Dreams of fields

Girls playing football at the North Turramurra Recreation Area, a synthetic field
Girls playing football at the North Turramurra Recreation Area, a synthetic field
Jenny Barlass

Both Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Councils are falling short of having enough sports grounds, leaving kids and sports clubs with nowhere to go and existing fields overused.

But both Councils and local MPs are working hard to turn this around.

A report last month by the Northern Sydney Region Organisation of Councils (NSROC) found that Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby, Ryde, Willoughby and Lane Cove local government areas all fell short when it comes to sports facilities.

It concluded we need 78 extra sports fields by 2026 to meet demand, and 120 by 2036 if the predicted population surge of 200,000 people becomes a reality.

While Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said local facilities were the responsibility of local councils, Ku-ring-gai MP Alister Henskens said it wasn’t always about throwing money at the problem.

“This report is a wake-up call that we cannot be complacent about sporting facilities,” he said. “It also shows that we need to be smart about the way we provide facilities for the future.

“To produce as many fields as the report suggests would cost a fortune – the standard football field probably costs around $10m to buy with North Shore land values. It’s about making better use of what we have rather than starting again and building lots of new fields when space is at a premium.”

He cites the example of the Normal Griffiths Oval in West Pymble which he helped remediate. “It’s low lying and very soggy in winter and a dust bowl in summer. No-one could use it for practice during the week so that it was in good shape for weekend games.

“For an investment of $1m funded by the state government and Ku-ring-gai Council, you get three times the use of the oval. They are now in the planning stages of resurfacing it with synthetic turf as well as new drainage and better flood lights.”

The MP supported West Pymble Football Club’s successful application for a $500,000 Infrastructure Grant and the Club’s successful application to the Minister for Sport for an Asian Cup Legacy Fund Grant of $150,000, both for resurfacing works.

The MP has also become a matchmaker, connecting groups in need with organisations with underused facilities. “When I was at Normanhurst Boys High the Principal told me a high percentage of the boys love basketball and that they need more indoor sports facilities.

“I also recently met with Hornsby Spiders basketball team. So I put the two together and they’re now applying for Department of Education grants for courts they can both use at the school – the boys during school hours and the Spiders after hours.

“As an MP I can bring together people to find solutions together. It’s about creative thinking to solve problems to deliver better sporting infrastructure.”

Similarly at St Ives High he has encouraged stakeholders to get together and facilitated the much-needed new gym, funded in partnership with Ku-ring-gai Council and the Education Department.

He’s also suggesting night lighting on fields tucked away from residential areas, that with sensitively placed lighting would be idea for night time games, extending their usability.

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