill—no new parks; no new sporting fields to meet the ever-growing demand. The commission's commitment to delivering a green grid for Sydney is commendable, and I hope and trust that visionary projects like the GreenWay will form part of its spine. This commitment provides an opportunity for a real discussion about the value of our open spaces and the need for policies in this place that protect them. We need a city that has not been planned by colouring in maps. It must involve real consultation with communities and it must have as a goal the vision of a city that is liveable, creative and accessible to all.