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May 6, 2021

Opposition to Lismore’s planned park sell-off

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Since the Dunoon Dam was shelved, Rous County Council has put a new draft of the Future Water Project 2060 on public exhibition. They are currently seeking feedback from people living in the four constituent councils of Richmond Valley, Byron, Ballina and Lismore.


Oliver, Ruby and Oscar love playing with sticks and climbing rocks more than using plastic play equipment.


Story & photo Melissa Hargraves

Call it ‘NIMBY’ syndrome if you will, but many Lismore residents love their pocket parks and a few have told Echonetdaily they aren’t happy with Lismore City Council’s (LCC) plan to put a number of its small parks up for sale.

LCC last week put on exhibition a proposal to sell 18 small parks (less than 1000m²) to raise revenue and reduce maintenance costs.

The Lismore Sports and Recreation Plan identifies the parks, which are dotted throughout the suburbs, as having ‘limited recreational purposes’ and being ‘too small to accommodate a range of uses, equipment and play experiences’.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell says many of the parks were essentially unsaleable blocks handed over by developers to council to manage.

But some Lismore residents beg to differ, saying their kids would rather climb rocks and build cubby houses than play on the plastic playground equipment available in the city’s larger parks.

A 2011 University of NSW review of healthy built environments found that with increasing urban density, councils should be looking to acquire and improve the quality of existing green space networks beyond their traditional role as recreational areas.

And Friends of the Koala see them as wildlife refuges in the middle of suburbia.

Janelle, a local mother of three, has lived near one of the targeted parks for more than 10 years and believes that it is healthy for children to have wild spaces in which to play.

‘My children use this space around five days a week. Much of town has become so plastic. My kids can grab sticks here and smash down weeds. They jump on rocks and have cubby houses in the trees. We had a koala here just yesterday morning! I see koalas here a lot,’ she told Echonetdaily.

Friends of the Koala are in preliminary stages of submission on the proposal. President Lorraine Vass told Echonetdaily there were possible impacts to koala habitats.

‘We have only just started working through the list and there are at least four or five that we think have the potential of interfering with koala use.

‘Lismore’s urban koalas are really something special and if we keep chipping away at their available habitat then we will lose them. In our view, Lismore doesn’t promote its urban koalas as they should. A lot of Lismore-ites really value and enjoy having koalas around them.

‘For a lot of people it gets back to why they moved here in the first place. People leave the cities, among other reasons, to reacquaint themselves with nature.’

Ms Vass acknowledged the demands on local government and its need to remain financially sustainable but is not convinced about this area of cost cutting.

And koalas are not the only neighbourhood wildlife that need looking after: Lismore Cr Vanessa Ekins identified bat habitats as an area needing protection at the April LCC meeting.


Landslide area

Kelly and Matt have been direct neighbours of one of the small parks for 15 years and fear if a house were built there it could potentially be destroyed in a landslide. It has happened before, they say.

‘Only five years ago the land was rezoned from housing. Who is to say that it won’t be changed again?’ Matt said to Echonetdaily.

‘There are documented photos [taken] in 1948 of a lady standing next to [a house which had turned into] a pile of rubble.

‘We have had to spend a lot of time and money retaining our land from landslides. The amount of water that comes from that block is ridiculous. Apparently the whole street takes a different route now because of land slips.’

‘Not as many people use the space anymore since council erected a sign that discourages play because of the gradient of land and falling branches, so as a park it is a waste of time.’

The public exhibition process will allow council to consider a variety of options for the land. One of them is for council to retain ownership but for the maintenance responsibility to be shifted to the community.

Kelly and Matt are not sure of the success of this model but add that, ‘in essence we have been maintaining it, as part of the area was covered in Singapore Daisy. We would prefer to do that than look at a weedy block.’

Kelly suggested partnerships with other organisations.

‘People on community service or parole for petty crimes could be used to maintain these small parks.’

Other partnership ideas mentioned from the community include TAFE, ACE and community gardens as many food varieties thrive in hilly environments.

The public exhibition for reclassification and rezoning of small parks follows on from council’s adoption of its Sport and Recreation Plan 2011-2121, which identified the poor functionality of many of the neighbourhood parks.

According to Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, the public exhibition is not a ‘one sold, all sold’ process.

‘There is a wide variety of park pockets in these 18 lots. Some of these blocks we do not believe should be sold, but rather than council make a decision now, we have put them all out on public exhibition so the community can tell us what they think,’ Cr Dowell told Echonetdaily.

‘In the day when developers were required to dedicate a block for recreation, it was not unheard of to donate the worst block, because it was too steep etc. So council has had the residue of some of these blocks being just grass with no embellishments or playgrounds and never being used for recreation.

‘So if there are sections of land that the public aren’t particularly tied to as public areas, then some of those may be sold. They may be sold to neighbours, for example.’

The revenue from sale of these land pockets and savings in maintenance costs would be diverted to more established parks, she said.

‘Council has made a concerted effort to invest in our four major parks as, typically, families who are wanting a recreational experience will go to those parks,’ Cr Dowell said.

There are many factors involved in council coming to this process, but shifting maintenance responsibility is an area council is wishing to address.

‘Where there is evidence of a park being well used and the community having some sort of ownership, we would look to furthering that and encouraging the community to not take physical ownership, but to look after that park,’ said Cr Dowell.

‘Nothing is off the agenda, if there is a proposal that a group of residents put towards council about a particular park, council would consider that.’

For more LCC information go to


For the UNSW review of healthy built environments go to



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