New court at Fawkner Park opens, but anger remains
A new sports court at Fawkner Park is now open for public use, but some locals remain frustrated it was allowed to be installed.
The multipurpose court was opened for public use in June at the South Yarra park, along with upgraded landscaping and playground improvements.
According to the City of Melbourne, the project will improve access and safety for the local community, including the large number of South Yarra Primary School students, teachers and parents who use the Pasley St North entrance to the Park.
However, a group of residents let their feelings known to councillors at a July 19 Future Melbourne Committee meeting held at St Martins Youth Arts Centre in South Yarra.
After councillors had noted the “successful completion” of works, two locals hit back.
“This has not been a successful project,” resident Bea McNicholas said.
“It has been a disaster from beginning to end and, as we say, we hope it never happens again.”
The group said that residents they had spoken to were disappointed with the project, which “alters the character and ambience of the park”.
“It states in the points that there have been a lot of compliments on this. Well, nobody I know, and I deal with over 10,000 people in my groups, they’re really distressed. Most of them don’t go to Fawkner Park anymore. I’ve lost personally, as everyone to the north has, their heritage nature relaxing walk on Sunday afternoons when it’s really busy,” Ms McNicholas said.
Another resident, Jennifer McDonald, said she was disappointed with what she deemed a lack of community consultation throughout the process and a lack of heritage expertise that allowed the court to be approved.
“We’re told in the report that the new multipurpose court is consistent with the council’s objective to enhance Melbourne’s unique identity and place,” she said.
“I can’t see how locating this court in the midst of one of Melbourne’s finest assets, a heritage park, how the court achieves that in the middle of the park. The new court has not been welcomed by the many residents who use the park for recreation rather than sporting activities. The magnificent setting of Fawkner Park, as described in the masterplan, has been altered by the location of a large concrete area of a highly patented sports court.”
However, during what was, at times, a testy meeting, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council had to consider the needs of all residents rather than just one group.
And while Cr Capp acknowledged that “the compromise is very difficult to reach” at times, said she and the City of Melbourne were pleased with the new area at Fawkner Park.
“It’s important to acknowledge that when we do have these precious, limited and unique spaces, that one of the big challenges we have at council is to balance the varied and broad uses and needs of our community into limited space. It’s a challenge we’re dealing with all the time, particularly in our open spaces,” she said.
The Lord Mayor noted that feedback as part of the recent 2022-23 draft budget, for example, had included calls for more netball courts and more community sport facilities.
The $1.5 million works at Fawkner Park, which began in December 2021 and reopened for public use in June 2022, also included drainage improvements to reduce the impact of rain and flood events and resolve long-standing drainage issues.
Nine trees were removed as part of the works, and 21 new trees planted.
Fawkner Park is among the oldest parks in Melbourne, remaining largely unchanged from its original design in 1875. •
Caption: Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece with South Yarra Primary students at the new court at Fawkner Park.