The risk of saying goodbye to less than $1 million helped sway a Sydney council to allow a synthetic sports field on a flood basin close to an endangered forest and national park, writes Angus Thompson in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Despite initially refusing to replace natural grass with plastic at the sensitive site, Ku-ring-gai Council officers later wrote in a report that some $929,000 from state government and community grants intended specifically for a synthetic field “cannot easily be overlooked”.
Cited in the report before the October 2020 council meeting was the conditional support of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). But while the environmental authority was supportive of the upgrade, it was concerned about synthetics.
In a September letter it had asked for a detailed analysis of the environmental, social and health impacts, among others. It said there was a danger of chemicals flowing into nearby Quarry Creek, urban heat concerns for the native flora and fauna – including the vulnerable powerful owl – and potential risk to the critically endangered Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest.
Resident Mignon Booth said, from an environmental perspective, the plan was “highly risky”.
“To put it near a waterway, to put it near endangered flora without knowing exactly what you’re doing, it couldn’t be in a worse spot,” Ms Booth said, adding there were unknown factors about the use of synthetic turf due to a dearth of thorough research.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes hopes an investigation by the state’s chief scientist will address the unknowns, with similar concerns raised in an October report commissioned by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).
A Ku-ring-gai Council spokeswoman said NPWS’s concerns were being worked through, and the council would refer to the government report in pushing forward with the $3.3 million project, as well as installing a pollutant trap and filtering basin to ensure against run-off into the environment.
The spokeswoman also said the use of cork infill in the surface would be a better option environmentally than rubber.
In nearby Lane Cove, microplastics have been leaking from an artificial pitch at Blackman Park, a reserve on the Lane Cove River. A critical component of the environmental assessment for the proposed synthetic field at Bob Campbell Oval in Greenwich was also discovered to be missing in July, prompting the appraisal to be scrapped.
That divisive project has been one of the motivating factors in resident Merri Southwood running for Lane Cove Council.
“This is the only level, open space in our area, and in an environmentally sensitive location, and it will become a single-purpose sports field that will dominate the use of the reserve and impact the flexibility that the space now offers,” she said.
Read Angus Thompson’s full article from 1 December 2021 at www.smh.com.au