Returning to the reserve

Returning to the reserve
A small section of the Lakes Entrance community has had a win.
Residents of Bronsdon Street, Grandview Road, Periwinkle Drive and Hardie Street are celebrating East Gippsland Shire’s decision to reinstate a parcel of land in Hardie Street as a reserve.
The land – 21 Hardie Street – in February was deemed surplus to council’s existing green spaces and was among seven pieces of land put to tender for land sale.
However, after receiving backlash about the decision and hearing the plight of the directly affected residents, Lakes Entrance-based councilor, Dick Ellis, put forward a motion of rescission at last week’s council meeting to remove to land from the list of sale and return it a reserve.
The land was originally handed to the Shire of Tambo in 1988 as a reserve before East Gippsland Shire revoked the reserve status in 2005.
Cr Ellis said the land is used by nearby residents to exercise pets and allow children to play, among other recreation activities.
Some of the adjoining properties have back gates to access the reserve.
“The surrounding property owners have raised community concerns regarding the sale of the property,” Cr Ellis said. 
“The community concerns were brought to council’s attention in July 2020, when a document containing 53 names protesting to the sale of the property was presented to council which demonstrates consistent and widespread opinion which seeks council to reconsider its position.
“The community has only known the property to be a reserve for recreational purposes and have enjoyed its amenity and positioning for families of the surrounding properties to access and appreciate. The community has been of the understanding that the property has been and will always be a recreational reserve and do not wish that position to change through council selling the property.
“While I recognise that withdrawing the property from sale will have a significant impact on the opportunity to re-invest the proceeds of sale of the property into other community initiatives, reinstatement of the property to a recreational reserve will provide immense community satisfaction and enjoyment to this community for many years to come.”
Put to the vote, councillors voted 6-3 in favour of the rescission, returning the land to a reserve.
Crs Marianne Pelz and Mark Reeves sided with Cr Ellis, saying the land brings benefits to the nearby residents by remaining a reserve.
“The community has used this area as a recreational ground for many years and I think they have bought blocks in anticipation or the belief that it was going to be a play area for them,” Cr Pelz said.
“It’s respectful for council to abide by Cr Ellis’ request and change it to a parkland for the community.
“I understand there are a lot of young families in that region and it’s an area they grown up with and used as a recreational reserve and it should remain that way.”
“The benefits to wellbeing and community health are well-known around parks and open green spaces and especially for young people to have unstructured play and I think it’s really important that this process has pretty resoundingly said that the commercial value is far out-weighed by the community benefit of this property,” Cr Reeves said.
While not disagreeing with Cr Ellis, Crs Joe Rettino and Colin Toohey, in voting against the motion, said a process had been followed by council when the land was put up for sale in February and it would be a mistake to go against the original decision.
“It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good issue that Cr Ellis has brought to the table, but we have put this property through a due process,” Cr Rettino said.
“As much as we like to support an endless amount of open space across our shire, it does come with a cost. If we use a splinter approach to try and support all these parks and reserves that we have, what we do is a mediocre job of maintaining what we’ve got.”
Cr Toohey said by going against the initial February decision was letting the community decide, rather than the councillors. 
“I have head a long held view of the cost to our community of maintaining public open spaces and whilst I don’t disagree that we need public open spaces, it needs to be done in an orderly and methodical manner,” he said.
“It has been decided by people other than this current councillor group that this property should be a public reserve.”
Cr Ellis responded by questioning council’s lines of communication with the community, pointing to the belated response from the affected residents.
“The process failed us in the sense… this particular property was not identified as a recreational reserve,” he said. 
“It wasn’t until the matter was raised by members of the public and brought to my attention that we became aware, on research, that this was a property that was provided to the Shire of Tambo in the early 1980s as a recreation reserve and designated for recreational use.
“When I mixed with the members of the community in the northern part of Lakes Entrance, this was the area they took their children and recreated rather than in other areas.
“To their knowledge it was a continuing recreation reserve, they had no knowledge of the process. It of course raises the issue for us – are our lines of communication appropriate? Where would’ve those people of northern Lakes Entrance gained knowledge of the potential sale of a recreation reserve otherwise? 
“The only answer is when a ‘for sale’ sign was erected at the property.”