Governments get creative in the search for more green space

Reclaiming golf courses is just one way governments can “creatively” increase green space in densifying suburbs, after NSW decided half of Sydney’s Moore Park Golf Course will be turned into community space once the lease lapses in 2026.

Billie Giles-Corti, emeritus professor at RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research in Melbourne, said the “critical decision” to create more green space for residents was something all levels of government should pursue.

“We need to have green space available for people who live in an apartment because they don’t have private space,” she said.

“This is a good compromise because there will still be nine holes available for keen golfers to play, but at the same time there is space available for a growing urban population.”

About 33,000 people live in the area around Moore Park, but the City of Sydney estimates that will increase to 80,000 people by 2040.

The NSW government said it had no plans to tear up other golf courses. But with green space increasingly difficult to find in urban centres, Giles-Corti said individuals and government “need to get creative” to ensure people had access to what they needed.

“We have a lot of space dedicated to cars and if we’re going to densify our cities, particularly when it’s located near shops, services and public transport, hopefully that will decrease the need for people to have as many vehicles,” she said.

“That means we could potentially repurpose that space and create parklets by repurposing roads.”

Finding green space

The decision to turn 50 per cent of the Moore Park Golf Course into new green space isn’t the first attempt to reclaim a golf course.

In Melbourne, residents in the inner-northern suburb of Northcote tried to do the same, after using the course as public open space during COVID lockdowns.

Justin Simon, from housing advocacy group YIMBY Sydney, backed the Moore Park decision and other attempts to reclaim previously inaccessible areas for public use.

“The government would have to spend billions of dollars to create new green space of that size by buying people’s houses,” he said.

“I think it is quite an attractive option to solve that problem.”

He said he anticipated vigorous opposition to the plans from “a certain subset of the community”.

Damien De Bohun, general manager of facilities and places to play at Golf Australia, said 166,000 Australians would be considered physically inactive without the game of golf.

“Golf is booming, with 3.3 million Australians playing the game, 2.2 million of who play golf on courses like Moore Park,” he said.

“It is just so important to the health of the game that public facilities thrive.”

Multiple benefits

Giles-Corti said there were many benefits to green space being available to people.

“If we want people to be healthy, we need to encourage them to be as physically active as possible,” she said.

“There are also benefits for mental health. There’s benefits for children and it’s also important for social interaction.”

She said aside from publicly-owned golf courses, governments could reclaim land by creating strong public infrastructure and walkable cities.

Australia is expected to reach 35.9 million people by 2050 and, with most of the country’s population located in urban capitals, green space will increasingly be difficult to find.

Giles-Corti said state governments and individuals had to ensure green space was accessible and usable for people.

“As a community, we need to think not so selfishly about everything, like how do we better use facilities in our neighbourhood that can benefit more people,” she said.

“People complain about densification when they live in amenity-rich areas, but we can’t continue just to send people out on the fringe of our cities.”

Topics: NSW
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