Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'Harmony Park' reconciles Council's past actions

With very little new open space added to the City's parkland over the past few decades it is a rare event indeed when Councillors have the opportunity t select a name for a new park. This unusual honour came to the Council over the past few months. The naming of a new park is a process that usually arouses many opinions and some debate. I think that is a healthy and appropriate thing.

In the case of the proposed park on the former Police Centre car park, Council resolved on 27 February to seek community consultation and input with six names suggested. The result of the consultation survey is available on line on this link as item 3 of the Finance Committee agenda: http://web-internal/Council/MeetingsAndCommittees/2006/Committees/310706/finance.asp

In particular I refer to clause 14 where you can see that 169 people responded to the survey and that no one name achieved an outright majority of support. The results were:
Surry Hills Park 52 responses 30.7%
Barrabarri Park 45 responses 26.6%
Harmony Park 33 responses 19.5%
Milk Park 29 responses 17%
balance 10 responses

Councillors debated the merits of the various names and I moved that we support 'Harmony Park'. Not on the basis of the proposed 'Surry Hills Park' name being boring but because I strongly believe the naming of a new public space like this is a rare opportunity to take a historical perspective and interpret it for contemporary times and future generations.

The land of the park and neighbourhood has a strong and troubled historical connection to Sydney's early Chinese community and local government actions. The area of Goulbourn Street, Poplar Street and Wentworth Avenue were home to a significant community of Chinese Sydneysiders at the turn of the 1900's. At this time the City of Sydney engaged in 'slum clearance' particularly after an outbreak of bubonic plague that was largely attributed to the 'slums' and the Chinese community by authorities of the time. This must be considered in the context of the White Australia policies of the time.

"In 1905 The Municipal Council (City of Sydney) was given power to resume properties ... One of the first to go was Wexford Street (to make way for Wentworth Avenue).. which housed large numbers of Sydney's Chinese community and in those days newspapers showed no hesitation in heaping contempt on them. Lurid stories of opium dens, gambling holes and brothels staffed by kidnapped white girls made good copy" (Pictorial History of South Sydney p64).

I feel that the name 'Harmony' that has strong Chinese resonance as well as contemporary harmonious connotations for our troubled times is an excellent historically relevant name for the new park and one that leaves a 2006 legacy for future generations to consider and interpret. It is in a sense a reconciliation for the City with the spirit of those thousands who were evicted and suffered at the hands of the Council during that time (not only the Chinese).

Some including several Councillors put the casethat we were ignoring community views as expressed in the responses to the survey. That is not the case. Councillors are elected to make decisions and in doing so consult their constituents and the community. The survey results were not clear cut and there was in fact no majority opinion. Council decisions are not popularity contests but rather the debate and weighing up of various views, evidence and reports. In this instance our staff offered one option and several alternatives as they are required to do. Council then is in an informed position to make the final decision.

Some details on Harmony park from Council's web site:

The new park will cost $3.6 million to construct – and is the first new open space in the CBD in many decades. The park is being developed on the former Energy Australia construction site and Police Centre car park, between Goulburn, Brisbane and Hunt Streets. The park will service some 5,000-plus residents and CBD workers within the surrounding district, with the emphasis on landscaped open and green space for casual activity.

The remediation of contamination is complete and clean imported fill laid across the site. The new park landscape works are well underway. Heavy rains caused some delays in early June. The in-ground water storeage tank on the corner of Brisbane and Goulburn Street has been constructed to capture, treat and store stormwater for park irrigation purposes. Stairs, retention walls and paths are now under construction. Park lights have been installed and mature trees delivered to site. Decking and paving will commence shortly. The park is due to be completed by September 2006.

Development of the 7,000 square metre site follows agreement between the City of Sydney, NSW Police and Energy Australia. The agreement has allowed Energy Australia to work on part of the land for its tunnelling and service connections into a new substation building, located between the park and the Police Centre.
The park was designed as a collaboration between Council's City Projects department and landscape architects Spackman & Mossop, and in consultation with environmental scientists and arborists.

  • Features include:
    A series of lawn terraces connected by embankments across the natural slope of the site that will provide for informal recreation;
    An upper lawn terrace that will serve as an area for people to meet and sit while enjoying views across the park;
    A palette of trees including new native, evergreen and deciduous trees as well as garden beds and lawn areas to supplement existing trees and create a strong framework to the park's open centre.
    A variety of park entry points making the area easily accessible and highly visible from adjacent streets and buildings;
    Clear park signage and disabled access;
    A north-south pedestrian pathway providing for better access through to neighbouring areas;
    An in-ground water storage tank that will collect storm water and treat and purify it for reuse in the irrigation of the park grounds.


Norman said...

Good work, Shayne. It is an excellent name for the park.

Gary said...

I am greatly looking forward to using this fantastic new space - it is looking lush and colourful!

Shayne Mallard said...

Thanks for the comment and apologies for the delay in posting - technical problem at Blogger.

Thanks guys. It's a fantastic park and I'm looking forward to the opening late rthis month.