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Byron Shire
September 22, 2023

Wardell to serve more than tennis on tiny town court

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Aerial view of area surrounding Wardell tennis courts and adjacent concrete slab in Fitzroy Park with access road to reserve going through to road reserve and bordering properites. PIC: Ballina Shire Council

A lack of venues when it comes to various sports in the Ballina Shire town of Wardell has inspired a change of upgrade plans for the local tennis courts.

Ballina Shire councillors at an ordinary meeting in June voted to endorse staff recommendations for three sporting ‘hard courts’ projects in the shire.

The first was for a full-sized basketball court at the Ballina Heights Sports Fields site this financial year.

The second was for a new basketball hoop on an existing concrete slab at Fitzroy Park in Wardell, with funding from this year’s Open Spaces operating budget.

The third was to prioritise provision of a half-sized basketball court at the Hutley Drive sports fields in the council’s 2023/24 Delivery Program, with staff to report funding options back to the council.

At July’s ordinary meeting, Greens Councillor Kiri Dicker moved for the council to rescind the second part of the June vote, that regarding Wardell.

Hopes for more than a hoop in Wardell

basketball hoop PIC mr_larson via freeimages.com

Cr Dicker, fellow Greens Cr Simon Chate and Independent Cr Phillip Meehan wanted more than a new basketball hoop for Wardell.

The existing concrete slab previously slated for the new hoop is next to two council-owned tennis courts currently used by the Wardell Tennis Club.

Council staff notes on the recission motion showed the club had written saying members proposed a change to separate upgrade plans for the courts funded via a Regional NSW Community Grant of $70,664.

Staff noted the council had been ineligible for the grant but had helped the tennis club in its application.

‘Although the grant agreement is general in its language, it states tennis court upgrade so there is an expectation that the resurfacing will enable tennis to be played,’ staff noted.

‘This links into the origin of the grant funding, through lobbying by the tennis club group,’ they said.

‘The date for completion of works under the grant is 27 October 2023.’

The same agenda notes showed Crs Dicker, Chate and Meehan intended to propose for the funding to be used to upgrade the courts for multi- purposes rather than tennis alone.

‘Any additional funding,’ the councillors suggested in a draft proposal to be triggered by agreement to their recission, would be ‘required to be sourced from the Open Spaces operating budget for 2023/24’.

Staff said the club had written confirming they supported a multi-purpose court on one of the two tennis courts.

Staff hint at grander possibilities for Wardell courts precinct with road closure

Staff said if the council wanted to maximise use of the courts ‘for a wide range of users, recognising the limited recreational open space available in Wardell’, Crs Dicker, Chate and Meehan could consider changing their proposal to the following:

  • Provision of a multi-purpose court (i.e. basketball etc) on one of the tennis courts in Wardell
  • Council’s preference is to close the Fitzroy Street Road access through the park to maximise the open space area available, with Council to commence discussions with the adjoining property owners on this potential road closure
  • That Council does not enter a formal lease arrangement for these facilities until the works identified are completed, with a report to be submitted back to Council on the preferred management options, along with opportunities for further open space improvements.

‘This recommendation maximises the use of the facilities and the open space available to the community,’ council staff noted.

Fitzroy Park is nearly 3,000 m2 – 2,921m2 – in area and triangular in shape, staff noted, with the shape of the land presenting ‘some limitations in terms of space for formalised open space and facilities’.

Staff said the limitations of the land’s shape were offset to a degree by the land adjoining an unformed road reserve on Fitzroy Street.

But there is also a road through Fitzroy Park to the Fitzroy Street road reserve, staff noted, ‘where several residential properties have their frontages and accesses’.

Staff said if road access through the park was closed, the council could see if more ‘hardcourt facilities’ were needed.

Their notes on the recission motion included images showing how a proposal for an ‘informal basketball area and a more formal half court facility could fit outside the tennis court area’.

But they said the extension to the slab requird for a half-court basketball facility would also need to take into account the existing road and possibly its closure.

Private properties could access the Fitzroy Street road reserve from another road, Cedar Street, staff noted, and reserve patrons could park along the Fitzroy Street road reserve or Bridge Drive.

Staff said getting rid of the road through the park would be ‘beneficial for the recreational space area’.

A neighbouring playground upgrade should also be finished as well, staff said, and would ‘provide a more holistic perspective on this area of open space’.

Cr Buchanan moves against park road closure

Ballina Shire Cr Nigel Buchanan. Photo supplied.

But although the recission motion was carried unanimously in July’s meeting, the subsequent related voting process didn’t go according to staff recommendations, thanks to a successful amendment from Independent Cr Nigel Buchanan.

Crs Dicker and Meehan proposed and seconded respectively for the motion recommended by staff but Cr Buchanan moved with support from Independent Cr Eoin Johnston for the second part of the motion relating to the road closure to be dropped.

The amendment was approved with support from Mayor Sharon Cadwallader and Crs Chate, Jeff Johnson, Eoin Johnston, Stephen McCarthy, Eva Ramsey and Rodney Bruem.

Crs Dicker and Meehan were the only two councillors to vote against the amendment, leading to the amended motion becoming the new motion for councillors to vote on.

Cr Buchanan led the motion, seconded by Cr Johnston.

It was carried unaninimously.

The vote means one of Wardell’s tennis courts is to be upgraded for multiple purposes but the future of the concrete slab and road next door is uncertain.

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