14 October 2021

Horse paddocks, golf courses, reserves - green spaces are about more than the land they use

| Zoya Patel
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Yarralumla horse paddocks

Yarralumla horse paddocks are under threat from development. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A few weeks ago, fellow columnist Ian Bushnell wrote about the proposed residential/aged care development on Cotter Road that will likely impact the neighbouring Territory Agistment horse paddocks.

As Ian wrote, Canberra is a growing city, and spaces like horse paddocks (or golf courses, parks, informal nature strips and reserves) that take prime real estate may soon be conceded to more residential developments.

There’s logic in this, if all we’re talking about is housing. But these types of recreational spaces in Canberra are about so much more than land – they’re inherently linked to the culture of this city and how we value and preserve it.

READ MORE In a city hungry for land, how long can the horse paddocks last?

I’ll admit, I have a vested interest – I’m a horsey person (I own two mares of my own, am very connected to the local horsey community, and run a small equestrian business). I know many people who agist in government paddocks, and it can’t be understated how important these facilities are to the local community.

It’s not just about an affordable place to keep a horse. They are sites of genuine community building – each agistment site has its own culture and atmosphere, and dedicated volunteers who work together to maintain the land and facilities and keep the space fit for purpose and safe for everyone who uses them. They are genuinely by and for the community, and have helped so many individuals nurture their love of their sport and their animals.

Similarly, my partner is a runner and he is so grateful for the numerous nature trails, reserves, and the hidden bits of bush he can explore in our inner north neighbourhood, which have provided him with a much-needed reprieve from the home office during lockdown, as I know they have for so many other Canberrans.

READ ALSO Horse community rears at LDK’s $143 million aged care village proposal

Add to these examples the many green spaces that serve small cohorts in the community, but are also invaluable – golf courses that take up swathes of land, but also provide much-needed breaks in our landscape to help prevent urban ‘heat islands’ from forming; neighbourhood parks and sports ovals that are located in prime spots next to local shops or on main streets; the much-loved nature strip at the Watson powerlines where many neighbours and I walk our dogs every day.

These spaces are symbolic of one of the key characteristics of Canberra that makes so many of us love living here, and that’s the integration of our homes and amenities with nature and outdoor recreation. Unlike other capital cities that dwarf us in size, we have the benefits of city-like infrastructure without the horror of big-city landscapes, defined as they are by glass, concrete and steel, and devoid as they can be of wide, open space.

READ ALSO Is it time to farewell the five-day work week for good?

It might seem like a logical solution for the government or town planners to see available space (ie, space without buildings on it) as ripe for the plucking to build on. But that logic only stands if the sole definition of value is land prices and not the wellbeing and cultural benefits that these spaces provide.

Yes, Canberra is growing, and yes, we have an issue with our housing market, both in terms of property prices and supply of affordable or social housing. But the solution to this problem can’t be to the detriment of the places in our city that define why so many of us love to call Canberra home.

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tuggeranongist4:23 pm 15 Oct 21

The author is completely right – if we are willing to redevelop horse paddocks located on prime land near the city there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do the same to golf courses.

I wholeheartedly support doing both.

I am grateful to have agitated my horses in government paddocks.. this provided access to many beautiful other incredible green spaces in Canberra. I understand that Canberra is unique in providing affordable horse agistment within suburban areas. When the Curtin paddocks are developed, (this beautiful green space is a haven for abundant bird life) will not be available to use as parkland or other recreational purposes for many people in the future.

You make it like there is zero green space anywhere within coooee of the horse paddocks. Which is of course absolute nonsense.

Jones Walmington On-Sea2:41 pm 14 Oct 21

Move further out if you want greenery. Oh, that’s right, you can’t because of work. Change your work to suit your lifestyle. Oh, that’s right, you can only be rewarded for your hard earned qualifications in a city job. But it’s still too hard to understand why we need all this development and infrastructure in a city. Why do all these qualified, urban-dwellers, like politicians, city planners, economists, developers, etc., force this on a middle-class, white collar city, why?

Mike McGettrick1:41 pm 14 Oct 21

Federal Golf Club are planning a massive housing development in the middle of their course. They argue that they will not survive as a golf club without the money they plan to make from the development. I don’t understand why the club won’t increase their membership fees to solve their financial problems and preserve this magnificent location for all Canberrans to enjoy forevermore.

So many highlight the importance of community space in engaging and enriching the lives of people but the Government still sacrifices this space for residential development. There should be a moratorium on residential development on community land. The original purpose of the land whether it be for community facilities, sporting and recreation uses or green open space needs to be protected because as Zoya points out its important to our wellbeing and social life.

Is the solution as easy as the Planning and Development Agency releasing more affordable land for residential development and don’t forget the green bits?

The problem isn’t having open spaces, which are a good thing.

It’s where they are located, how much and who they are used by and how they benefit the community.

In the example of the Curtin Horse Paddocks, it’s an area in the middle of the city, right next to the major North South transport link and used by an absolute tiny amount of people.

It’s takes some pretty weird thinking to believe that this is a good area for horse agistment, although the self interest of horse owners and local NIMBYs clearly impacts that.

These aren’t open recreation areas or parklands.

No different Chewy to the pristine lake front at West Basin that ‘everyone wants’ but in reality nobody uses!

A bunch of NIMBYs and loud voices in the minimum stopping what are sensible ‘best use’ outcomes for highly valuable land.

Of course things could be done a lot better more broadly with how we plan for open space etc, but to protect ‘open space’ anywhere and everywhere as some seem to want to, no matter whether it makes sense or not, is just ridiculous.

Agree, totally, I wonder if each horse pays rates similar to a house, say in that area about $2500 to $10000 pwr year, overl 2 Billion $ are needed for the new light rail, so for that 1000 dwellings are needed to help pay the interest and upkeep, let alone the capital… It is only benefitting at the moment maybe 20 or thirty families with horses,..would be interesting what they pay per horse per year…

Halleluiah. The light breaks through. Bells ring. Finally it dawns on someone under the age of 60 that our green open spaces, our forest trails, our lakes, our birds and our distant views of horse paddocks and snow on the Brindabellas are valued for what they are, just as any indigenous people valued their own land. But try explaining this intrinsic value to the profit seeking blinkered supporters of Rattenbury/Barr/Gentleman and the Greens/Labor/Geocon coalition, obsessed with urban ill-fill, densification, apartmentalisation, trams, excessive rate rises to fund budget blowouts and arrogant dismissal of community views.

Try explaining the selfishness of local NIMBYs who reject any form of change and constantly complain about paying for the significant amenity they receive.

The selfishness of their “I’m alright Jack, screw anyone else” attitude is clear to all.

tuggeranongist4:17 pm 15 Oct 21

Maybe young people have a keen appreciation of the “intrinsic value” of being able to afford a home one day, and of building a better city for their futures?

The only problem with this argument is development when your house was built was ok, even though it may have been taking amenity and views from others and habitat for animals. Bit now you are all right thanks Jack space is untouchable.

Now I know you will call me a Barr supporter and try to denigrate me but believe me what I believe in is the balance and addressing the core issue which is the population IS growing and it needs to be accommodated. And to do that in a sustainable way we need to use our land far better and provide the infrastructure (like lightrail) to support the change of land use to accomodate the growing population.

The way it was done in your day, and I am assuming going by your comments you are over 60, which is through more urban sprawl with more main roads is simply not sustainable or sensible in 2021. How we live now and I to the future is not like it was 30-40-50+ years ago.

As a community, I feel we definately need recreational spaces.
Free for all spaces, parks and playgrounds, nature reserves etc…
And specific use areas, The local bowling / golf / tennis club, horse paddocks, mountain biking areas.
Also, unimpeded access to waterfront areas.
People need to be able to get out and lose themselves in physical exertion or relax in the outdoors sometimes.
With so many now learning to work remotely, surely the need for “Urban Infill” is waning?
Its greatly dissapointing to see clubs selling out to developers who let golf courses run down and then push to build on the land.
Clubs should remain the owners / leasees of the land they’re on. ( But that’s another story).

The govt. should surely be encouraging people to get out and about, and providing the spaces to do that? What ever happened to Norms “Life. Be in it.” campaign of the 70’s?

Not every thing that counts can be counted.

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