Arlington Oval, though the 2 Sydney Blue Gums on the left have been removed.

This was the Council Meeting. Absent: Clr Gardener.  The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.

The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Tsardoulias/West, Woods/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South.  LIBERALS: Gardener/North, Tyler/West INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Hanna/South

Arlington Reserve Playing field – recommendation that:

  1. the report be received & noted;
  2. Council consider the options presented in the report;
  3. Council officers prepare a further report, that details the financial, management & community engagement considerations of Council’s preferred option, & addresses issues associated with the use of Arlington Reserve through a plan of management review process; &
  4. Council officers proceed immediately with implementation of Council’s preferred option, including a community engagement process at the outset.

Council resurfaced the field with grass in 2010 at a cost of $272,214.   $1,325,000 has been budgeted for a synthetic surface & replacement of failing retaining wall & path adjoining the playing field.   Usage: September to March: 4-hours/week on average. April to August: 22-hours/week on average by the Dulwich Hill & Stanmore Hawks Football Clubs. MC says synthetic surfaces provide up to 80-hours of use/week.

There were 5 speakers against the recommendation & 2 speakers for the recommendation.  For brevity I will outline the issues discussed rather than each speech.

Issues raised by those speaking AGAINST synthetic turf were –  The proposal is not in the best interests of residents or ratepayers.  The community expects to be consulted with before the decision.  There was extensive consultation in 2009, but no consultation for this now.  No details are available. MC shouldn’t pretend that a synthetic surface will save money.  It will need maintenance just as a natural surface.  There is no detailed costing.  Arlington Oval is in the middle of a dense residential area with 400 units & there will be even less parking.  3-years later & I am here on the same issue. There is no environmental basis for plastic. You will need to remove trees. All the Councillors were elected on the basis of supporting the environment. Local schools can’t use Arlington.  You will have to explain when the Jacarandas are chopped down & the Bandicoots are killed & the watercourse is polluted.  If not, we will notify ICAC of your decision. Arlington will not be any safer. Recent research shows no measurable difference with safety playing on synthetic turf.   If Arlington is so unsafe, why aren’t staff working on it now?   Synthetic turf is 30-40% hotter than natural grass. Nothing can be done regarding the heat effects. Surface temperature is a major issue on a synthetic field.  Plan of Management says the ground is open all year. It could be locked to exclude the community.  MC has provided no detail on the impacts of Light Rail traffic impacts. It would appear that this is being rushed through. This is an unpopular decision so early after the election & people will not forget for the next election.  Local residents will be locked out.  Players already have keys & have locked the community out of the park. Having it used all year round will give no respite the community for traffic, litter, parking, environmental impacts & hooning.  This is not a fair & unbiased report. $1.2 million is 22-years of maintenance. Synthetic field will only last 10-years.  An exorbitant amount of money is being wasted on Arlington.  It’s a historic reserve that has been neglected for decades.

The Plan of Issues raised by those speaking FOR synthetic turf were –   Our school doesn’t use it for safety reasons, we use Marrickville Oval instead.  We do not support limiting sporting opportunities to youth in the area.  Synthetic turf does provide many advantages over grass. Water costs are reduced, fewer chemicals are needed. Many Councils have gone down this path [some were listed].  We represent the kids who play on this.  It has been a safety issue for years. I agreed with grass turf decision in 2009. Anyone can see that that surface is unplayable.  It’s about the kids who play on this. Synthetic turf is expensive & the clubs will absorb the costs. All-weather playing is a definite advantage. The cost of maintaining synthetic turf is significantly less that grass surface.  I understand there may be an issue with parking. We don’t support illegal parking.

Mayor Macri:  moved the recommendation. I sat here 3-years ago knowing what the outcome would be in 3-years time.  When we asked the staff to put more resources into it, staff said we cannot overuse the turf.  We are not changing anything.  We have a tight budget & we cannot keep putting money into it.  Two clubs are using it for 12-weeks.  Parking will always be an issue.  Hopefully Light Rail will help.  I can’t keep pouring money into something that doesn’t work.  This is about clubs playing safely. We need to proceed to something that will work.   It will be a quarter million dollar saving over 10-years. We need to move forward, not run around in circles.

Clr Brooks:  Foreshadowed motion – delete points 2 & 3, add the MC prioritises maintenance of Arlington field to ensure a high standard of natural turf.  I’m concerned with the lack of community consultation.  I understand the problems with poor surfaces. The weather is not a compelling case. The local community is incredibly upset about this.  They thought they engaged in good faith with MC.  Synthetic turf is not a flexible option for a park that is used by local residents too.  350 community members consulted on this in 2009 & were overwhelmingly opposed.  It has been suggested that we will need to remove trees. Any leaf litter or flowers from the Jacarandas will damage the synthetic turf, which is not very stable.  Trinity Grammar has synthetic turf. It increases injury risk & causes a high level of septicaemia. Trinity Grammar maintain the surface every day. Two people vacuum it & water it all day long to keep it cool enough.  With the World Cup Championship, players refused to play on synthetic turf in Africa because they would not risk injury.   Risk massive fines by EPA for runoff from synthetic turf. This is an enormous risk for MC of environmental impacts from the synthetic turf.  Our world is heating up every year.  This surface retains heat. It’s an unacceptable health risk.  You are more likely to be injured. The area will be unsuitable because of heat. The medical risks are well documented.  Synthetic turf removes amenity for the community. You can’t walk your dog or go for a walk.  Synthetic turf locks Arlington Oval into one elite sport. It’s not suitable for any other sport. I’m unconvinced this will increase the numbers of kids playing sports.   We will be unable to reverse this if we go ahead.

Clr Phillips:  I’m very disappointed that we have come back so soon.  It was a huge issue in 2009. It’s enormously disrespectful to local residents.  People have been playing on grass all over the world for a very long time. We should at least look at what we can do instead of resurfacing with plastic grass. This came through a direct request from the clubs.  We got hammered for not doing community consultation right in 2009 & we appear to be doing this again. It costs significant money to lay the synthetic turf & replace every 10-years. Last time MC said we would have to increase fees & increase usage; now this is not needed.  What’s changed?  Why can we do lawn at Henson park & not at Arlington Reserve?  Plastic grass doesn’t respect the heritage of Arlington.  I have big concerns with laying crumpled tyres & plastic turf.  You say you won’t to change the Plan of Management, but I’m not convinced you won’t in the future.

Mayor Macri:  What’s changed is we are not proposing an increased amount of usage. Henson Park is different because soccer & rugby have different usage needs.  Rugby runs whereas soccer kicks the ground.

Clr Hanna:  In 2009 I said I would vote against it.  Mayor, we are talking about a large amount of money.  If we really want to save money we don’t give astro turf for one group.  Look at the whole council.  We are here to serve them, not make everything hard for residents.  I feel sorry for the clubs.  We should go to the head of the clubs & tell them to spend money to the club & the schools.  Kids are paying $200-$300 per season.  Tell Frank Newey to spend some of his money on the kids.  I cannot see any change from 2009.  We have to go to community consultation.  It is artificial consultation after we have made a decision.

Clr Leary:  Against motion.  I’ve lived near Arlington Oval & I know why it is important.  We have heard many reasons why we should vote against your recommendation.  The community is intensely opposed to this. One thing has changed & that is an election.  The Greens strongly supported the natural grass solution & took it to the election.  The Labor Party didn’t put up a single word about Arlington Oval.  Nothing about this was taken to the electorate.  One would have assumed it would have gone to the people – I seek a mandate to put in astro turf.  There are many reasons why we should vote against it.  We have to consider the residents, ratepayers, environment & traffic, not just 2 clubs.  We’ve been through all this in 2009.  I see no evidence that the surface is unplayable.  They use sand to maintain the ground.

Clr Wood: I acknowledge the concerns of residents & the expertise of clubs assessing their needs.  I believe the citizens’ needs are properly addressed through the Plan of Management.  The surface does not impact on residents.  I’m concerned that we might lose soccer on Arlington Oval.  Point 3 is what we should do.

Clr Iskandar:  Remember what I did when I was Mayor?  I learnt from everyone, even from the humble soccer players.  It’s 2 separate issues.  We had a long serious consultation about what the community needed & we were generous at the expense of soccer. There are two sets of highly respected clubs here.  Don’t think the soccer players & the clubs are from another galaxy.  They are your neighbours & in the streets. It’s a soccer issue, not a political issue.  Mayor Macri: Unfortunately for all of us we spent $300,000 & nothings changed.

Vote on option 3: For – Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Haylen, Woods & Tyler.   Against: Clrs Phillips, Leary, Brooks & Ellsmore  (& Clr Hanna I think.)   Carried – synthetic turf for Arlington Oval.

Sunday 25th November 2012 –  The Marrickville Greens have put in a recision motion & this will bring the decision of synthetic turf for Arlington Oval back to a Council Meeting.