Oakville

A Win For Colbee Park Users – A Masterplan... And $573K in Funding!

With members of the Oakville Raiders Baseball club and Hawkesbury Sports Council President Les Sheather

 

Overwhelmingly, the biggest problem Council has with developing masterplans for our parks is there is no money allocated to execute the plans once they're made. In this term I have lamented that community consultation and masterplanning processes raise community expectations, only to dash them with no follow-through.

Take Colbee Park in McGraths Hill as an example. It is one of our most used, and most neglected sports fields. I should know, as a Soccer Dad whose child’s club was based at the park for a decade.

I've been engaged in a long campaign of engagement and advocacy to get some funding for improvements to the park.

The process for developing a Masterplan for the park has taken two years. Community consultation began in August 2019, and received a surprisingly strong response, with 152 online survey responses.

In September 2020, Council exhibited a Draft Masterplan, and I engaged with various stakeholder groups such as the Oakville United Soccer Club, the Oakville Raiders Baseball Club, and the Hawkesbury Hornets BMX Club to ask if the plan met their current and future needs. The response was mixed, with feedback mentioning limited vehicular access to the BMX track, a lack of lighting (making Colbee the only competitive BMX track in Sydney without lights), noting the susceptibility of the park to low-level flooding, and suggesting storage be moved to higher ground.

Crucially, and as was observed by the media at the time (in September 2020), no money was in prospect to build the improvements to the park.

 

Hopefully, this will change now. I moved for Council to adopt the new masterplan for Colbee Park at our meeting tonight. It was passed unanimously, and after my advocacy last year, I'm pleased to say that $573,000 has been allocated in the 2021-2022 Budget. This is not enough to complete all the improvements, but it's an excellent start. These funds will allow core or 'enabling works' that facilitate future improvements, and will benefit the whole park (not just any one user-group).

I am convinced that only by having a local Councillor continue to advocate for future budgetary commitments, will this program continue to advance. I didn't hear any other Councillor advocating for Colbee Park. No other Councillor lives in the area. I do.

Many of the earlier issues raised by stakeholders have been addressed, and I've contacted each of them to verify they are satisfied with the final plan.

The masterplan documents are available at Council's website (meeting of 27 July 2021, item 140).

Helping to clean up Colbee Park at a May 2021 Council post-flood cleanup day, with Federal MP Susan Templeman (we were the only two volunteers who turned up!)

 

Colbee Park Soccer Dad!

Oakville Oval needs an upgrade

Oakville Oval is one of 23 different playing fields, and one of the 215 parks and reserves around the Hawkesbury.

I've been a user of the oval all my life. I remember attending Oakville Public School sports carnivals there as a boy, kicking about kerosene-soaked fireballs when I was in Oakville Scouts (probably an OH&S nightmare now), and now witness my nephews play there as a soccer uncle.

Given the amount of use by the community, I feel Oakville Oval is looking a little tired and needs some care and investment.

Upkeep and development of our sporting fields is managed by the Hawkesbury Sports Council, who maintain two and five year plans for all local Ovals. In preparing those plans the Sports Council seeks submissions from sporting clubs and users of specific ovals. I was surprised to learn that, at the time the last plan was drawn up, no responses were received from the clubs that use Oakville Oval. I strongly encourage them to make a submission for the next round that will be called for the 2021/2022 financial year, and will be reaching out directly to make that appeal.

Council is aware of the increased use of the oval particularly during winter sports and the increases in parking and traffic. We've all seen the cars spilling on to the road, and the 'car park' is really just an abandoned gravel depot that turns to mud in poor weather.

The Sports Council advise that other suitable ovals in the area are used in conjunction with Oakville Oval wherever possible to spread the sporting community’s needs across the city.

Shipping containers used as storage at Oakville Oval

I've always thought that using shipping containers to store equipment like rollers, goal posts and nets is ugly and less optimal than lock-up colourbond sheds on slabs with roller doors. However, I am informed shipping containers are considered a better alternative due to their sturdiness and they deter vandalism due to their locks and wall thickness. If you have a different view, please let me know.

Currently there is one shelter area at the Oval and some seating available around the canteen building. Due to the high level of use for various sports there isn't much room to install further shade areas without impacting on the current uses. There is also damage from the shade trees occurring to the on-field area in front of the containers as this area gets no sun. I am told that planting of additional trees might only compound this problem.

Hawkesbury Sports Council have planned to upgrade the irrigation system this year due to the field having to be returfed each year due to increasing use by the soccer club. Following the recent floods and damage to other grounds, the Sports Council has voted to place on hold all capital works until such time as the financial effects of the flood is clearer.

The Sports Council assigns its works program across all sports grounds and prioritises these as required. Where grant or other funding opportunities become available Council and the Sports Council will seek funding for upgrades, including the car park area. In addition, Council is currently planning for the development of Fernadell Park in Pitt Town. This development is subject to funding however, once developed, it will provide additional fields that can be used by the local sporting clubs and reduce demand on Oakville Oval.

Council will ultimately prepare a full masterplan for this and other reserves. I will be continuing to call for a long term plan, and sustained funding for improvements, on behalf of the residents and users who gain enjoyment and use of Oakville Oval.

Canteen and amenities at Oakville Oval

 


A big win for Oakville residents

After nearly five years of banging on about the shocking state of our local roads, I was very pleased at Councils meeting of 30/3 to be able to negotiate additional funding to FINALLY SEAL Old Stock Route Road and Brennans Dam Road at Vineyard.

Most of this is new money, and was absolutely not on the table before.

Some additional commentary:

• Unfortunately this does not yet seal the Commercial Road approach.

• The culvert will have some drainage and scour works done, but will remain a single-lane crossing for now.

• I couldn't get the whole package of works through tonight, both because of our inability to complete the whole project within the deadline of the Commonwealth grant (31 Dec 2021), but also because I could not get more than this through the Chamber (for now).

• Further stages to fix Commercial + widen the culvert have been costed (~$450K) and I pledge to return to these ASAP.

• Yes, this road floods. Regularly. However, when natural disasters strike we get 100% coverage from the State Government to restore these roads but only on the basis of a 'no betterment clause', meaning we can't use disaster relief funds to improve a road beyond it's previous state. If however we improve it now, future damage will be covered to this new better standard. Some of the drainage works will help prevent road erosion against future flooding.

THANK YOU to my Hawkesbury Liberal Team Council colleagues and other Councillors who voted for this, especially those who reversed their previous opposition. Not everyone did...


Hawkesbury's Local Housing Strategy and the pressure for development

On Tuesday, Hawkesbury City Council adopted our long-awaited Local Housing Strategy.

This document sets out how we will meet our housing targets over a timeframe of several decades.

Although this has implications for our whole city, the Liberal Councillors felt it was important to address a gap in the document.

The south eastern part of our City – the suburbs of Vineyard, Oakville and Maraylya, sit adjacent to some very aggressive urban growth. The ‘North Western Growth Sector’  is breathing down our neck across the county line in the Hills District, and has spilled into our own patch as the release areas named ‘Vineyard Stage 1 and Stage 2’

This pressure is tearing our community apart. Some are in favour of development, many against.

The one thing we can’t do is… nothing. I was disappointed that the Housing Strategy document said little about either the necessity, desirability, inevitability or show-stopping constraints of future development, other than remarking that the not-yet-finally-gazetted Outer Sydney Orbital corridor will continue to hang over us until that matter is definitely resolved. 

I have strong opinions about this, but they matter less than seeking to understand what the majority view in those suburbs truly is. Some individuals or groups might claim to represent a clear majority, but I don’t think they do. I have a responsibility to represent all those views, and I take that seriously.

So, we moved a form of words that sought to survey and consult with the residents of Oakville and Maraylya to ask them what they wanted. Nothing more. Certainly not a decision to develop or not.

Your Liberal Councillors voted for that consultation. All the others, including Labor and the Greens, voted against it.

This video only contains my remarks, but I encourage you to listen to the whole meeting podcast (item 247, 8th December meeting) when it comes out to hear from my Liberal colleagues and the others.


Demanding clarity on the future of the Hawkesbury

(Edit-- 27th June: The motion I put to Council on the 26th passed 11 votes to 1. Audio of the debate can be accessed below:)

Original post:

The whole messy process that has unfolded since March about road corridors has brought the issue of development in the Hawkesbury into focus.

Everyone can see the  massive surge of housing and commercial building that has marched down Windsor Road and is now knocking on our door. Indeed, some of this urban development is even now in our Council area, because the "Vineyard Precinct" of the North West Growth Sector (NWGS) is within the Hawkesbury City boundaries.

Residents and landowners on acreage properties adjoining the NWGS are justified in their concerns that this development will eventually overtake them as well. Everyone is entitled to some certainty about their future on the land, which includes some of the Sydney basin's diminishing stock  of prime and currently productive agricultural land, plus remnant Cumberland woodland.

As a Councillor, I've tried to apply pressure to planning officials with the State Government to be honest and co-operative about what the long term future of these areas are, largely defined by the suburbs of Oakville, Maraylya, Vineyard, and even parts of Pitt Town and Cattai.

What I've received are mixed messages, and this isn't good enough. Some of the documentation associated with the Outer Sydney Orbital hints at areas "north of the Vineyard Precinct" for some kind of industrial use. The "SEPP", a planning zoning that makes the NWGS possible, actually encompasses a far larger area that the current development. Speculators -- real estate types and developers -- are fomenting rumours about currently rural areas being re-zoned for future development and this is inflating prices, which inflates land value, which inflates your rates. I've said more about this in the video I made about the corridors proposal. Check it out.

The consequence is a persistent sense of dread, and an inability for residents to know what their future looks like, even while they are being rated out of existence on the properties that they bought with a working wage, and wanted to retire on.

Council has a particular responsibility here. Later this year we are renewing what's called our "Residential Land Strategy". This exercise will set out Hawkesbury Council's desires for what areas will take what degree of development over a longer timeframe. Regardless of where you sit on the question of growth, Council needs to manage what could or should happen, and where. Here is the link to the current strategy, adopted in 2011.

In the RU2 and RU4 zoned acreage properties in the south eastern part of the city, our choices could range from "no change", to "detached dual occupancy" (meaning two houses on a five acre lot, but under one title), to "large lot rural subdivision" (like we see at Windsor Downs, with block sizes at a minimum of one or two acres), and then upward through a range of subdivision options that resemble what we see on the eastern side of Boundary road. I am emphatically not in favour of that outcome.

However, for Council to deliberate well, we deserve clarity from a range of state government departments, including the Department of Planning, Transport for NSW, and the Greater Sydney Commission. And of course, the public also have a right to know, and my gut feeling is that we have not had full disclosure from these agencies.

I am therefore moving the Notice of Motion you see below at the Council meeting next Tuesday (26th June), and I invite you to spread the word, come along, and register your support for this call for honesty and clarity about what the government's long term plans are for our homes.

Notice of Motion - Development outside the NWGS

Hawkesbury Council chamber

Hawkesbury Council gets 2018 underway with a bang

After the unqualified success of Hawkesbury's Australia Day celebrations down by the river, the first Hawkesbury Council meeting of 2018 occurred on Tuesday night and went from 6:30pm and until well after 1am. A number of issues of consequence to local residents were on the agenda.

Thankfully, now that Council is "podcasting" its meetings (a move I pushed for and endorsed), I can bring you the audio of my contributions as part of my summary in an effort to remain accountable to you.

The Special Rate Variation

Firstly, a Mayoral Minute on the question of the >30% rate-hike our Labor-Greens dominated Council is applying for, was debated. I took exception to a proposal to use ratepayer's money for Council to seek to mail out a political "fact sheet" on the SRV when some of those facts are in dispute. I pointed out that the depth of feeling in suburbs like Oakville arise because, when you do an analysis of rates paid suburb by suburb (something I distilled from the raw data provided by Council staff -- a spreadsheet with over 24,000 rows in it), it reveals that some suburbs are carrying as much as 271% of the rating burden compared to other suburbs. The analysis is based on the total rates collected divided into the number of residences in each suburb. The system implemented by the previous Liberal Council in 2013 was far fairer than the system now in place. If the Liberals are re-elected to govern in 2020, I and my Liberal colleagues commit ourselves to fixing this problem.

A chart of Hawkesbury rates. Click for a larger version

Those of you who wish to see the spreadsheet containing this analysis can click Suburb Analysis of Hawkesbury Rates 2016-2018.

My remarks to the Chamber are here, followed by those of my Liberal colleagues (@ 13m24s, if the link starts the audio at the beginning rather than at the right time-index):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/5-item-003-mm3-special-rate#t=13:24

I will shortly have more to say about rates in a future post.

A new child-care centre in Oakville

Last August, Council received a development application for the construction of a new child-care centre in Smith Road at Oakville. Although generally welcoming of the provision of services like this to the Hawkesbury, I called for the application to be deferred due to a lack of parking, the proximity of the building to a neighbour's fence, and the issues related to outdoor play, noise,  and traffic control on the street outside.

In this case, the deferral allowed the applicant, Council planning staff and concerned near neighbours to come together and  address those concerns. The revised application represented a real improvement; the development is now  more centrally located on the applicant's land,  and I was happy to move the recommendation to approve the development.

Here are my remarks (@15m24s):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/6-item-005-da0107-17-child-1#t=15:24

 

More haggling over Windsor Bridge

People frequently ask me about my opinions on the current project, now well advanced, to replace Windsor bridge with a new structure. And my answer is "It's complicated".

My mixed feelings arise from an awareness that the last bridge was built in 1874, If we only make this kind of decision every 144 years, then we have a solemn obligation to future generations to get it right. It disappoints me that we are spending close to $100 million on a project that condemns another century of heavy traffic to travel through a historic square. It is significant that both the Labor and Liberal tickets to the last Council election supported an additional crossing of the river (whether that is termed a "bypass" or not is immaterial) as a major infrastructure priority.
So: I hope that this bridge will be built soon... and elsewhere.

However, as a local government Councillor, I have to recognise that this is a State government matter. I wish that the State government would re-think its current plan in favour of new bridge at a different location that will be regarded as more visionary by our descendants, but I also recognise that local residents should not wait another decade or more for an alternative that isn't planned or budgeted for, and for which there is presently no political will.  If you're stuck in the endless Windsor traffic bottleneck morning or evening, my sympathies are with you. There has already been too much delay.

I neither completely buy into the histrionic rhetoric of CAWB when they say that the plan represents the "rape" of Thompson square, nor the agitprop of the RMS, whose estimations of the improvement to traffic flow are at best suspect. A new bridge in this location will make some improvement to traffic, but in terms of cost-benefit, it's a very poor substitute for a bypass, which could cost only a little more.

However, the only solution that has money on the table now, that has planning well advanced, and which stands any chance of being concluded within this decade, is the present one. No other funded plan exists, even on a napkin. I think this is a point the detractors of the project ignore. How much longer would the community have to wait if the whole process had to be started over? And that is why, with these misgivings, I have consistently supported the construction of the new Windsor bridge whenever the matter has come before us.

So where does that leave Hawkesbury Council? We are not the consent authority for the bridge. Our opinion is, in the scheme of things, not as important as some of my colleagues' egos think it should be. Our responsibility is for the built environment that will be ours to manage after the construction finishes. This includes having a constructive role in consulting over the fabric and layout of the public spaces; the lighting, footpaths, street furniture, heritage interpretation, plantings, signage, public access and amenity, and so on. It disappoints me that some of my colleagues, having sought election precisely to be immersed in this issue, have instead fouled the efforts that have been made to permit the best outcome to be achieved. They repeatedly stick their fingers in their ears and think that saying "No" to everything will make the problem go away. It won't.

The case in point last Tuesday was the RMS plan to retain the first span of the old bridge as a viewing platform after the new bridge is built, to act as a historical interpretive landmark. Regardless of your opinion of the overall project, if there has to be a new bridge, this is unarguably a way of enhancing the Thompson Square precinct. It's a great idea. And because this will ultimately become Council's responsibility, the RMS sought our concurrence for the plan. And what did the Councillors elected on the "Windsor Bridge protest platform " do?  Quibble, obstruct and dissemble. The annual maintenance cost for the static structure will be ~$5000p.a, and there is plenty of precedent for the RMS to pick up the tab for this -- small change on a $100M project. And yet every single vote on a necessary and practical aspect of the project that requires a clear indication of intent from Council to allow planning to proceed is instead diverted into a sterile debate on the whole bridge project. It's becoming tiresome.
Newsflash: The RMS knows what Council thinks. It doesn't need to repeat itself every five minutes.

My remarks to the chamber on this are here (@7 minutes in)

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/7-item-008-windsor-bridge#t=7:00

 

Unapproved Dwellings in the Hawkesbury

Here's a common story: Someone lives in a tiny fibro house on acreage in the Hawkesbury. At some point during the 1970s or 80s, they do as many did and build a bigger brick house on the same block, and move in. They go through the old fibro house and meticulously disconnect the water and electricity, and a council inspector certifies it as uninhabitable. There is no obligation to demolish the old structure. The inspector leaves; the owner carefully reconnects the utilities, and the kids (or a parent, or someone else) moves in. No one cares. Decades pass.

This story is common enough that I could drive you past half a dozen such "illegal" dwellings in Oakville alone. Because I have long been a supporter of detached-dual-occupancy, I've always been kind of pleased that this is one rule that Council turned a blind eye to. I've never spoken to the neighbour of such a property that was put out by such an arrangement; easy to understand when you're on enough land that your neighbours living arrangements don't disturb you. I'd be happy for this to continue.

But here's another story: Someone allows a friend in need to take up residence in a boat shed down by our river with a maximum flood risk. They aren't on anyone's census or the radar of emergency services, and then a natural disaster strikes. How many people need evacuating? From where? Manifestly, it will always be unwise to permit anyone to live in such a place, and if Council knew about it, it would have to discharge its duty of care to act.

How we deal with these two ends of the same demographic phenomenon is vexed, and I supported a call for a report to be brought to Council.

My remarks to the chamber are here (@2m50s):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/13-item-019-nm4-unapproved#t=2:50