Campaigners prevent Synthetic Pitch for Hosken Reserve

May 15, 2021 at 2:06 am Leave a comment

Photo: Coutesy Jerry Galea. Save Hosken Reserve outside Moreland Council

At Moreland Council meeting on 12 May 2021 a compromise motion was put forward which dumped the proposal for a synthetic soccer pitch for Hosken Reserve.

This is a substantial win against synthetic turf for Hosken Reserve. This issue was won by determined local residents. We are proud that our Climate Action Moreland submission highlighted real issues such as life-cycle carbon footprint and urban heat island impact with synthetic turf, and assisted arguments put forward by residents against the original proposal.

The Conversations Caravan Engagement report (Except of Hosken Reserve item and Engagement Report PDF) basically highlighted and validated the concerns of residents, particularly the inappropriateness of an expanding sports hub in the middle of a residential area.

Campaigners took it as a win against synthetic, although there are still many issues to be resolved on community access and design to be debated and concluded by the Hosken Refresh Group. Moreland Council still has much work to do to heal the lack of trust and divisions their actions have engendered over the last decade with a lack of transparency and engagement, and some of that may need to be done through the Hosken Refresh and Masterplan design process.

Pascoe Vale Football Club also celebrated. Most football players don’t like playing on synthetic, and they will now get a new rebuilt and fenced ‘community’ grass pitch to use on Hosken North, as well as the Hosken South pitch which is already under their exclusive use grass surface rebuilt and upgraded to hybrid.

The Merlynston communty gathered outside the Coburg Town Hall before Council meeting, highlighting the community building that has taken place in this campaign, which really started during lockdown last year as Moreland Council was advertising the tender for a synthetic pitch upgrade as a done deal.

A smaller group from Pascoe Vale Football Club also gathered outside.

The issue of synthetic sporting fields is still an active issue which Moreland Council needs to come to terms with. Council at it’s April meeting narrowly voted down a resolution seeking an independent report on the triple bottom line social, environmental and economic, costs, benefits and impacts of synthetic turf to make better governance decision making in the future.

This means Councillors in the future will be making decisions without having a full set of facts before them. Poor governance.

Petition presented to Council Meeting

The Save Hosken Group presented a petition to Council during the start of the Council meeting. This is the statement made by resident Tatiana Stephens in presenting the petition to Council:

“I am here to present a petition against installing synthetic turf on Hosken Reserve north and in favour of more equitable sharing of the reserve between sports and wider community use.

“The petition has been signed by 668 people, representing 451 households (93% of signatories live within 800m of the reserve). Of the households within 800m of the reserve where volunteer doorknockers reached someone, 95% chose to sign the petition, meaning that only 22 households declined to sign.

“Merlynston’s message is clear – we value our openspace and do not want synthetic on Hosken Reserve north.

“Council acquired the land that makes up Hosken Reserve in 1930 “for the purpose of providing a Pleasure Ground and Place of Public Resort and Recreation”. For nearly a century, the residents of Merlynston have enjoyed shared use of this land for recreation, relaxation and sports use. Residents want this shared use to continue.

“Councillors do not need to choose between sports or wider community access – it has been shown over many decades that accommodating all users is possible. Council simply needs to remember that all users are important stakeholders and their access to our public amenities should be balanced.

“We want reasonable opportunities to make use of this space, which is so important for our health and wellbeing. Our other options for open space to kick a ball, fly a kite, let our children run free or exercise pets involve at least 1km of walking, and crossing a train track and Sydney Rd.

“We call on this council to listen to the messages that residents are clearly communicating to you and to begin to repair the trust that was destroyed when redevelopment plans were put out to tender in September 2020 without any consultation or even notice to residents.”

The Compromise motion :

That Council:
1.​ Thanks local residents, club members and other community members for their involvement and input into the Hosken Reserve Refresh community engagement process;
2.​ Notes the Background Report and Engagement Summary Report by the independent consultants;
3.​ Retains the North oval and East field as natural grass and installs a hybrid surface on the South field;
4.​ Installs a low-level 1.1m black chain mesh fence, with gates that will not be locked, to formalise a football pitch on the North Oval that meets Football Victoria standards;
5.​ Confirms that the North and East playing areas at Hosken Reserve are to be shared spaces by the Pascoe Vale Football Club and the general community;
6.​ Confirms that no dogs are to be permitted on to the playing areas on game days and at training times in accordance with the General Local Law 2018; and
7.​ Resolves that the Refresh Group process will commence as soon as possible to inform the design options for a refreshed masterplan for Hosken Reserve.

The motion was carried unanimously.

Next Steps for Hosken Reserve

  • Step 5 – Engagement Phase 2 – Refresh Group – 3 meetings (May/Jun 2021)
  • Step 6 – Design Development (Jun 2021)
  • Step 7 – Council Report (Jul 2021)
  • Step 8 – Engagement Phase 3 – Public Exhibition (Jul/Aug 2021)
  • Step 9 – Council Report (Sep/Oct 2021)

Grass to synthetic sports conversions in next decade

These synthetic surfaces are presently in Moreland Council plans beyond Hosken Reserve:

  • Balfe Park – Current rated usage: 16-20hrs, Moreland Sportsfields Review. Moreland Hybrid Surfaces and Synthetic Surfaces Needs Study. Timing: 6-10 years Estimated cost: $220k Upgrade playing field surface – levelling and grassing, new drainage, new irrigation (consider part hybrid surface – centre corridor and goal areas).
  • Clifton Park (west) Current rated Usage: 16-20hrs, Moreland Sportsfields Review. Moreland Hybrid Surfaces and Synthetic Surfaces Needs Study, Timing:6-10 years, Estimated Cost: $325k, Upgrade playing field – levelling and grassing, new drainage (consider hybrid or synthetic surface).
  • Coburg High School – New – Moreland Hybrid Surfaces and Synthetic Surfaces Needs Study, Timeline:1-5 years, Estimated Cost: $2Million, Liaise with the school and explore the development and construction of a lit synthetic multi-sport field.
  • Oak Park Reserve (west) – Current rated usage: 11-15hrs, Moreland Hybrid Surfaces and Synthetic Surfaces Needs Study, Timing: 6-10 years, Estimated Cost: $1.2Million, Install a synthetic AFL/cricket field
  • Parker Reserve (west) – Current rated usage:11-15hrs, Moreland Hybrid Surfaces and Synthetic Surfaces Needs Study, Timing: 6-10 years, Estimated Cost: $1.2M, Install a synthetic multi-purpose field. (Lights install is separate)
  • City Oval, Current rated Usage; 11-15hrs, Moreland Sportsfields Review, Timing: 2022/24, Reconstruct playing field (Sports Surface Needs Analysis 2018 recommended hybrid)

The low levels of allocated usage hours surely reflects the poor quality of Moreland’s grass sporting surfaces. Maribyrnong Council is upgrading Skinner Reserve to a player capacity of 35 hours a week. Soil scientists in the Hunter region have demonstrated on multiple fields a capacity usage of 35-40 hours per week partly by the addition of industrial grade compost to build up soil fertility, moisture capacity and increase drought resilience.

Clearly something is wrong in Moreland’s Sports and Recreation Department in not adequately managing Moreland’s sports fields in increasing usage capacity past 20 hours per week to meet sports demand, instead relying on synthetic surfaces which are both far more costly and have a much higher environmental impact.

References:

Community Tennis Courts transitioning to synthetic

Community Tennis Courts are also undergoing transition in Moreland with no triple bottom line assessment.

Note the environmental footprint of tennis courts is likely much less than football or soccer ovals, but is still problematic. Tennis courts can be converted to concrete with acrylic surface or short synthetic grass. Both will have a carbon footprint, and synthetic grass will produce microplastics pollution and waste to landfill at end of life. These conversions are happening under the radar without adequate environmental assessment.

  • Coburg Tennis Club – Moreland Sport and Physical Activity Strategy Timing: 0-5 years. Estimated Cost: $250k Convert remaining courts to synthetic grass.
  • Fawkner Tennis Club – Sport and Physical Activity Strategy Timing: 0-5 years. On Capex, 2022/23 Cost: $200k Convert remaining en-tout-cas courts to synthetic grass.
  • Merlynston Tennis Club – Sport and Physical Activity Strategy Timing; 0-5 years. On Capex, 2021/22 Cost; $100k Convert remaining en-tout-cas courts to synthetic grass at Merlynston Tennis Club.

A report on the environmental impacts of synthetic surfaces could show how much environmental impacts of these tennis court conversions and possible solutions to minimise or offset these impacts. Without such a report Council is effectively flying blind on carbon footprint and extend of microplastics pollution and end of life waste to landfill. Simply based upon the footprint, the impacts of synthetic surfaces in tennis is likely to be substantially less than a soccer pitch.

The issue with Hockey and synthetic surfaces

Moreland Council also voted at the May meeting for a feasibility study for a new Hockey Field in Moreland to complement the existing field at Brunswick Secondary School, which is reported to be being used near to capacity.

Hockey has effectively transitioned 100 per cent to playing on synthetic fields, with sand infill and or water irrigation used on the synthetic grass surface. Hockey will likely have a much lower carbon footprint, microplastics pollution and end of life waste to landfill footprint than a synthetic soccer pitch.

The motion was amended during the meeting to incorporate a triple bottom line assessment of social, economic, environmental costs, benefits and impacts, and possible ways to mitigate negative impacts if a location can be found for a new Hockey field.

Hockey highlights that the synthetic surfaces debate is complex, but ultimately needs to be driven by science and factual information for good governance in this time of climate emergency, rather than only by sports demand.

“If we know the environmental impacts and costs, it provides a possibility for Council to find solutions for mitigating negative impacts and balancing that triple bottom line. But you first need to assess all the impacts.” said Climate Action Moreland Convenor John Englart during question time directed to Council on the Hockey Feasibility study.

Shared Use of Reserves

Councillor Bolton also moved a motion discussing the possibility for either a community allocation for use of shared sports reserves, or methods to communicate better when Reserves are to be used by organised sporting clubs so informal activity can be organised not to conflict. I don’t remember isf this motion was amended (check minutes to confirm), but after debate it was passed by Council.

This is an important motion as it recognises that 95 per cent of Moreland residents are not involved in organised sport and their active recreational activity, though informal, deserves to be adequately recognised for use of shared open spaces such as Hosken Reserve.

That Council:

  1. Notes the importance of Moreland’s open space reserves for informal recreation, dog-walking and organised sport.
  2. Notes that there are certain times when all of these user groups compete for usage of the reserves such as after work on week-days and on weekends.
  3. Receives a report which considers:

a) Whether the allocation of hours for shared use reserves is equitable between the different parts of the community which use the reserve for informal and formal recreation is equitable, particularly for the after-work weekday/weekend time slot;
b) A better means of communicating the allocated times to the community such as with signage at the reserves and council communication channels;
c) A better means of communication to the community about any change to the allocated hours such as during school holidays, or when clubs are playing away games; and
d) Whether there needs to be improved signage at reserves which are off-lead dog parks as well as for organised sport regarding whether dogs can be off-lead during sports matches and training.

Reference:

Final Submission on Hosken Reserve Refresh and synthetic turf by Climate Action Moreland (Google Docs online version, included annotated bibliography, 103pp)

Entry filed under: Moreland Council, news, rallies & protests. Tags: , .

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