The Wollongbar and Alstonville Skate Park Group get a skate park
The Wollongbar and Alstonville Skate Park Group get a skate park

A win against ‘militant prejudice’ as skate park approved

IT WAS a win for youth yesterday when Ballina Shire Council voted against a rescission motion to have the skate park moved from the corner of Rifle Range Rd and Plateau Dr.

Deputations were made both for and against the motion. Wollongbar and Alstonville Skate Park group (WASP) representative Bianca Urbina implored councillors to, “Foster community spirit, listen to the voices of families and young people, keep the park and vote against this motion”.

Cr Keith Johnson, Cr Paul Worth, Cr Jeff Johnson, Cr Robyn Hordern, Cr Susan Meehan and Cr Ben Smith each delivered a speech addressing the concerns raised in the motion. They emphasised the accessibility of the site as opposed to the distance and lack of access to the Wollongbar Sports Fields via a road with an 80km speed zone from Alstonville.

Cr Ben Smith gave a presentation on several examples of existing residential skate parks in NSW each within 100 metres of housing. Assurances were given to the Wollongbar Progress Association that noise attenuation would be implemented in the design features of the skate park. He also reviewed the data collected by council during the consultation phase. This data showed that the majority of Wollongbar residents surveyed are in favour of the site on the corner of Rifle Range Rd and Plateau Dr.

Ms Urbina said it was a victory for the democratic process and for our young people. The council will now proceed with design phase. This will require community involvement and when the plan is put on public display WASP will be ready to work with the community and be prepared to defend it once again.

Ms Urbina did not mince words in her deputation:

“A vote in favour of this motion condones the militant prejudice and fear that has been generated against young people and skaters,” she said.

“A vote in favour of this motion is undemocratic - extensive consultation was undertaken to assess the level of community support for the site and we stress that the majority are in favour of this site with more than half if respondents actually residing in Wollongbar.

“To vote against this motion is to uphold the democratic process, respect the decisions that have been made and the voice of families and young people. We acknowledge the recommendations submitted to council in the Desktop Noise Impact Assessment. We acknowledge that the site on the corner of Plateau Dr and Rifle Range Rd is residential and like Murwillumbah, Suffolk Park and Nimbin this park will be located within the minimum distance of 80 metres from housing. However, we support the implementation of design features that will address these issues,” she said.

“Each time that the skate park is open to community feedback we have to make sure that the voices of children and young people are heard over and above the minority that oppose the skate park. It’s so important to get involved in local decision-making! Be informed and join the WASP meetings and the Wollongbar Alstonville Skate Park Face Book page’ she said.

The Thank-you campaign will continue in order to show ongoing support for the skate park with 50 postcards delivered to councillors from Wollongbar residents in favour of the site during the deputation made against the motion. It is encouraging to see the support for the park and the community is getting behind it because they recognise the need to provide recreational facilities for children and young people.

A letter from Guy Gibbons the Chairman of the Australian Skateboarding Federation was also lodged to highlight the popularity of skating. ABS statistics show that 800,000 children in Australia under 15 years of age ride a skateboard or related roller equipment. This is approximately 20 times the number of children that participate in rugby league in Australia, and is growing at approximately 3% per year.

Guy Gibbons also added, “I would have thought the days when somebody could simply state as a bland fact that these facilities come with ‘antisocial behaviour, noise, rubbish and possibly safety issues’ are long gone. When compared with other sporting facilities such as football grounds, the impact of skate parks is so small as to be almost unmeasurable.”

Following the approval a barrage of complaints flooded the Advocate and the Northern Star with the Wollongbar Progress Association disseminating lies that skateboarders and young people would flood the town with antisocial behaviour.

WASP would like to go on the record and on behalf of the families and young people who cannot be here. I would like to formally reject the accusations levelled at young people and skaters in particular. There is no evidence for this what so ever and in fact the evidence runs to the contrary.

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