Get active: speak up for community land!

Some community land in the Wollongong local government area hosts magnificent old figs. 

This post is about an opportunity to speak up for the region's plants on parcels of community land managed by Wollongong City Council (other local councils will follow). Wollongong City Council currently has a draft Plan of Management (PoM) for Community Land on public exhibition and the community has until July 12 to provide comments. 

What is community land? 

Community land consists of public areas such as parks, memorials and nature reserves, that are vested in (owned by) a council. So think your local park or playing fields, the patch of bushland where you go for walks or do bush regeneration, or that empty block on the street that hosts a massive fig or two. 

Guest Park in Fairy Meadow is a large parcel of community land that hosts a mix of playing fields, mown grass fields and natural areas (along Cabbage Tree Creek). Is the balance between them right? Could some of the messier mown areas be revegetated, or used for a kids' bike trail?

Why is it important to comment? 

It's important that Council hears from people who love their local parks, nature reserves and ecosystems. We are people who have solid 'on the ground' knowledge of these areas and their environmental value and potential. We can speak up to have our say on what should be permitted or encouraged, and what should be disallowed, in local parks and natural areas. 

Check the draft PoM and see if it covers community land near you. Ask yourself, has appropriate protection been given to that land? Have its unique features been taken into account? 

In particular, the draft PoM sets out permissible uses for community land, including natural areas, that permit a wide range of activities (Table 14 on p.40). This allows, for example, almost any kind of activity in natural areas, including public events, food offerings such as food trucks, lighting and toilet facilities, hard and soft landscaped areas, stock agistment, certain kinds of commercial development, bee keeping, and bike paths. Have a look and see if you think what's proposed is appropriate for your local parcel/s of community land. 

Natural area volunteers often have good knowledge of the environmental values of local community bushland, for example areas where threatened species occur. 

What are your thoughts on the draft Plan of Management?  

Everyone has their own views, and this post isn't about putting words into anyone's mouth. But here are some thoughts on issues you could consider: 

  • Is your local community land (park, nature reserve etc) suitable for public events, food offerings such as food trucks, lighting and toilet facilities, hard and soft landscaped areas, stock agistment, commercial development, bee keeping, and bike paths? Is a generic plan of management that allows all these things appropriate for your local community land, or should something more tailored be developed?
  • Is the draft PoM's listing of 'Areas of cultural significance' adequate and appropriate? Are there any areas of community land such as nature reserves that should be added as 'Areas of cultural significance' for their environmental values? For example, does your local nature reserve provide habitat for threatened species such as Powerful Owls or Greater Gliders? 
  • Does the draft PoM give adequate recognition and protection to community land that is part of a designated wildlife corridor?
  • Is it appropriate to include a performance target for natural areas of having 'more areas under appropriate activation (such as pedestrian or bicycle trails suitable to the condition of the land) to increase appreciation of bushland and biodiversity'? Should this target be qualified to specify that it refers to 'formal pedestrian or bicycle trails' and to define what 'appropriate activation' means? Natural areas across Wollongong are increasingly impacted by informal trails that damage biodiversity; endorsing trails as 'appropriate activation' without definition or qualification risks giving open slather to informal trails.  
  • Should the draft PoM place more emphasis on urban greening in parks and sports grounds? Could this include greater use of local native tree species? Could it support progressive replacement of exotic species (such as grasses) with local native species? 
  • Does the draft PoM give sufficient weight to protection/expansion of bushland on community land that is a mix of parkland or open land and natural areas?

 You can see the draft PoM, and details on how to comment, here:

An informal bike trail on community land designated as a natural area. Built in 2020 on a steep slope, this trail has subsequently been creating erosion and preventing natural regeneration. 

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