Seriously, why isn’t Marrickville Council thinking of the children?

May 26, 2013

Marrickville Greens have put questions-on-notice to Council recently, and the answers don’t stack up.  How can Council justify $1M+ for a Trophy Project, but delay desperately needed funds for childcare centres in baby-booming Marrickville & Dulwich Hill yet another year when there’s TWO THOUSAND children on waiting lists for early childhood care centres?

Meanwhile, Leichardt Council found $4M for 2 childcare centres, and the City Of Sydney Council found $55M.

In what way, exactly, is this “getting the basics right”, as Marrickville Labor’s slogan would have us believe?

Have a read:

http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/council-finds-1-million-for-artificial-turf-and-puts-new-childcare-centre-on-hold/

We’re hopping mad at Council’s… skewed priorities.  How about you?  Have you made a submission on Council’s draft budget?  It only takes a few minutes… and you’ve got 24 hours left to be heard.

 

LAST CHANCE for Arlington Reserve

May 25, 2013

The deadline to “HAVE YOUR SAY” to Marrickville Council and object to the inclusion of funds to artificial turf Arlington Reserve in the 2013/14 draft budget is just 2 days away!  Please click the link, which will take you to Marrickville Council’s website page for public comment submissions.

Have you sent your submission yet?

We have a letter which we welcome you to use (see quoted text and attachment below), but we strongly encourage you to write your own (feel free to use ours for pointers :), as Councillors value a diversity of correspondence, not just quantity.

Alternatively,
Email:    coplan@marrickville.nsw.gov.au
This mail-to link will pre-fill your email with our submission.  Add councillors@marrickville.nsw.gov.au to the To: field if you want all 12 Councillors to receive it too.

You must make your submission by 5pm, Monday 27th May!

Please forward this email to all the people you know in Marrickville LGA and encourage them to “Have Their Say”.

Thanks for your support!

Our suggested Draft Budget Submission Letter follows, or click this link for the PDF: Draft Budget Submission (10May)

—————————————————

Dear General Manager

I write to you in connection with Marrickville Council’s draft budget for 2013/14. I have a number of concerns about the Capital Budget proposals, specifically in relation to Section 4720 Landscape Design & Project Management items 70427043 and 7079, Amenity Upgrade and Installation of Synthetic Turf at Arlington Reserve, Dulwich Hill.

I have summarised my concerns and objections to these items which are not in the interest of Marrickville’s rate payers:

Inequity

A high percentage of rate payers’ funds are being spent on one recreational facility, representing 31% of the landscape and design budget for the entire Marrickville LGA, and is a disproportionate amount of funds to be allocated for one park!

  • Proposed expenditure in the draft budget for Arlington Reserve is $1.055 million

2013/14 $950,000 artificial turf, $80,000 Kiosk and $ 25,000 change rooms

  • Arlington Reserve has already had major funds allocated from 2009 to 2013, totalling $1,435,172:

2009/10  $264,000 clubhouse, $34,910 Synthetic Surface Feasibility Study $19,642 consultant’s fees

2010 /11 $272,214 Natural turf works and irrigation

2011/12 $234,000 Sportsground, $200,000 Enhanced Upgrade

2012/13 $219,406 Sportsground improvements, $191,000 Enhanced Upgrade

Lack of transparency

Costs referred to in Councils report, (Arlington Reserve Playing Field Upgrade, file ref: 12/SF468/84658.12, 19 Feb 2013) have not been itemised in the draft budget and as such do not provide transparency over the true cost to rate payers.

  • The $950,000 does not cover the capital cost of synthetic turf.
  • Although mentioned in the report soil testing, removal of soil, drainage works, paving to reduce mud-tracking, soil and drainage modification, fencing and lighting improvements, site investigations, traffic/parking management plans have not been considered.
  • Projected on-going costs:

$47,000 Specialist Grooming Machine 

$10,000 FIFA Accreditation every 3 years

$500,000 artificial turf replacement every 8-10 yrs & Council’s acknowledged escalating “high disposal cost”

Funding

No clarification has been provided for the funding of this development. 

  • Council will need to borrow $2.45 million in financial year 2013/14 for capital expenditure.
  • What is the cost to rate payers from this borrowing in principal plus interest? 
  • Will this require additional borrowing, or a reduction in funding for basic services?

In conclusion, I do not approve of and request the removal of items 7042, 7043 and 7079 from the Capital Budget.

Yours sincerely,

 

In the news

May 21, 2013

InnerCityWeekender-17May

Media-IWCcomments14May

Speaking of “robust debate” (the… inaccurate term used by an Inner West Courier journalist to describe what happened at February’s general Council meeting), we were mistaken in assuming that at tonight’s general Council meeting where Clr Mark Gardiner’s 8 questions-on-notice would actually be open for at least some discussion amongst Councillors, if not opportunities to speak by members of the public as well.  Sadly mistaken, really, by assuming that the rules of local government would allow discussion of answers to important questions of material significance to a matter at hand.

What the FIFA?!?

May 20, 2013

Amongst the items mentioned in Council’s February report on Arlington is $10,000 every 3 years for FIFA 1-Star Accreditation of the new surface. Marrickville Council flagging it as a cost is surprising.

At TOMORROW NIGHT’S Council meeting, you’ll hear 8 questions-on-notice from Councillor Mark Gardiner answered by Council, among them: “Please advise why Council would assume costs of accreditation to FIFA 1 Star of an artificial surface at Arlington”.

Council’s answer raises even more questions:

“FIFA standards provide two levels of playing surface certification. FIFA 1 Star is intended for community and municipal use generally at club level whilst FIFA 2 Star accreditation is intended for professional level. Specifying FIFA 1 Star, at least at the initial construction phase, is considered essential to ensure an acceptable quality of workmanship, surface quality and durability is delivered by the contractor suitable for intended use. “

I draw your attention to FIFA’s document on their accreditation scheme (fqc_football_turf_folder_342 PDF):  1-Star accreditation is intended for “National Training & Matchplay, Municipality”, in other words, not just ‘local’ municipal level matches, but state and national grade matches.  The interesting bit is what 2-Star accreditation (which costs even more) is for: it’s a much newer standard that acknowledges “player’s feedback, medical research, test results and information from the industry since the implementation [of the 1-Star accreditation] in 2001”, given the  increased performance of modern artificial surfaces (e.g.. “4th generation”) that come closer to approximating “the perfect natural grass pitch model” (so, real grass is better after all, eh?), and is intended for “Top clubs, Stadia, International Matchplay”.

Here’s the rub:

  1. Council have under-stated what 1-Star accreditation is intended for
  2. FIFA 1-Star accreditation appears to not adequately measure the greater * medical research * and more accurate playability of modern (‘4th generation’?) artificial turf
  3. Council has included $10,000 every 3 years for this 1-Star accreditation at the same time that certain Councillors have promised that “usage of Arlington won’t increase” – that is, Arlington will remain used by DHFC & SHFC only – which is all the surrounding facilities of parking and traffic and noise-impact can accommodate.

If you want a new artificial surface installed to FIFA 1-Star specifications, fine, specify that in your tender documents – but why bother paying for the piece of FIFA-paper when (a) it doesn’t really mean anything IN THIS DECADE, and (b) it’s not required for Arlington’s current, future-promised, and practical level of usage?

Lets ignore the apparent meaninglessness of FIFA 1-Star accreditation nowadays – if that’s what the industry wants to be fleeced for, so be it.

Does Council’s pursuit of FIFA 1-Star accreditation signal an intention, or simply leave open the possible use of Arlington for state level matches, regardless of the impact on local residents – which is exactly what happened at Northbridge ?

Arlington – A Bird’s Eye View

May 19, 2013

“ As it is situated in the middle of a densely populated residential area with limited parking and road access, neither Arlington nor any other oval in the Marrickville LGA meets [the necessary criteria for artificial turf] ”

Clr Emanuel Tsardoulias

December 2009

 When Councillor Emanuel Tsardoulias wrote those words on a flyer he distributed to all West Ward residents, and listed a DOZEN solid reasons to back it up, he wasn’t kidding, or faking.  Union Street local resident, Sharyn Moses, addressed Council on 19th February 2013 with this presentation of aerial views of several parks around Sydney that had been converted to artificial turf.  Each one has highlighted the field that was artificially turfed, nearby residential areas, and parking capacity.

When you compare it to Arlington Reserve, you really see the absurdity of spending a $million (likely much more) in an area that (a) just can’t facilitate any increase in usage above the current level, and (b) if it did would hugely impact a large number of local residents, especially given the medium-density apartments adjacent, and the high-density ‘Hoskins Park development’ just around the corner, and the ‘park-&-ride’ commuters that will likely add to demand for parking in the area later this year.

In fact artificially turfing ANY facility that doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate the increased usage that Council’s own reports say must occur to make artificial conversions financially viable, is reckless and irresponsible with rate payer’s funds.  At a time when councils are facing threats of amalgamation, you’d think Marrickville Council would be a little smarter.  But of course, being smart isn’t what’s driving this proposal – it’s ego & politics combined.

Scroll down for the 6 comparative pictures (click for the full-sized) or download the PDF (link at bottom):

1-Blacktown

2-Northbridge

3-Cromer Park

4-Seymour Shaw

5-Hensley

6-Arlington

Ariel views of playing fields compared to Arlington (PDF)

We will be a Addison Road Markets, & Tempe Fair tomorrow!

May 18, 2013

SARG at Addison Rd Markets

The Save Arlington Reserve crew will be out again tomorrow (Sunday), at the Addison Road Markets, and the Tempe Fair – look for the bright yellow tshirts!

If you have any questions or reservations about this issue, PLEASE grab one of us for a chat!

If you haven’t already, please sign a ‘Draft Budget Submission’ letter from us.

Hope to see you there!

 

Somebody, please! Think of the children!

May 18, 2013

At the Council meeting last 19th February, this was the shameful mantra implied to justify Council’s evenly divided vote (6-for, 6-against) for artificial turf on Arlington Reserve – childhood obesity.  Council wheeled in “professional experts” to lecture us so.

We’re all for strategies and proven solutions for tackling that problem.  What is shameful and deceptive of the pro-artificial turf lobby is their suggestion and linking of the two as having any impact on the issue of childhood obesity.

Arlington Reserve is already the most expensive field to hire in the entire Marrickville LGA – about 30% more than all the others.  Why?  It’s a good question…  What we DO know for sure – because Council wrote so – is that Arlington is “unique” in the entire Marrickville LGA by being ‘Home’ to TWO soccer clubs, despite the recommendation of Football NSW.  So Arlington’s surface suffers accordingly as the winter season progresses.  Perhaps Council has raised the casual hiring rate to dissuade non-soccer users, so as to preserve Arlington’s over-stretched capacity for the almost exclusive use of soccer clubs?

This isn’t a wild accusation, it’s a genuine question – why is Arlington so much more expensive than all the other LGA fields?  We know of at least two situations where this is detrimentally affecting “equitable access”.  One is a nearby school who wanted to hold their annual sports carnival on Arlington last year, but were quoted a hiring cost they just couldn’t afford.  That is NOW – with natural turf.  We know of another school who regularly bring children to another nearby park for casual play, because they’re flat out refused permission to use Arlington, for free or for a fee (which they’d never be able to afford on a weekly basis).  And lets not even get into the bizarre logic of one government-funded facility charging another government-funded entity for access to it’s local community’s facilities…  parents pay school fees, and a subset of them pay soccer club membership fees, but only soccer is allowed onto Arlington.  Let us repeat – this is the situation NOW, with natural turf.  Despite the rhetoric you might’ve heard, it doesn’t get better with artificial turf.

Council have stated openly that for artificial turf to be economically viable, either hiring fees need to rise dramatically, or the hours-of-use need to rise dramatically, which is an economic rationalists way of saying ‘both need to rise as much as possible’.  BUT WAIT!  Certain Councillors have also promised “usage of Arlington won’t increase”!  Despite there being nothing written anywhere to back up that ‘promise’, it suggests that the cost to hire Arlington must increase dramatically, for soccer clubs and casual hirers alike.

DHFC & SHFC already field a wide age range of children’s teams.  We see them every Saturday or Sunday morning.  It’s a joy to see.

But will they, or their club collectively, still be able to afford an artificially turfed field’s hiring cost?  And don’t forget, there’s an extra different set of football boots need to be put on young rapidly growing feet to play on artificial turf.

Must one only play soccer to conform with the pro-artificial turf lobby’s idea of how to tackle childhood obesity?  Because artificial turf also LIMITS the range of sports that can be played on the field, even for those who might be able to afford it.  It. Makes. No. Sense.

So can someone please tell us, how does the huge capital cost, and a massively increased hiring cost, of an artificially turfed Arlington Reserve help tackle childhood obesity?  It doesn’t.  It was a shameful ploy to justify an ulterior agenda pushed through a divided Council.

The Northbridge Experience (re-post)

May 17, 2013

[ We think it bears repeating, and to bring this previous post back up to the top.  The only thing to add is that the author of this ‘Northbridge Experience’ personal account is, I’ve been lead to believe, no longer a resident of the area, and lost a great deal of money on the sale of his family home earlier this year. ]

Maybe some people think we’re being alarmist or exaggerating in our concern about the impact that artificial turf will have on the area and residents surrounding Arlington Reserve.

Well, there’s no need to be cynical, or naive for that matter – it’s already happened, at Northbridge Oval on Sydney’s lower North Shore.

In 2011, Willoughby Council converted Northbridge Oval from natural to artificial turf.  Not only that, but according to local resident Phillip Kanjian, they ‘neglected’ to mention that State League Football would, or even might, become one of its primary users.  They did, and the intensification of use has had a dramatic effect on nearby residents.

In Marrickville Council’s report on conversion of Arlington to artificial turf (tabled on the 20/11/2012 meeting), it collectively quotes users of Northbridge Oval as “loving it to death”.  Unfortunately Marrickville Council appears to have neglected to ask the local residents what they think of the artificially turfed Northbridge Oval.

So here in his own words is Phillip Kanjian’s account of ‘The Northbridge Experience’. (PDF link at the bottom)

—–

THE NORTHBRIDGE EXPERIENCE

What Marrickville residents can expect if Arlington is converted to plastic turf.

In 2011 Willoughby Council converted the Northbridge Oval from natural to artificial turf. This led to a dramatic intensification of usage. Residents now have no respite from soccer activities as the following data shows. Bear in mind that Willoughby Council failed to disclose during the consultation period that State League football would be a future user of the new turf with enormous impact on the residents that live nearby. Residents were initially told by Willoughby Council that soccer ( local KDSA) was to be played in winter and cricket in summer . We now know this was not true.

Since Then:

Northbridge Football Club (NFC) has approximately 85% occupancy during the peak period ( weekends and non school hours ) throughout the year . 7 days a week in winter; 5 days a week in summer. ( excluding public holidays). The usage could be classified as predominately exclusive. NFC turnover is now just under a $1 million a year.

Winter Usage

Soccer season March – September Northbridge FC uses 7 days a week Monday – Friday: Local KDSA and State League training 3.30pm – 9.30pm Saturday: Local KDSA matches 8.30am – 4.30pm
Sunday: State League Games 8.30am – 4.30pm

Every second Saturday in Winter , night games until 8.00 pm Every second Friday in Winter, night games until 8.00 pm

Summer Usage

During summer months from October until March Northbridge FC use 5 days per week:

Monday – Mens football mini competition: Tuesday – Thursday: Elite and academy training Friday – Womens football mini competition

6 – 8.30pm 4 – 8.00pm 6 – 8.30pm

Soccer season ends in August however training resumes at the end of September.

State League numbers in 2011 revealed that more than 70% players live outside the Willoughby LGA. For mens competition this was 91%. Residents are still waiting for players numbers in 2012 from Willoughby Council.

When it Rains

Play and training continues regardless of rain. On wet days when the other turf ovals in the Willoughby area are closed , other players converge onto Northbridge oval to train. It is common to have up to 4 teams training on Northbridge Oval at the same time – screaming and shouting . Intensifies traffic/parking/noise problems.

Community locked out

Northbridge Oval is now operates predominately as a soccer field with the white lines permanently marked on the oval.

Community usage gone. Frequent past users including dog walkers, kite flyers, local kids kicking the ball around or, playing touch football are gone . Cricketers prefer to play on natural turf especially on hot days.

Impact on Residents:

No respite from traffic congestion, lights blazing until 9.30pm, noise from oval i.e. shouting, cheering, constant whistle blowing. Last two years has been very stressful for the residents that live nearby. Three people are thinking of selling their homes as a result of the impact .

No street parking. Willoughby Council created 9 new parking places only and are in the process of removing a bus stop ( in existence for over 40 years ) to accommodate more parking for soccer players and visitors.

Arlington Reserve must be about the community given it is on crown land for the benefit of the public not just soccer only.

Information provided by P. Kanjian, resident, Northbridge Oval Precinct.

—–

PK-Northbridge Experience

Will Marrickville Councillors really vote for a ‘blow-out budget’?

May 17, 2013

How much for Arlington?!?

One of the most troubling aspects of Marrickville Council’s vote to artificially turf Arlington Reserve is “the numbers” – the actual cost to rate payers, both capital costs, and on-going operational costs – and particularly how many of these costs have NOT been included in the draft 2013/2014 capital or operating budgets, or in fact any public document.  Let me give you an example:

In 2009, Marrickville Council’s estimate to convert Arlington to artificial turf was $1.1 Million.

In the February 2013 report on options to be considered for Arlington, no specific figure was presented, but perhaps some Councillor’s deemed it reasonable to expect that it would be about the same as in 2009, give or take, but in so doing they ignored the volatility of global markets (where artificial turf is made) in the last few years, the new carbon tax that commenced last year, and other ever-escalating costs.

But what Council’s February 2013 report did list was a range of capital expenses, many of them not even specified with $ figures, merely mentioned.  Things like “the removal of between 300 to 500 mm of soil” (30 to 50 cm), to make way for the new surface and its underlying support structure, and a new drainage system (that’s right, Marrickville Council will be throwing away the brand new natural turf drainage system installed just 3 years ago).  If Council had even reasonable estimates of such costs, why not specify them?

After some ‘back of the envelope’ calculations (estimating the field to be 105m by 65m, removing just 300mm of soil, estimating 1 cubic meter of soil weighs 1700kg (could well be heavier, given Arlington’s hard clay soil), and where land-fill costs rose sharply by up to 20% after last year’s Carbon Tax commenced, now at around $95 per metric tonne in Sydney), it could cost Marrickville rate payers at least $330,000 just to dispose of this soil.  OK, so soil isn’t “municipal waste” and may well be somewhat cheaper to dispose of, or perhaps Marrickville Council knows of someone or somewhere else willing to accept 3500 metric tonnes – 3.5 million kilograms – of soil…

But this is just one example!  Others costs named, but not specified or itemised in Council’s report include:  soil testing, drainage works, paving to reduce mud-tracking, soil and drainage modification, fencing and lighting improvements, site investigations, and traffic/parking management plans.  Ongoing costs for artificial turf maintenance include operation of (labour) and maintenance of the $47,000 “specialist grooming machine” (unspecified), $10,000 for FIFA Accreditation every 3 years, and around $500,000 for disposal of the artificial turf surface every 8 to 10 years.

But our question is, were these costs included in the 2009 $1.1M estimate, or in the 2013/2014 draft budget?  With the absence of specific costing of so many items in the February 2013 report, and a Council staffer who mentioned in the 16th April general Council meeting that ‘the tender process had barely begun’, it seems unlikely.

So what exactly did Council vote for on 19th February?  Do they even know, with any reasonable estimate, what this project is really going to cost?

And what exactly will they be voting for next month when they approve the draft 2013/2014 capital and operational budgets, which include a lower figure of $950,000 for artificially turfing Arlington?

If Council does have fair estimates of these costs, why not publish them?  It would go a LONG way to dissipating the high level of mistrust and acrimony that currently exists between Council and citizens on this issue.  Or would these figures confirm the farcical sleight-of-hand that it *appears* to be?

Has a situation been orchestrated, or simply transpired, where this project will commence without either Councillors or citizens being fully informed of even fair estimates of actual costs, and once the true costs are known be in a position where it’s too late to stop?  A ‘budget blow-out’ like this seems 100% preventable.

Do the people pushing this artificial turf agenda even care what it costs?  Or is it just a Trophy Project, and a political situation being exploited to ‘make good’ on the disappointment some voters might have felt when they were denied a plasticised Arlington Reserve in 2009, all justified on the laughably shallow argument from certain Councillors that they ‘tried in 2010, they put down new turf and a new drainage system and had it all laser-levelled, but the pitch keeps failing!  What else can they do?!?’, they shrug faux-helplessly.

For how much longer will Marrickville Council avoid responsibility for the mistake it made several years ago in allowing TWO soccer clubs to call Arlington ‘Home’ (in contravention of their own governing body – Football NSW’s – recommendations) and making Arlington “unique” in the entire Marrickville LGA, and play on it at competition levels of wear-and-tear clearly in excess of Arlington’s ability to cope, with the utterly predictable result that at the end of every winter soccer season the pitch is deemed unacceptable for play?

Artificial turf may address that problem, but at what cost to rate payers, with clear consequences to local residents, and at the expense of which other Marrickville LGA facilities and community members struggling for funding for far more basic services?

‘Save Arlington’ interviewed on 2UE radio

May 16, 2013

2UE logo

Recently one of the Save Arlington Reserve action group members, Anthony May, was interviewed by Stuart Bocking on 2UE radio.

Aside from Stuart’s initial misunderstanding about which Councillors are pro-artificial turf (Greens Councillors have never voted for this artificial turf proposal), we think the interview reasonably summarised the situation in a ‘nut shell’.  Please have a listen!

2UE interview with Anthony May re Arlington

By the way, the only listener response we’re aware of following this interview was from someone extolling the virtues of artificial turf, totally missing the point, as usual.  The ‘Save Arlington’ action group has largely avoided comment on what can only be described as the contentious issue of the comparative safety – or otherwise – of artificial turf, because frankly it doesn’t have much to do with our ‘argument’ – the financial irresponsibility of Marrickville Council’s decision to proceed, despite not having costs for major ‘big ticket’ items in neither the motion carried in February, nor in the draft budget they’re about to vote on next month, not to mention the intractable problem that there’s just insufficient parking and traffic capacity around Arlington to accommodate intensified use of Arlington Reserve.