Here’s a video of a wallaby and her joey at Bates Park, 97 Babbage Road Roseville Chase. It’s quite sweet and there are more videos like this on the Facebook page.
Four years ago and just three months before the council elections (i.e. before my time as councillor), council voted unanimously to divest (i.e. sell) Bates Park. You can look it up in the council minutes, 13 June 2017, GB4.
Why does council sell assets? Well the theory is that underutilized assets are sold so that we have the funds to create new assets in areas where there are much greater needs. Some examples from recent years include:
- Lindfield Village Green (under construction)
- St Ives Basketball Courts (future project)
- Marian Street Theatre (future project)
- Cameron Park Expansion (required the purchase of 2, 4, 6 and 8 Gilroy Road)
- Boyds Orchard Park (which required council purchasing 23, 25, 27, Duff St and 1 Holmes St)
Of course it would be even better if we didn’t have to sell any assets at all because once an asset is sold, it is very difficult for that land to be bought back. But the reality of how councils are funded in NSW is that rates are pegged and set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, and the rates that councils collect often fall short of what is actually required to deliver services and assets to the standard that ratepayers expect. This puts councils in awkward positions where they then have to consider selling some assets to create other assets.
But while I understand the rationale behind asset sales and am sympathetic to the financial constraints that most councils face, the question remains. Should we be selling community assets and if so, which ones?
What about Bates Park (which the previous council has already authorized for sale but has not yet been sold)? Should Bates Park be sold? If it’s sold for half a million, is it a worthwhile transaction given the habitat loss for wildlife? What if it’s sold for 5 million? 50 million? Where do we draw the line between sell and no sell? And if it is ever sold, shouldn’t at least some of the money be reinvested in local infrastructure such as the footpath on Babbage Road that local residents have been asking for? [I’ll talk more about this in another post.]
I’m quite conscious that each of us live in homes which used to be bushland, so in some ways you could argue that it’s hypocritical for us to argue that we continue to receive benefit when others cannot. But you can flip it the other way and say that given the significant habitat loss already, should we not seek to protect what remains? Are there some parts of bushland that are more worthy of protecting than others? How many $$$ does an asset need to be worth before it is considered better to sell for development than to retain for wildlife? What if there are endangered species on the site?
Here at Ku-ring-gai, we often talk about heritage value and we go to great lengths to protect heritage. But I find that our views on heritage are quite limited to buildings. The moment there’s an old building of some arbitrary value, we’re quick to wave the heritage flag. But what about flora and fauna? Don’t they have some sort of ecological heritage value?
At this stage I’m not (officially) saying that there’s a specific right or wrong. I’m not picking sides but I want to draw out the issue and hear what you as residents have to say on the matter. Ultimately my job as a councillor is to represent you, and I cannot do my job without hearing what you have to say on matters such as these.
Let me know what you think. My job is to represent you.