Here is Pilling’s response to the countless complaints that have come in regarding the Caulfield Park oval extension and the removal of 39 trees. We then feature the Friends of Caulfield Park’s answer to Pilling. In our view the writing is on the wall as to the kind of Mayor Pilling will be!

Thank you for your letter concerning the works to be undertaken to Caulfield Park ovals 3 and 4. I am responding on behalf of all of my colleagues.

I understand the genuine concerns that you have about the thirty-eight trees that are to be removed to allow these works to fully proceed. Whilst this is the case I feel it is important to emphasise twenty-five trees in the works area are to be retained as part of the proposed works and an additional forty trees will be planted in the area, including some indigenous trees that do not currently feature in the park.

Decisions like this aren’t taken lightly and all Councillors considered carefully the issues before coming to a similar view; that the long term benefits to all park users including reducing present risk issues significantly outweighed the short/medium term tree losses. Below is the background and reasons for this decision to proceed.

The Caulfield Park Master Plan  adopted over a decade ago and after extensive community consultation, envisages that works in the north east of the park would separate the two ovals. Masterplans have provided Council with designs and management direction for specific parks and in some cases implemented as a whole or progressively as in the case of Caulfield Park depending on funding availabilties. They also offer suggested solutions to risk issues such as in this case and are  reviewed regularly to ensure that the actions planned are still currently necessary. In this case Council concluded that the upgrading of Ovals 3 and 4 was still a much needed priority. In the 2013/14 budget $600k was allocated to install drought-tolerant grasses on these ovals and thus complete this successful program for Caulfield Park.

The two ovals currently do not make the best use of the available space.  The ovals overlap which presents a risk to players of running into each other or a ball from one game coming into contact with someone playing in the other game.  This identified risk puts a liability risk on Council.  In previously implemented park redevelopments, Council has taken the opportunity to eliminate these situations (eg Lord Reserve, Murrumbeena Park and Caulfield Park). This same approach and process was taken when Caulfield Park ovals 5, 6, and 7 along Balaclava Road were redeveloped in 2008/9. During that phase of implementation of the Master Plan, Council planted 320 trees whilst removing 13 trees. As is the case now the number of trees removed in 2009 were kept to as minimum as possible.

There is also an expectation amongst the community sports clubs that Council will take this action to eliminate any potential risk to players.

In short these ovals are compromised and the situation needs to be improved. The prospect of reconfiguring or combining the ovals that would essentially mean a reduction in playing surfaces is not supported by Council. Currently there are difficulties accommodating all forms of community sports on the limited number of grounds in the municipality especially in junior sport. To reduce is not a realistic option nor is to proceed spending $600k on an inadequate situation.

In relation to Caulfield Park whilst the western end is totally dedicated to passive use only, the eastern end is dedicated to both passive and active use and these uses sit harmoniously side by side.

The works to ovals 3 and 4 at the eastern end of Caulfield Park will lead to these ovals becoming safer by reducing risks to participants by reconfiguring the ovals to appropriate standards.

The ovals will be more environmentally sustainable with far less water used while providing a superior surface for players and passive users alike, even in drought like conditions which are in line with future climatic predictions. As well an upgraded irrigation system and the installation of sub-surface drainage will form part of the works.

I hope that provides a more comprehensive explanation of this issue, as always I am available to meet up onsite to further discuss your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Cr Neil Pilling

Mayor

City of Glen Eira

FOCP’S REPLY

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your reply and your view of FoCP’s concerns.

I hope that you can see from the public response to this proposal that you have not made a fully thought through decision in this matter and that you will revise it to match the whole community’s expectations.

In your letter you make several points:

  • You mention that decisions like this “aren’t taken lightly”.  This seems farcical when there was no external consultation.  It flies in the face of Council’s purported consultation program.  If you were serious, why were we, the Friends of Caulfield Park, not asked for an opinion?  Were you trying to avoid finding out what it was?
  • How can you pretend that you all “considered carefully all the issues” when you did not find out what they were?  Which ones did you consider?  Please spell them out.
  • What are the “long term benefits to all park users”?  Please spell them out.
  • Please identify which park users, other than cricketers, fall under your description “all”.
  • “reducing present risk issues seriously outweighed the short/medium term tree losses”  What are the risk issues to which you refer?  You state that “The two ovals do not make best use of available space”.  You suggest that the overlap “presents a risk to players of running into each other or a ball from one game coming into contact with someone playing in the other game”.  Frankly, this probability is less than someone tripping over the concrete plinth. There are seven ovals set aside for cricket at Caulfield Park.  This whole weekend, at the height of the cricket season, three ovals were used for four half-day matches.  People running after balls will be running towards each other, so how could they collide?  Have you considered the risks to non-cricketers that Council is increasingly exposing itself to?  Will you be banning walking around the oval perimeters while sports matches are in progress in order to reduce risk on Council?  The bigger the oval, the bigger the games and the bigger the players and the greater the risk to non-participants (the majority of park users).
  • You state that “these ovals are compromised and the situation needs to be improved”  Why not reserve these ovals for junior cricket, or have one large and one small one?  Were these options considered?  Did you consider what could be done if the tree loss was to be minimised?  Tree loss seems to be at the bottom of the list you have considered.
  • You state that there is “an expectation amongst the community sports clubs  . . .to eliminate any risk to players” .   Do you know that the great majority of users of the park are not using it as part of a sports club?  There is an expectation amongst the members of the community that you will not cut down trees and that you will not increase risk to passive users of the park by taking sports arenas out to the pathways they use.
  • You mention the Master Plan as a justification.  The Master Plan is 15 years old.  Communities change and it does not reflect today’s users.  The imminent arrival of 1,000 new people from the C60 development was not on the horizon then.  To reduce passive space is like lowering the wall in front of a tsunami. As you know, the adherence to that Master Plan has been skewed many times, generally in favour of the sports groups.  Some instances are the far greater than planned Pavilion in the centre of the park, the relocation of the main path through the park (which now makes it possible for Council to seek to create larger ovals than are in the plan).  You will see that the Master Plan shows an extensive region of trees along the north-south path between the ovals (check the map you sent me).  Also, when is the amphitheatre to be removed if you are following the Master Plan so slavishly?
  •  You go on to state that whilst the western end is totally dedicated to passive use only, the eastern end is to both passive and active and that these uses sit harmoniously side by side”.  Actually the western quarter may be primarily passive, but the great majority of the park’s area is given over to organised sport (check the map you sent me).
  • You state that “there are currently difficulties accommodating all forms of community sports”.  The existing ovals are seldom used simultaneously.  If you want more sports areas, why doesn’t Council do something a bit more effective about using the centre of the Caulfield Race Track?  This is ideal for sporting activities as trees cannot be planted there as they would obstruct the view of the racing.
  • Further you state that “To reduce is not a realistic option nor is to proceed spending $600,000 on an inadequate situation”.  Firstly let me remind you that  the contract is for $450,000 and that if you were not enlarging the ovals and taking down trees, you would not be spending so much, so it would not be unrealistic.  In any case the budget provided $650,000 for grasses, not for enlarging ovals.  This is clearly a new idea as you are also planning to pull out about a dozen trees planted by Council in the last couple of years.
  • Because of climate change the need for shade is becoming paramount to make the park safe for passive users. The replacement of 39 trees, many of which provide shade, will both reduce the available shade and increase the heat profile of the park.  This exposes the park and the park users to increased stress.

We, the Friends of Caulfield Park, and the greater community who have been sending you emails hope that you will confer with your fellow Councillors and find out that there is a better outcome along the lines we have suggested.

The lack of consultation to date has been appalling.  Why are you only now offering to meet us on the site. What happened to last month or the one before?

Yours sincerely,

David Wilde

President

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