A majority of Wollongong councillors have voted to instigate the rezoning of five public parks to make way for their possible future sale, despite vehement community opposition to the plan.
Staff had recommended councillors begin the process for rezoning of blocks in Corrimal, Dapto, Bulli, Bellambi and Mount Ousley to make way for their future sales and housing developments.
The blocks, located in suburban streets, were given to the council as “public garden and recreation space” in the 1950s and 60s.
However, council staff said they were now considered “surplus” land which are “largely unused by the general public”, and could be used to generate income of about $3.5 million.
For instance, at Range Place in Bulli, a 1682sqm block given to the council in 1962 could be divided into two lots and auctioned, a report to councillors said.
And 26 Park Road, in Bellambi, the council proposed to sell a flood prone park created in 1956 by classifying it as operational land.
Blocks at 18 Stanbrook Avenue, Mount Ousley, Baringa Place in Dapto and Bloomfield Avenue Park in Corrimal were also highlighted in the council report.
The proposal proved unpopular with Mercury readers, with hundreds taking to social media to slam the council for considering the removal of public space.
A number of other readers raised concerns about the increasing housing density in many Wollongong suburbs.
“God forbid we leave some green spaces for kids to play on,” Leo Stanners wrote.
“With everywhere slowly being bought up and turned into units, these green spaces will become more important.”
In contrast to the council’s assessment, Jen Whyte said the Park Road block was well used by surrounding residents.
“Every afternoon there is a large group of kids playing on bikes, with footballs… any of these kids come from units and townhouses on the street with no or little yards,” she said.
Noting community concerns, Greens councillors Mithra Cox and Cath Blakey voted against the move to rezone the parks.
However others noted their support and said the community would get a chance to have their say over the decision in the future.
With councillors’ approval, staff will now prepare a draft planning proposal to be forwarded to NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
It will then go out on public exhibition for 28 days with a public hearing to be held during that time.
Councillors will then have another chance to review the plan to reclassify the land and will determine whether the land is to be sold.