Northern Beaches Council continue with synthetic project and strategy


Last night Northern Beaches Council rejected a motion to pause the roll out of the future instillation of synthetic sports fields until after the NSW Government released a recently commissioned report.


The delivery of multi-purpose synthetic fields is an important part of the Northern Beaches Council and MWFA strategy to arrest the continuing issue around a shortage of sports fields.


The Councilor’s overwhelmingly voted against the motion and continue with the synthetic strategy and projects with Council staff continuing to consider reasonable and balanced measures to minimise any environmental risk.


It was made clear that this motion, even though it ultimately was not adopted, did not include already planned and announced fields at Millers Reserve and Careel Bay, as well as the renewal of the existing surfaces at Lionel Watts, Cromer Park, Melwood and Narrabeen Sports High School.


While discussing the issue, a number of the Councilor’s also spoke glowingly about the work our clubs and their volunteers do to get 20,000 people playing organised sport each weekend and their responsibility to make sure we continue to have sports fields to train, play and connect as communities.


Below is what MWFA CEO David Mason read to the Council Meeting last night:


Thank You Mayor Regan and Councilors.


My name is David Mason and I am the CEO of the Manly Warringah Football Association and Manly United Football Club.


I respectfully speak today in relation to Motion 15.8 (Pause on synthetic sports fields) and do so representing 20,000 football players on the Northern Beaches.


This year our playing numbers have grown by 1000 residents. One year’s growth


Our 20,000 players come from a perfect cross section of the Northern Beaches population. People aged from 5 to 71, men and women, all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Staying active and connected through sport.


Three years ago the Northern Beaches Council released its Sports Ground strategy, which highlighted a significant undersupply of sporting fields. It talked about helping us be “more active more often!


I read one paragraph from its executive summary:


Council has gathered the evidence, sought the advice of independent experts and conducted a broad community engagement program to seek the view of all Northern Beaches residents.


Back in 2017 we had 17,648 players and Council declared we were 14 fields short of acceptable levels. Today we have 19,708 players. That’s an 11.7% jump and equates to the need for 7 MORE fields.


The equation is going backwards and we’re not the only sport growing.


Synthetic surfaces were a crucial – and statistically popular – part of the Sports Grounds strategy and since 2017 we have seen 3 new synthetic surfaces – at Lionel Watts and Cromer Park 2.


They have been wonderful additions to the broader communities across different sports and activities. These surfaces have been remarkably well received by the 20,000 local football players. The only discussions we hear about synthetic fields is from clubs and players who complain they don’t have one.


Just last Sunday they allowed 550 local players (men and women) to play matches amidst one of the heaviest rain events we have experienced.


The criticism and feedback we do get, and it is consistent throughout the whole Northern Beaches – all 17 clubs – is a growing lack of sports fields.


The motion before Council tonight would challenge our collective ability to offer residents a place to exercise and come together as a community on the weekend to play grassroots sport. Essentially, we could get to a position where we would have to cap player numbers and stop people from playing.


That would be a huge step backwards as community sport is an important part of the Northern Beaches way of life. The Northern Beaches Council website uses terms like busy sports fields, active lifestyles and great services and infrastructure.


While all of this paints the current picture, Importantly, there is a responsibility, and possibility, to work together to integrate the needs of all residents in the future.


Technology and key learnings offer improvements to the way synthetic surfaces are constructed and Council staff are in tune with this.


Using cork instead of rubber has already been used in two new synthetic sportsfields by Ryde Council. Through my dialogue with Senior Council staff I am aware that they have visited these fields and investigated this option.


The latest synthetic fields also incorporate filters to minimize the risk of particles leaving the fields, water is captured and recycled to irrigate surrounding areas. Just some examples of the positive environmental impact synthetic surfaces can have. No mowers. No pesticides. No chemicals to bring grass surfaces back to life after they are trashed all winter. Not to mention a far greater use of the sports field spaces we have available.


Football – as with other sports – has a Heat Policy which dictate matches should stop when the temperature reaches a certain point. As winter users, this rarely, if ever, comes into play.


I respectfully suggest that the next step isn’t to pause the roll out of synthetic surfaces until a State Government report is commissioned and released. I believe the reasonable questions and points raised in this motion can and should be addressed by incorporating the available developments and risk management processes into the design and construction of these sportsfields.


That would, after all, be in line with Councils stated Vision and Values, which I quote directly from the Council website:


We are – Safe, inclusive and connected, our community lives in balance with our extraordinary environment and with each other.


Because, ultimately, we all need to live together


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