A reflection by Chris Trueman
Lord Howe Island was one of the earliest Australian natural places listed as a World Heritage Site – in 1982 just after the Great Barrier Reef. If you’ve never visited, put it on your bucket list. I’ve just returned from my 4th visit! They prioritise environment over development on Lord Howe Island. It’s a tiny island – about 10km long by 1km wide and less that 20% is for living purposes for the 400 permanent residents and the 400 visitors allowed at any one time. The rest is protected park or adjacent bushland. There are very few cars, speed limit is 25km/hr and most journeys are by bike or foot.
A “great place to be” – almost nirvana!
Are there some lessons for us who are destined to live out our lives in cities and suburbia?
There’s lots of evidence that walking and cycling is good for our health refer:Active Transport News Oct. 2022. It’s certainly good for the environment because every km walked or cycled is generally replacing a carbon-fuelled km. And it’s good for our local living environments when we can reclaim the streets for use by people rather than cars.
Let’s all agitate state and local governments to help make our streets “a great place to be” too, Don’t just leave it to the so-called ‘advocates’ – your views matter to those in power because you elect them!
But that’s not the end of this little story.
Many will have been subjected to the inconvenience of air travel with lost luggage or cancelled flights. On my way back to Melbourne I was too, and was stranded at Sydney airport for an afternoon. Fortunately a quick look at good old Google Maps showed that a walk of only a km or so led to a big park I’d never visited – Sydney Park.
There are wetlands crowded with birds – it’s a major street drainage water purification project to protect the water’s headed for Botany Bay, and also to water the extensive native bush planting on the several hills and along the many walking paths. There is a major share walking/bike route through the park too. But it’s the big brick chimneys along the western boundary that are the give-way. They are a historic reminder left over from the Hoffman kilns that made bricks to build Sydney town in years past. The park was in fact a quarry which has been refilled as a tip, and even heaped up into hills, and now revegetated to make it “a great place to be”.
We have a superb example of such a transformation here in Whitehorse at Yarran Dheran. I can remember it as a terrible tip site. I often visit there today to see if I can catch a glimpse of the platypus that are claimed to inhabit the Mullum Mullum Creek there.
But we also have another site far more similar to Sydney Park. The Federation Brickworks site has been filled and is just waiting for Whitehorse Council (and possibly the State Government) to show the kind of vision expressed in the Councils Vision 2040 statement and make that another “great place to be”.
It will need vision to deal with the historic brickworks like they have in Sydney or as has been done with Melbourne’s Hoffman kilns in Brunswick where there are smart apartments built inside the old kilns (read: Live inside a kiln). In Europe they repurpose buildings like these into museums, galleries, restaurants, and vibrant office spaces and similar visionary places.
Can’t you just imagine a fabulous botanic park, arts and cafe precinct here to make a truly “great place to be” in Box Hill?
What’s not needed is the “classic example of ‘demolition by neglect’, (where) two important heritage buildings on the Hoffman’s Brickworks site in Brunswick have been lost because the developer allowed them to decay to the point where they became unsafe” (Royal Historic Society of Victoria).
We can do better than that in Whitehorse!
Sydney Park also has wonderful areas specifically for a children’s playground and also a youngsters cycling track.
Plus it has a design-award-winning skate park that would terrify most parents, and totally delight most teenagers! There were hundreds of young people there having a total ball.
But…it was sobering to walk a hundred metres further – to the well curated Alan Davidson oval and pavilion. This equally expensive facility for occasional formal sport use had about 30 people enjoying the wide acres – 2 teams of 11 plus half a dozen onlookers.
It made me wonder about whether the Whitehorse Council plan to build yet another formal sports ground and pavilion at Davey Lane was a good idea.
Wouldn’t a visionary award-winning skate park and children’s cycle track make Davey lane a truly “great place to be?