by Andrew Wood, Convenor Blue Wrens Subcommittee, 25 February 2021 (from Bulletin 1 of 2021)

City of Sydney’s Crown Lands plans of management

‘The Hill’ on the northern side of the Tramsheds. The Society has proposed that this Crown Lands site on the northern side of the Tramsheds be retained as a dedicated urban wildlife habitat refuge. (Photo: Andrew Wood)

At the end of last year, the Subcommittee prepared (with Ted McKeown’s help on Wentworth Park) the Society’s submission to the City, which addressed questions related to nine Crown Lands sites in Glebe: Glebe Foreshore Walk (east), Federal Parks 1 and 2, Bicentennial Parks 1 and 2, Pope Paul VI Reserve, Jubilee Oval, the Jubilee Park Tram Stop Reserve (including the so-called ‘Hill’ on the northern side of the Tramsheds) and Wentworth Park. A copy of the submission is available on the Society’s webpage: Members of the Subcommittee attended Zoom workshops and pop-up information sessions as part of the City’s community consultation process.

Important issues raised in the Society’s submission included:

  • The City’s management of the Crown Lands in Glebe and Forest Lodge, as remnants and reconstructed landscapes of rare green open space in a densely built city, provides opportunities for a renewed commitment to Indigenous sustainable management principles of ‘Caring for Country’. These management practices should support the health and well-being of the land (‘country’), in recognising Aboriginal custodianship of these lands, and local Aboriginal expertise should be sought where possible. The planting and maintenance of diverse native plant species to provide shade and habitat, a mix of native grasses, shrubs, small trees, ’native meadows’ (as at Prince Alfred Park), dense small bird habitat and re-establishment of original vegetation (where appropriate) should be encouraged to promote biodiversity, environmental awareness, and a sense of continuity with Sydney’s pre-1788 history. There needs to be tight regulation on the proportion of these lands that can be built on or leased — to maximise deep-soil planting areas, as an offset to the loss of private garden space in modern housing/apartment developments and to protect this land for future generations.
  • Since 1938 the central portion of Wentworth Park (the ‘sporting complex’) has been the more or less exclusive preserve of the greyhound racing industry, originally the National Coursing Association (NCA), and now the Greyhound Breeders Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA). In 1985 the NCA built a massive grandstand, which now stands almost empty on racing nights, and which is effectively an office building in a public park. When the GBOTA licence expires in 2027, or before that when greyhound racing ceases at Wentworth Park and the commercial leases in the grandstand come to an end, the whole of the park including the sporting complex should once again be accessible to everyone.
  • Parks must be large enough to provide open spaces where people can be undisturbed and quietly enjoy a passive activity such as sitting and reading a book. It will be necessary to actively manage the parks for their different uses so that peaceful, quiet zones are created in locations of natural ecosystems – all aimed at improving mental health and a connection with the local environment. Such sites should be freed from lively activities and dogs.
  • Sporting activities should be confined to those open spaces where they currently take place. The one exception to this suggested limitation is that when the greyhounds depart from Wentworth Park, the greyhound track should become a public oval (similar to the Reg Bartley Oval in Rushcutters Bay Park). It should be noted that there are very few parking spaces that could support an expansion of the existing sporting facilities in Glebe. It should also be noted that the proposals for the future park at the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange site, adjacent to Glebe, include ovals and spaces for other sporting activities. Every open space should have clearly delineated separate areas where dogs are not permitted as well as those where dogs should be leashed and where dogs should be permitted to run freely.

‘The Hill’ on the northern side of the Tramsheds shopping centre should be retained as a dedicated urban wildlife habitat refuge. Due to its contaminated land, ‘The Hill’ is currently fenced off from the surrounding area and cannot be used as a park open space. Its position, fencing and vegetation can provide an environment for abundant wildlife including birds, lizards, bees and small mammals to shelter and flourish. Organisations such as the Australian Wildlife Conservancy have shown that through successful management practices, fenced land areas can offer optimal opportunities for feral animal and weed control, as well as providing a safe haven for native fauna. In the Society’s bird surveys raptors, crested pigeons, brush turkeys and other birds have been identified on this site. Such a wild habitat refuge would be unique in the local government area and could also provide a safe site for the translocation of bird species, including the blue wren, which is no longer found in Glebe.