Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Bill 2017

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak briefly on the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Bill 2017 because I really understand the absolute importance of open space and recreational space in our area. This bill will have a positive effect not just on the Glen Eira municipality and the Glen Eira community, but those in Stonnington, Monash, Port Phillip and surrounding areas.

As the previous speaker rightly pointed out, Glen Eira has the lowest amount of public space per person and Stonnington, where I was a member of council for two years, has the second lowest. Certainly I am sure Glen Eira would have done this and Stonnington did this as well — that is, put a very strong emphasis on, and in fact I think it was the top priority when I was on the Stonnington council, creating new open space, whether through public acquisition overlays, a public space plan or lobbying to get developer contributions increased for open space, which they were successful in doing. The real issue in our areas is that unfortunately land is very expensive and there is just not that much available to purchase, so it is a real challenge in those municipalities to increase the amount of open space, which is absolutely fundamental to the liveability of those areas.

There is also real pressure being put on our sporting facilities. As our population is growing, particularly in the inner city, as more and more families are living in those areas, there is incredible pressure on our sporting grounds. Particularly with the growth of women's sport and women's football, it is a real struggle. Again when I cast my eye across Google Maps, looking at where perhaps we could put in another footy ground or another soccer pitch, it is very slim pickings indeed. That is why I think this bill is so terrific, and the work that the Glen Eira community have done — the advocacy that they have done to make this a reality — deserves to be recognised and is so important.

This bill will allow the reserve to return to the tri-purposes of functioning as not just a racecourse but as a public park and a public recreation ground, with equal weight given to each. This is a very large tract of land, unique in our city, that can now be used for public recreation. It has been known for a very long time as a racetrack, but it is now time to establish this reserve as a premier recreational facility in Melbourne's south-east.

One thing I will pick up on — just a very small, minor fact — is it is a bit disappointing that the opportunity has not been taken to change the name of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve to something that better reflects the actual purposes of its use. Perhaps something like the 'Caulfield Racecourse and Recreation Reserve' would have been more appropriate. This bill will allow areas to be defined for each of the purposes for which the land is now permanently reserved, and it will be an absolute prime opportunity to redefine the reserve as more than a racecourse. I think a new name would have been a real symbolic gesture to hand this land back to the community.

Some concerns have been documented about how the racecourse has been managed, about the disproportionate focus on the racing aspects of the reserve and how the public park and recreation elements have been neglected. In recalling the discussions I have had with people, there have been issues with signage and access to the public park lands, and facilities have really not adequately met the wishes of the community and what they want to see for that land. So with the establishment of a new independent body of management, with the powers and the duties to manage this reserve, I certainly hope this new approach will alleviate the current tensions we are seeing between the government, the council and the Melbourne Racing Club, as well as removing any potential conflicts of interest.

Certainly I would be encouraging the new management body to undertake comprehensive community engagement to make sure and ascertain what the current uses and the failings are, and to develop that plan to make this reserve a really key recreational facility in the south-east, because this reserve, as many members of the community know, and as many members of the community have worked for, can be so much more than just a racetrack. The Greens will be supporting this bill.