Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the wild on Darebin Parklands tour

Last Monday I had the pleasure of taking part in a candidate tour of Darebin Parklands with Ingrid Svendsen and Sue Course of the Darebin Parklands Association. The tour followed a request by the DPA for candidates' statements about their related policies. Here's mine:
If elected as a Rucker Ward Councillor, I will work to sustain our parks as places of recreation, and of connection with native flora and fauna – including birds (I'm a keen bird-watcher). Opposing the sale of open space, and supporting its expansion, I will fight the exploitation of parks by commercial and other activities detrimental to their habitat values. To protect the community and park ecologies, I will also work to establish a review of the use of herbicides by Council in parks and other green areas. My 'protecting open space' policy is available at
Well, the tour now allows me to put this statement in a more specific context regarding the Darebin Parklands themselves.

The first thing to note is that they offer a stunning example of what can be achieved when concerted community action transforms a compromised landscape. The parklands include a former quarry and tip, though many visitors would simply believe they were in flourishing remnant habitat - native birds, kangaroos and other wildlife live among native trees and preserved introduced trees of historical significance. A central feature of the parklands is, of course, the Darebin Creek and its associated wetlands and interesting rock landscapes amongst the greenery.

Care of the park is achieved through a collaboration of Councils, park rangers and community members involved in the management committee and through the association. Readers may also be aware that a park masterplan was also recently adopted by Darebin Council, among other things defining new on- and off-leash areas for visiting dogs.

Having seen first-hand what the parklands have to offer, my observations of the plan are that the location of the off-leash area is not ideal in terms of its impact on the parklands' habitat values, and that it would be better positioned in a well-defined area close to the entrance and environment centre. This would have many benefits, including easier access for dog owners, the less invasive fencing needed to define the area, a comparable off-leash area to other parks, and minimal damage to the parklands' habitat values.

The plan provides for regular reviews, and if elected as a Rucker Ward Councillor, I would be keen to see a range of necessary data collected to inform the review, including the impact of the new arrangements on the incidence of dog attacks - on other dogs, native animals, and people - as well as environmental impact data sourced from expert sources. I would also be keen to see direct public participation and openness in the review process.

The larger principle informing this is nurturing the habitat of the park, and increasing the confidence with which it can be experienced by all park users - including families and children, the elderly, and people with smaller pets who may sometimes fear the presence of large and aggressive off-leash dogs. While responsible dog-owners and their dogs add a welcome dimension to our community life, a broader perpective is necessary in thinking about our parks.

A final note to add is that with increasing public investment in places such as the Darebin Parklands, the new Darebin Council must be increasingly mindful of surrounding land uses that may have adverse impacts. We have seen with the rehabilitation of our fantastic All Nations Park that redeemed spaces can become magnets for development. Our parks must be treasured places, not mere commercial opportunities.

Back to my campaign website

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Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.