The Burns Club and Tuggeranong Little Athletics are at loggerheads over plans for a public car park that will take out the field events area on Kambah Ovals.
A development application has been lodged for the construction of a 98-space car park along a strip of the public playing fields opposite the Burns Club on Kett Street, which also wants to redevelop an adjacent car park on club land to the south as part of diversification plans to reduce its reliance on poker machine income, as encouraged by the ACT Government.
The two clubs have been negotiating over the plans since 2019, with the Burns Club offering to relocate three shot put rings at its own expense, but Tuggeranong Little Athletics says the triple and long jump sand pit will also be affected, as well as trees used for shade.
Burns Club CEO John Weir says the re-development plans hinge on building a new car park, which will also ease parking issues for all oval users and club patrons, particularly on weekends.
“We can’t do anything without additional car parking,” he said. “A 100-year-old business is fighting for survival because Little Athletics won’t move three shot put rings.”
But Tuggeranong Tornadoes Little Athletics Association president Barb Miels-Barrett says most of what the Burns Club had offered would not comply with safety standards or world athletics standards.
She also rejected the notion that parking was a problem at the oval.
The DA says the development of the car park, including lighting and security cameras, will include an upgrade to Little Athletics facilities but does not mention what they are.
Mr Weir insists it is only the shot put rings at issue and that an existing sandpit could be extended with little or no interference with Little Athletics facilities.
But the club is prepared to do what it takes to meet the needs of Tuggeranong Little Athletics.
“We have no desire to take away any assets or funding or penalise Tuggeranong Little Athletics,” Mr Weir said. “We’re a community-based club.”
Ms Miels-Barrett said her association provided the Burns Club with specifications for what was required last December, but the next thing they knew, a DA had been lodged.
“Our aim is not to stop progress, but we need to make sure we have a space and place for our kids that’s safe, complies with athletics standards, and people know about it,” she said.
“We just want to make sure that whatever happens, it is to the benefit of the children.”
Mr Weir said it was unclear what kind of redevelopment would be pursued for the car park site, which currently allows a child care centre and would need a variation to the Territory Plan for other uses.
He said the Burns Club did not want gaming machines to be its primary source of income and had greatly reduced its reliance on gambling, from a percentage in the high 70s to the low 60s.
“We’re trying to get that to below 50 per cent of income, but without diversification, we’re dead in the water,” Mr Weir said.
Tuggeranong Little Athletics has been lobbying local MLAs, and Liberal Nicole Lawder took the matter up in the Assembly this week. She has called for the proposal to be rejected, saying it was an unfair attack on community sport in Tuggeranong.
“This space is an important community asset that has helped produce both Canberra and Australian-level athletes,” she said.
DA submissions close on 17 May.