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Category: Planning, policy and legislation

federal, state and local plans and policy; legislation and regulations; planning guidelines; tenure administration; land use

Parkland surrendered at time of subdivision

In the late 1990s, the planning profession in Australia became enthusiastic about performance-based planning, by which applicants for development were supposed to justify their projects in terms of satisfaction of idealised principles, as distinct from the prescriptive planning by which applicants hitherto were required to satisfy detailed or at least specified standards. Whether by design or as an unintended consequence, this shift has been beneficial to the property industry as it placed local government officers and public servants on the defensive in attempting to condition developments so that ample public space is brought into public ownership to cater for the needs of new residents.

Practice between local governments and between states has long been disparate. In Victoria, the legislation specified a minimum charge and some local governments used the provision to extract large tracts of open space. For example, the  Shire of Sherbrooke negotiated sometimes as much as 90% open space contribution, in steep or fire-prone localities of the Dandenong Ranges (such as became the Selby Bushland Reserve). By contrast, in Queensland prior to 1997, legislation specified a maximum statutory charge, reflecting the state’s pro-development ethos.

In developing localities, it’s vital that sufficiently large corridors of land are reserved for public purposes and it’s particularly important that floodplains, wetlands and ridgelines be reserved from incompatible development and (in the case of watercourses) to allow space for soft engineering works to manage stormwater.

The Land Planning Branch of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources sought to draft some guidelines for planning officers in local governments and departmental staff in dealing with development applications. The intention was to provide an authoritative benchmark to fortify officers in negotiations with developers and even perhaps in court. Jeremy Addison, a qualified planner and an officer of the Department, produced a draft working paper that was not considered finalised and was not published by the Department. It is replete with references to the statutory planning and land tenure legislation in operation in Queensland in the late 1990s-early 2000s, after the passage of the (now superseded) Integrated Planning Act 1997. It is included here because there are few known similar guidelines in public circulation and so the paper has contemporary value beyond historical interest. Its shortcomings should not be attributed to Mr Addison.

 

The “Parkland Surrender” paper addresses how much land should be offered up for public purposes in new subdivisions like this site of a proposed estate at Caboolture West, South East Queensland.

 

Surrender by developers is not the only method and perhaps not the most effective method of securing public open space. Melbourne’s metropolitan parks system, including Petty’s demonstration orchard at Templestowe, was funded by a general “metropolitan improvement” rate.

 

Some notes

In Queensland, performance-based planning was introduced in the Integrated Planning Act 1997, modelled on the Resource Management Act of New Zealand, although without any provisions for allocating (privatising) state land or mineral assets.

Previous legislation had specified that land taken at subdivision was to be surrendered to the Crown and then (usually) reserved for public purposes with the local government being invited to serve as trustee. Local governments objected to this safety net provision which provided a brake against disposal of the parkland, because (they argued) it was easier to rationalise their park holdings and sell isolated pockets if held as freehold. Yes, small pockets of land are inherently more expensive to maintain than a comparable acreage added to a large district park, but they are serving a different clientele.

It has been argued that land surrendered at subdivision is a tax upon the future residents, so only land of benefit to them should be taken; in other words government has no right to levy developers on behalf of users in a regional or or remote catchment. However, subdivision is a privilege, not a right, and a district- or regional-scale surrender is appropriate, so long as the levy is for a public interest purpose and is permitted by the legislation. (The precise wording of the legislation is critical).

Invitation to planners and landscape designers

Critical feedback is invited from any person with survey or planning expertise and who would like to collaborate with PaRC in building the working paper Parkland Surrender at Time of Subdivision into a modern guideline applicable across Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands. Please contact parc@parcaustralia.com.au. PaRC would also like to know of other comparable current or historical guidelines that can be re-published here.

 

Review Status: Pending

Open Space Planning in SEQ – 1994-2021

More than 25 years after the creation of a regional open space network was recommended in the SEQ2001 Regional Plan, South East Queensland does not have a regional park system or any coordinated network of recreational open space worth the name. The narrative of what-might-have-been is a story of opportunities lost, at least three times over.

 

Purlingbrook Falls adjacent to the rainforest purchased under ROSS in 1994 – G. Edwards

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Review Status: Pending

Trends in parks and recreation in Australia – as perceived in 1994

This narrative has been edited from a draft written for an international audience in October 1994 by Peter Nicholls, Trustee of the AIPR Trust Fund-Education. Many of the trends are highly operative in the early 2020s.

The impact of change

Alvin Toffler, in his book The Third Wave suggested that the world is going through a “Third Wave” of development. The first wave was the agrarian revolution which took thousands of years, the second wave was the Industrial Revolution, which took about 100 years, and the third wave is a sort of ‘Information Technology’ revolution which is changing the face of the world in just a few short decades. This is creating a huge impact on management in all sectors, including parks and recreation. Not only must managers cope with change but with an accelerating rate of change.

It is in this frame that we need to assess the trends affecting parks and recreation in Australia. Much of Australia’s parks and recreation management is delivered within the public sector and we have to accept that governments have rarely been proactive at dealing with change. This inherent conservatism justifies grave fundamental concern about the future of parks and recreation management in this country (and elsewhere in the world). Governments need to fundamentally review how they can effectively rise to the challenges of a world of rapid change.

An aspect requiring carefully assessment is the role of the private sector in parks and recreation and the scope for increasing public and private sector partnership. I shall discuss this further, later in the narrative.

Major trends

What are the major trends affecting the future of parks and recreation management in Australia? I suggest that they include the following:

  • the substantially reduced availability of funds for public sector activities and the impact which this is having on the need for greater efficiency in the delivery of parks and recreation;
  • a trend towards greater centralisation of control over available government funding;
  • increasing concern about the health of the natural environment; and
  • an expanding role for the private sector in the provision of recreation opportunities, either in its own right or in partnership with the public sector.

Whether these trends will continue relates less to the level of available funding and more to the extent to which these practices meet the challenge of rapid change. We are only now beginning to recognise the enormity of the challenge in coping with changing circumstances (internal and external).

Funding

Although the most recent period of economic recession is now [1994] behind us, it has had a strong influence on funding allocated for parks and recreation. The current trend is to substantially reduce government sector spending, in favour of encouraging free enterprise in the private sector. Whether or not this trend will continue is difficult to say as there is evidence within the currently centrist [Keating Labor] national government (known as the Commonwealth Government of Australia) of a swing back to increased public sector spending. Given that under the Australian Constitution the national government has little direct responsibility for parks and recreation – these being reserved to the states and, by delegation from them, to local governments – this trend is not yet benefiting our profession. Note however my comments later on the greater centralisation in government controls.

The need for visions, missions, goals

The terms in this heading are clichés which have been bandied around by management consultants for a long time. The pity of it is that we have yet to realise how important it is to settle them if we are to progress through this era of rapid change.

Procedures come and go in times of change. The greater hope of stability lies in definitions of what we want to achieve. A simple example (to explain but not to achieve) is a vision of ‘wanting equal opportunities for all people to have access to the recreation opportunities of their choice’. The aim is clear and no amount of rapid change will alter that ideal. What will alter is the procedures and resources for achieving that aim. We need to identify our visions and agree to stick to them. With our visions clear, we can then put change to our advantage in our efforts to achieve our visions.

The future of our heritage

Why speak of heritage in a paper on future trends, particularly a future which is subject to turbulent changes? It is important to remember that our world has been built on our heritage. Whatever the world of the 21st century might produce, to be reminded of the heritage on which it is based will aid stability.

The word ‘heritage’ has some political status in Australia (notably by national and state government in the context of regulatory protection of assets) but the power it wields is more one of accommodating political forces than any real sense of pride in and protection of the physical assets and social influences on which the modern world has been built. Relevant to parks and recreation, there is little doubt that Australia’s international image is built very much on its natural heritage of wild places, beaches, flora and fauna. We speak of world heritage lists of places in Australia – unique natural areas – which need to be protected. Yet we are obliged to continually combat the economic mindset which views all areas as fair game for mining and logging.

Clearly a basic task of the parks and recreation profession is to ensure that all Australians have adequate and accessible opportunities to appreciate their country’s natural heritage. Ecotourism is beginning to be accepted as one of the great ways of attracting tourists to Australia. But also we appreciate the need to preserve those attractions in the face of the disturbance that tourism development brings to those natural areas.

On the urban and near-urban scene, one positive trend is the increasing awareness of the need to preserve creeks, rivers and streams as greenways. People are keen to see linear parks and nature corridors, either just to allow them to enjoy nature or as a means of travelling from one place to another (e.g. from home to the shops or school). Walkways, cycleways and (rural) horseriding paths are booming and it is likely that this trend will continue.

National programs

As mentioned earlier, there is little national political interest in parks and recreation other than during periodic controversies about the effects of particular development proposals on the natural environment; and periodic complaints by the environmental movement about underfunding of park management.

The fact is that the professional interests of parks and recreation managers and those of the national politicians are still far apart. However, if and when our national government decides to take seriously the fact that we are heading for an environmental disaster, their interests and those of parks and recreation management are much more likely to converge.

Centralisation

There is in Australia a trend towards greater centralisation of control over public funding. The national government has been the sole collector of income tax in Australia since the Second World War. Traditionally the national government has given large untied grants to state and local governments. In recent years such funds have been greatly reduced and that which is granted is increasingly subjected to conditions of use – ‘tied grants’. [The introduction of a goods and services tax in 2000 significantly increased the flow-on payments to states, but the author’s point about predilection for tied grants remains valid].

Given that the national government has little responsibility for parks and recreation issues (except in the Territories), this trend to greater fiscal centralisation is likely to increasingly add to the woes of parks and recreation professionals at the state and local government level as they seek to gain the funds vital to the needs of their work.

The Role of The Private Sector

The era of ‘economic rationalism’ [Australian term for neoliberal economic policy, dating from 1983] has brought extensive outsourcing of parks and recreation operations, but less thoughtful attention to how private enterprise and the visions of the parks and recreation professional can mutually benefit. There is an inherent tension between the need for private firms to extract a short-term profit and the long-term ideals of the public sector, which chronically lacks the resources needed to bring those ideals to reality. Successful mutual partnerships are known. The professional associations offer a major avenue for strengthening these partnerships.

In local government, where the bulk of public sector expenditure on parks and recreation occurs, the contemporary squeeze on public funding is resulting in a growth of the practice of compulsory competitive tendering for parks and recreation services. It is interesting to hear that while this practice is now well-established in Great Britain, there is growing evidence that it is not working and the policy pendulum may swing back (but to what?).

Already widespread in Australia is the practice of contracting services out to private firms, both in maintaining parks and gardens and in the management of recreation facilities. Contracting out saves the council much in the highly expensive areas of staffing and capital machinery. Indeed, there are examples in private enterprise where the major part of the work has been contracted out, leaving only those people who have the expertise which is unique to the organisation.

The management of leisure centres (wet and dry) is heavily swinging towards the private sector as councils see the benefits of being seen to provide a service to the community at a much reduced cost to the ratepayer. The community is generally accepting except there are those who are still concerned that social justice principles may be ignored in favour of the user-pays principles. Rather than talking of ‘user pays’, we need to be asking ‘who pays?’ This line of questioning opens all the options available along the continuum from total funding through rates and taxes (rare these days) to various proportions of public and private sharing of the costs (of which the user is only one of many possible funding sources).

Parks and recreation organisations In Australia

There is a need for a new form of communication between politicians and parks and recreation professionals and for improved decision-making procedures which are more responsive to the issues which are rapidly emerging in the field.

At present a plethora of professional associations cover the provision and maintenance of parks and recreation assets and services. None can claim to be influential in the affairs of public administration. These associations should consider consolidation as they face the challenge of remaining viable while having a small member base in contrast to the sophisticated mass marketing of private enterprise upon which these organisations depend for sponsorship.

The Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation took the lead and set up a process through which the many related associations in Australia could meet and discuss the potential mutual benefits of establishing a new major organisation along the lines of the British Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management and the American National Recreation and Parks Association.

The new organisation Parks and Leisure Australia has the potential to influence the above-mentioned trends – reduced public sector funding, expanding role of parks and recreation in improving the health of the natural environment, and strengthening the links between the public and private sectors.

Conclusion

It seems that pendulums of societal change are swinging ever more rapidly. Professionals and practitioners in the parks and recreation sector need a clear understanding of the visions they should be pursuing and be prepared to effectively use whatever trends present themselves in the cause of turning those visions into reality.

Review Status: Pending

Healthy Spaces and Places

Healthy Spaces and Places is a web-based national guide for planning, designing and creating sustainable communities that encourage healthy living.

Foremost it is for planners, as they can help tackle some of Australia’s major preventable health issues by planning places where it is easier and more desirable for more Australians to be active – walking, cycling and using public transport – every day.

But it’s also for everyone who can make a difference to the overall health and well-being of Australians – design professionals, health professionals, the property development industry, governments and the community.

Healthy Spaces and Places supports and complements planning and design initiatives throughout Australia.  It is a single source of easy-to-find, practical information from experts in health, planning, urban design, community safety and transport planning.

This website includes:

Planning for healthier outcomes can be applied to all parts of Australia. It is just as applicable in metropolitan areas as it is in regional cities, towns, villages and remote communities.

For an overview, download Healthy Spaces and Places: a national guide to designing places for healthy living.

The material provided within Healthy Spaces and Places focuses on how to create environments that support physical activity but does not provide in-depth information on nutrition, food security and noise and air pollution.

Healthy Spaces and Places website re-established on PaRC

The Healthy Spaces and Places website is re-established here. The material was previously hosted on a dedicated website www.healthyplaces.org.au, but this has since closed down. (It was however snapshotted by the National Library in 2011).

Note 1: References in the website to Adobe Flash Player are obsolete as this program has been withdrawn by Adobe. Please replace with your own image viewer.

Note 2: The Healthy Places website is a stand-alone module and not merged into the Narratives webcode. Consequently the standard search function on the website does not search these pages.

Acknowledgements

This resource was developed by a collaborative team comprising the Australian Local Government Association, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the Planning Institute of Australia and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. For more information about the people involved in the project please see Acknowledgements.

For an explanatory article written at the time, see Anne Moroney (2009). “Healthy spaces and places: A national guide to designing places for active living”. Australian Planner, 46:2, 11-15, DOI: 10.1080/07293682.2009.9995303

Material provided on this website can be used freely but please acknowledge Healthy Spaces and Places as the source.

Review Status: Pending

History of parks and recreation in Australia

This narrative has been lightly edited from a draft written in 1994 by the late Frank Keenan, a co-Founder of the AIPR Trust Fund-Education. It has aged well.

Introduction

Initial development of the parks and gardens of Australia and the recreation movement was dominated by two major influences. Firstly the British heritage of the original settlers led to the desire that the new colonies would contain those elements of their home country which they most cherished. Prominent among these was their gardens, both private and public, which were the result of the interest in horticulture at all levels of government and the society generally. Thus Australia inherited the skills of the excellently-trained horticultural artisans and garden planners in the same manner as the other British colonies in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So the traditional English landscape including its associated plant species became an integral part of the towns and cities. The environment of the urban areas of Australia has been widely characterised by the contrast between the surrounding countryside and the parks, gardens and street trees of the towns and cities.

Secondly has been the development of recreation. Unlike horticulture, in which the government and community bodies set aside land for public parks and gardens, assisted in the development of these areas and helped finance the procurement of plants, the recreation groups were established by voluntary workers from within the community. In the early years the government assistance was limited to actions ensuring the survival of the colony. Then followed the development of the essential services for community life. Consequently, people themselves using the pioneering spirit common to the early settlers established their own leisure activities, using land, water and any other resources that were available.

 

Evolution of horticultural styles

With few exceptions the native flora is evergreen with a high percentage of eucalyptus and offering a landscape completely different from that introduced by the British colonists. The first towns of Sydney and Hobart were developed as penal settlements and since their administrators came from military and seafaring backgrounds, they had little knowledge of conservation and horticulture and it was not until the arrival of the first settlers that there was any substantial movement in establishing parks and gardens. Thus as the early surveyors developed the town plans, areas were set aside for public open space and the new settlers began building their new environment using the ingredients dear to their heart. Thus, today in our earliest-developed localities, the prevailing trees are deciduous types which, with the aid of irrigation and the absence of natural predators, have flourished. However by the beginning of the second half of the 20th century many changes to this pattern had evolved. Australians have now begun to understand and treasure their indigenous plants resulting in firstly, conservation measures being taken to ensure the protection of native flora and secondly, the use of these native plants as part of their horticultural planning in new developments. This philosophy is now being put into practice by the introduction of tertiary education in such fields as town planning and landscape architecture, together with Australia-wide training in associated crafts such as apprenticeship schemes.

 

Recreation

The development of people’s leisure time activities in the early years was entirely dependent on their own motivation. Those open spaces being provided by government were preserved for environmental and aesthetic purposes with recreation limited to such things as walking, socialising over refreshments in the tea house and listening to the local brass band. All forms of sporting activity were forbidden in such places. Thus as the colonists formed their sporting groups and similar leisure-time community organisations, they either used private land and buildings or lobbied the government, including local authorities, for permission to reserve Crown land for community purposes. It was not until the early twentieth century that financial assistance began to be made available to assist in the development of playing fields and associated buildings. Because these recreation grounds were developed by sporting administrators with little knowledge of landscape design, and without finance to seek outside assistance, these sporting areas contributed little to the community environment. It is only from about the late 1960s that planning controls have been exercised and sports fields have become elements of town plans, complete with landscaping standards and maintenance programs.

The work of organising these sporting groups was performed by members of the public in their own time and at their own expense. This pattern of volunteer organisation in all forms of sport involving every age group has now developed with possibly the leading example of volunteer community action in the western world. As the facilities became more sophisticated and sporting bodies more competitive, the spirit of the original pioneers became the driving force that propelled Australia into world prominence in sporting spheres. Again this movement has been greatly assisted by the accepted practice by which leading sportsmen and women, after standing down from active participation, returned to their clubs as coaches and administrators, thus providing a role model for the younger generation to follow and to ensure that national standards were maintained.

In those cultural fields associated with community leisure, the pattern of volunteers ‘participation was similar to those of sporting activities. However the heritage of the early British settlers ensured that their traditions were followed: a new land with more affluent residents becoming financial patrons of the arts. With this background, successful organisations were established in both the performing and the graphic arts. However as in other western societies, higher taxation on private families saw bodies struggling to exist and in 1968, the federal government established the Australian Council for the Arts. This meant that for the first time in the country, government accepted the responsibility of organising and heavily subsidising the arts movement. These actions also ensured that the artists themselves were given every opportunity of earning a reasonable salary including their employment as teachers and coaches.

 

Parks management

In the latter part of the twentieth century, the management of parks and recreation systems has undergone considerable changes. Traditionally the administration of urban public open spaces has been vested in local government. The greater proportion of this land is publicly owned, classified as Crown land with the ultimate control of its use resting with the appropriate state government minister. The local council is commonly nominated as the trustee to manage the land; however in specific cases independent trusts who bypass the council but are still responsible to the minister have been established.

Until recently councils were comparatively small structures with the Town Clerk or the Chief Executive Officer being the General Manager and the City Engineer being responsible for the outdoor activities. This work covered the parks, gardens and open spaces and to assist him the council employed a superintendent of parks and gardens, who performed the role of the city gardener under the British concept of that period. It was only in the state capital cities that the parks departments were operated as autonomous bodies with the chief officer answerable to the council.

Today [~1994] these routines are in the process of change. In several states, including those of the eastern seaboard in which the greater proportion of the population resides, local government is being reorganised. The smaller councils in New South Wales have been amalgamated into much larger bodies and in Victoria a similar exercise is taking place. These moves will have obvious effects on parks and gardens management and staffing arrangements.

Two other changes in the higher echelon of council employment are also having an influence in this field. Firstly is the emergence of the town planner as a major force in the development of new areas and reconstruction of the older cities. This person is now taking over the planning of the open spaces and employing landscape architects, formerly working with the parks and gardens sections. Likewise has been the emergence of the municipal recreation officer. This particular move has seen a change in the city gardener philosophy with a parks and gardens responsibility being limited to maintenance. Today the Australian tradition of reliance of volunteers in organising its leisure activities is now being boosted by the employment of professionally trained staff.

Another change affecting local government is the move to privatise the staff in the construction and maintenance of parks and gardens. Currently [1994] council officers are undergoing educational training to ensure that new policy can be effectively implemented.

Other forms of open space used for specific purposes including zoological gardens, foreshores and cemeteries are not usually operated by councils. As these community facilities were developed in the pioneering days when local government was in its infancy, state governments accepted the responsibility and commonly established independent trusts consisting of leading members of the community, together with those having the necessary professional and technical skills. Such bodies were directly responsible to the minister and many are still in existence today.

There is also a limited number of privately-owned parks, notably golf courses, racing tracks and sports stadiums, usually managed by private recreation clubs. In the main, these bodies have purchased their own land, although in a number of instances Crown land has been made available under controlled conditions.

Finally, in the latter part of the twentieth century, there has been a marked increase in tourist resorts ranging from those centred around the sea and sunshine, to specific theme parks and those built around recreation features with the emphasis on golf courses, many of which are of international championship standard. There is little doubt that these type of recreation facilities will increase as the tourist industry in Australia increases in order to meet the demands of the nearby Asian countries, Japan in particular.

 

Role of the Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation (now Parks and Leisure Australia)

The original moves to co-ordinate the horticultural industry in Australia date from the early days of colonisation. It was then that the first horticultural societies were formed, but it was not until 1926 that the managers of public open spaces met to establish their own group. This new body originally named the Victorian Tree Planters Association, was to set up in that State, its foundation members being a mix of politicians, nurseryman and curators of parks, gardens and street plantations. The Association became the Victorian Institute of Parks Administration in 1955. In 1962 it expanded nationally as the Australian Institute of Park Administration, and in 1965, it was reconstituted to become the Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation. In 1977 it was granted the royal charter to become the Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation (RAIPR).

During the latter part of the nineteenth century the planning concept of the ‘garden city’ was introduced to Australia after successful ventures in the United Kingdom. A suburb of Melbourne developed according to garden city principles between 1926 and 1948 still carries that name. Town planners adapted to this movement by specifying the quarter-acre allotment for each individual home and the average Australian used most of this land to develop the house garden. Thus the urban areas of residential use virtually became one large garden in which houses were erected, and the effect has been very satisfactory, particularly amongst the more prosperous and house-proud residents. Thus it was not surprising that in 1975 the State Government promoted Victoria as the Garden State and appointed a Garden State Committee as an advisory body to ensure the development of this character. The most tangible evidence of this action was the words on all motor vehicles registration plates, Victoria Garden State.

In all of these initiatives the Institute has been involved. In its early years, it led by example in organising tree planting schemes bordering major highways, and arboreta in which to conduct tree trials. Further, its annual conferences have had a major influence in the interaction between politicians and park managers.

The Institute was the first group in the nation to recognise the public recreation movement, in 1965, at least six years before all levels of government introduced ministries and departments of recreation and leisure activities. It modified its constitution and changed its name. As such it ensured compatibility between the old and its new disciples operating in the same field, and was well equipped to be represented in those advisory bodies established by both the federal Government and the state authorities.

 

Review Status: Pending