The stereotypical quiet of croquet was disturbed on the Northern Rivers at the weekend when a small group of protestors against the sport’s takeover of community land gathered on-site.
The Ballina Shire Council is to vote later this month on whether to grant permission for the Ballina Croquet Club to use part of Cawarra Park for new lawns and a club house.
Staff notes for the 27 October meeting quoted previous planning documents including the council’s Sport and Recreation Facility Plan [SRFP] 2020.
The SRFP said a masterplan for the park including ‘suitable change rooms, storage and car parking facilities’ to support local water sports clubs and other user groups for Croquet was a ‘high priority strategic planning action’.
The option for use of the park for croquet was conditional on outcomes from a cost-benefit analysis, which supported doubling the shire’s number of croquet lawns.
Cawarra Park regional croquet complex rejected in community consultation
But staff had since carried out two rounds of community consultation, with feedback overwhelmingly against use of Cawarra Park for croquet.
Most of the 225 respondents said they preferred the only other suggested priority use for the park, which was to keep the existing softball/baseball facilities.
Staff noted the sports facilities weren’t up to standard size and that growth for baseball and softball at Cawarra Park was therefore limited, while survey results showed only around six per cent of respondents had played softball or baseball.
A quarter of respondents said they’d played croquet but using Cawarra Park for a regional scale croquet facility including a sports amenity building, club house, fencing, landscaping and four lawns was listed as the second most unpopular idea of those shown in a draft masterplan.
Croquet campaigners up their game
Meanwhile, the Ballina Croquet Club campaigned hard for the new facilities, staging a game in Cawarra Park over the weekend in an effort to rally support.
Council staff said in agenda notes they’d become aware of plans the club was circulating during the park’s draft masterplan exhibition period.
The plans included one that showed only two lawns and a club house, staff noted.
‘This came to Council staff directly from the Ballina Croquet Club,’ staff noted, ‘as well as via several phone calls and emails from community members and the tabling of the information at the June 2022 ordinary meeting’.
Opposition to the proposition of permanent croquet facilities at Cawarra Park was also strong with staff noting posters on display around the area.
Calls for green space and playgrounds
Community consultation had shown respondents were more interested in picnic facilities, storage for unpowered water sports equipment and green space in general.
Trees for shade and for birdlife, space to let dogs and children play, and more boating facilities were mentioned as aspirations for the park.
Respondents were wary of suggestions of night lighting for sport and extra traffic.
A group of protestors turned up to the Ballina Croquet Club’s demonstration game last weekend with placards reading ‘croquet not ok’ and ‘entry not gentry’ alongside ‘save Cawarra green space’.
Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Rodney Bruem said on social media he was looking forward to the situation being resolved.
Hampton Park and Alstonville named as staff try to double shire’s croquet lawns
Council staff notes showed a change in their recommendation for Cawarra Park and for where to house croquet facilities in response to community feedback.
Staff suggested Hampton Park could also fit four croquet lawns and a clubhouse, although two of the lawns would be on Crown Land the council didn’t manage.
This option was included as a Delivery Program Strategy [DPS] 2023/2024 item, staff said.
Another croquet lawn and supporting infrastructure could also be built at Alstonville, staff noted, although this idea hadn’t been identified in the DPS.
The two ideas combined would double the number of croquet lawns in the Ballina Shire, staff said, in line with findings of the cost benefit analysis for expanded croquet facilities in the shire.
Ballina Shire Councillors are to vote on use of Cawarra Park in its October ordinary meeting.