Dont fence me in!

As you may or may not be aware, Lismore City Council is hell bent on reclassifying Lismore Park from community land to operational land.

Lismore Park takes in Humbly, Heaps, Blair, Crozier and Oakes ovals basically the sporting paradise and open grassland in the centre of town. Reclassifying this area as operational will make the present plan of management for Lismore Park null and void and will allow Council to sell it off should the need ever arise. Perhaps it might give them the cash to create a new cultural centre or maybe pay off the Memorial Baths debt? Who is to say, but under the new classification Councils control of the land is increased many fold.

Its a brave fool that wanders into the local council offices to peruse a few hundred pages entitled the Draft Lismore Local Environmental Plan 2000 (Amendment No. 33) Reclassification of Certain Public Lands in the hope that they can make sense of such a tomb. Im no bureaucrat, but I knew hidden deep within the bowels of that document there would be some sub-sectional sub-clause that will see Lismores commons lost to private or sectional interests.

What I find particularly interesting in this complex and soon to be rubber stamped proposal is how often they mention public consultation. Firstly, the draft itself is on public display at both the CBD and Goonellabah offices, for anyone who can understand it, until September 25. There will then be a public meeting once the exhibition period ends.

Its fantastic that this public consultation is being undertaken and already a petition opposing the reclassification has accumulated 400 signatures. Its heartening to see people taking the notion of public consultation seriously its now or never for Lismore Park, after all.

The proponents of this reclassification will trundle out a number of arguments to defend this de-facto privatisation. Firstly, they will say they have no intention of deviating from the present management plan despite the fact that the new classification removes any requirement for them to follow that plan. (Hmm? Well why change the classification?). The next argument will be about nuisance complaints hindering the development process. At the moment just one individual complaint means that the development plan must go before the Minister for Local Government and it is true that these kinds of complaints stalled the installation of lighting at Crozier Oval. But the community shouldnt hand over control of all the other parks just because Council ran into a few hurdles developing Crozier Oval.

Lismore Park is 13 hectares in size and Crozier and Oakes ovals are barely a fifth of the larger block. Perhaps its time to sub-divide Lismore Park into sporting/entertainment parks and community parkland? The broad green sward of Lismore Park is a rarity in Australian provincial cities and it would be a sad day if it were fenced off and handed to money making interests.

Im glad to see the community acting to halt any such possibility, but Council will only listen if hundreds more make their voices heard. Its your land people its up to you.

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