Canberra’s 31 dryland ovals could soon be given a new lease of life, with the government promising to consult with local communities about what they want to see the spaces used for.
According to ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay, options could include using the space for a beginners BMX track, micro-forests, nature playgrounds, enclosed dog off-leash areas or community gardens.
Dryland ovals are open spaces that allow for informal activities like walking the dog, exercising or completing a fitness session, or just letting the kids run around. But because they aren’t irrigated, they cannot be used for organised sporting events, and during droughts or drier years can appear brown.
During these years, they can often be underused and appear unappealing to the public, Ms Clay said.
She moved a motion calling on the government to ask communities what they want to see done with these spaces. She told the ACT Legislative Assembly that many of these ovals were once irrigated, but this became unsustainable and too expensive during the Millennium Drought.
Despite the rain this year, Ms Clay said it’s important for Canberra to still be careful with its water use, and she’s not asking for them to be irrigated now.
“We need responsible long-term planning that preserves our local green spaces and gives the community a real voice in how they are used.”
Ms Clay noted a wide variety of other activities they can be used for.
She pointed to the work of the Florey Community Action group, which has been working with the government for several years to develop a “brighter future” for their oval.
Group member Greg Blood described the Florey oval as a “wasted community asset”.
“It’s in the centre of the suburb and could be part of a community hub, but it’s not being used by the community,” Mr Blood said.
He said the community wants to use the space productively, but it’s just not possible in the condition it’s in.
Their plan is to turn one-third of the oval into a green space again and the other two thirds into something else.
Mr Blood said the oval could be used as a kind of “test case” for other dryland ovals around Canberra.
Ms Clay’s motion passed with a small amendment from Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr.
“Local communities love their neighbourhoods, and they want to make them the best possible places to gather, exercise and play,” Ms Clay said.
The final motion called for better public consultation with local communities about their dryland ovals in the ACT Government’s upcoming urban open space Management Plan.
Ms Clay said she expected “enthusiastic participation” from the broader community.
The government will also promote the Adopt-a-Park program, which provides grants to support community-led initiatives on urban open space such as micro-forests.
Reports will be provided to the Assembly in 2023.