Can more be done with Canberra’s dryland ovals?

Lottie Twyford 3 December 2021 48
Jo Clay and Greg Blood

ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay and Florey Community Action Group member Greg Blood want Canberra’s dryland ovals to be better used. Photo: Supplied.

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.”


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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.


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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.


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48 Responses to Can more be done with Canberra’s dryland ovals?
Susan Willemse Susan Willemse 1:53 pm 10 Dec 21

Many of these ovals already have active use by groups, dog owners for example social their pups (a very important part of theirs lives for without this they can become reactive) alongside other users such as sports, it’s not great to run free in nature reserves- our only other open spaces. My only suggestion would be to fence a few so young pups and children from adjacent playgroups, who also enjoy the occasional run and rest there, do not accidently land up on adjacent roads. This would only work if gaining access was possible at all times or those adjacent roads will become the local meet and greet and exercise areas. A added bonus is that vehicles not cutting grass would then not be on the ovals, as local cars are using some parks as driveways in our suburb now, separating users from cars will lead to more safe usage. It is also essential to retain these for fire seasons.

Madia Downes Madia Downes 9:23 pm 08 Dec 21

Ovals are often used for detention systems for stormwater, they could use them for water collection for rainwater tanks harvesting systems, have the water pumped to a treatment facility for reuse , use some of the rainwater to keep them green 😉

Chris Mc Chris Mc 7:52 pm 08 Dec 21

Haha they will sell off blocks for development

Kylie Gordon-wilkins Kylie Gordon-wilkins 10:18 am 08 Dec 21

Work with Ngunnawal elders and community to create places that acknowledge the owners of the land that has changed so much. We can create spaces for all of us to have places where we can learn and understand at deeper level.

Majella Kesby Majella Kesby 10:41 pm 07 Dec 21

Well they could deal with the African Lovegrass that's overtaking the reserve area behind me before it's completely overrun.

Trevor Webb Trevor Webb 7:50 pm 07 Dec 21

More BMX tracks for the kids.

Stephen Budge Stephen Budge 12:11 pm 07 Dec 21

Built more high density units why stop now. More housing for foreign students from the ANU. Less cost to the Canberra ratepayers by not having to maintain these underdeveloped areas and they can go towards more high density and high cost housing for the poor. Win win all round.

    Tim Gardner Tim Gardner 8:00 pm 07 Dec 21

    Stephen Budge thank god for that..my parents opened up shops in the Tuggeranong valley before there were houses to the south, just paddocks, Canberra has just about lost the bush capital title

Mark Hamilton Wilson Mark Hamilton Wilson 12:06 pm 07 Dec 21

Yes team sports are so pre pandemic

Paul Mathews Paul Mathews 8:58 am 07 Dec 21

put all BARKING DOGS there eh Chris

Andrew Shaun Andrew Shaun 8:28 am 07 Dec 21

Be great if the govt could just properly maintain what’s there now. 🤷‍♂️

bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:23 pm 06 Dec 21

It’s a struggle to find grounds for kids and adults sports and training. If we want to encourage better health in this city, ACT government needs to ensure Canberra sport isn’t just for the wealthy or private school kids.

Some of the ground hire charges are outrageous.

Hannah Bnana Hannah Bnana 9:15 pm 06 Dec 21

They could try watering them maybe?!?

Anthony Grice Anthony Grice 7:45 pm 06 Dec 21

This is absolutely abhorrent. The Act Gov has allowed these ovals to go to waste. It clearly now has shown their intentions too rezone and sell

Kelly Ryan Kelly Ryan 6:51 pm 06 Dec 21

Spence oval is used for quiet family walks. No need to make it busy.

    Kate Eliza Kate Eliza 11:47 pm 06 Dec 21

    Kelly agree. My kids and doggies love walking through there on the way to the shops or to throw a Frisbee.

piperdoon piperdoon 6:22 pm 06 Dec 21

Florey oval used to be a great junior cricket oval, lovely grass surface – this is perhaps 23 years ago or so. Long jump pit, marked grass running lanes for school sport. Then then in the drought designated as dryland, unmaintained and allowed to deteriorate to the poor condition it is in now. Fix it!

Ben Phillips Ben Phillips 3:55 pm 06 Dec 21

There’s about 20 acres sitting unused next to Lyneham primary. Mixing in some high density housing (units) with community parks or similar would be terrific. Ratepayers benefit from the sale of land, rates, stamp duty and new residents get the benefits of a superb location.

Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 12:15 pm 06 Dec 21

It’s quite ironic to see the Greens push a hyper aggressive development agenda. Perhaps just leave these spaces as community space. Rather than designate what you want people to do there.

    Jenny Lawrence Jenny Lawrence 2:20 pm 06 Dec 21

    Joshua F. Johnson that seems to be the goal, to keep them as community spaces. The question is whether they're useful to the community in their current form - maybe we want other kinds of spaces than ovals? its a fair question.

    Joshua F. Johnson Joshua F. Johnson 3:34 pm 06 Dec 21

    Jenny Lawrence they’re not “ovals” they’re just open outdoor spaces. You might want a pool there. You want want the Daintree rainforest there. The point is when you enclose a sieve to one activity. Eg you turn it into a bmx track or swimming pool. You necessarily exclude other activity. Eg dog walking, kids recreational activity, jogging

    Jenny Lawrence Jenny Lawrence 3:40 pm 06 Dec 21

    Joshua F. Johnson any form they take, including the current one, closes off some uses - that's not an argument not to consider change as the current form as an essentially bare space also does that.

John Giacon John Giacon 12:04 pm 06 Dec 21

Great work Jo. Some areas need to be mown and watered. However many others could be better used. Local suggestions for Belconnen oval include expanding the nearby habitat recreation, a wetland (it is part of the Belconnen town plan), dog area, community garden, performance space and a better sports area. The oval could become a centre of community activity, including a garden, trees would cool it and provide shade, the wetland would be great for wildlife, and would filter a lot of the water that currently goes under the oval, and the smaller area to be mown could be looked after much better at no extra expense. Nearby Gossan Hill is a great example of the beautiful local flora that could be part of the redevelopment of the oval.

Vanessa Hagon Vanessa Hagon 8:25 am 06 Dec 21

How about we restore some to natural grasslands, we know they are endangered so let's do some good. Our wildlife needs dryland grasses their are only about 5% of them remaining Australia wide.

https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/biodiversity/threatened/conservation-advices/natural-temperate-grassland-southern-tablelands

🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋🦋 https://www.facebook.com/1114412105267397/posts/6531536590221561/

Gay Robertson Gay Robertson 8:08 am 06 Dec 21

Great opportunity for communities to get involved & develop shared spaces that are useable by many.

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