The Canberra Liberals vow to bring a number of abandoned ovals around the nation’s capital back online to help drive down the cost of playing amateur sport as part of their 10-year strategic plan to boost grassroots participation.
Flanked by Opposition leader Alistair Coe, Liberals spokesperson for Sport and Recreation James Milligan unveiled the Canberra Liberals’ decade-long plan to make Canberra the “amateur sporting capital of Australia”.
Mr Milligan said the plan counters a number of barriers created by the Barr Government that make it difficult for many Canberrans to participate in sport, including prohibitive expenses, poorly maintained assets and a lack of facilities.
He said Canberra’s community ovals suffer from a lack of basic maintenance and amenities, and the number of well-maintained sporting fields in the ACT is in short supply. The plan said over 30 ovals have had their irrigation switched off and haven’t been reconnected since the 2012 drought.
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“To rectify this neglect, we will implement immediate remediation and upgrade plan for local sports and community ovals in the ACT,” the plan reads. “The restoration will be undertaken based on evidence for sporting need or alternatively, for mixed community use.”
Mr Milligan said the Liberals might not turn all abandoned local ovals back into sporting grounds and might instead turn them into community veggie gardens, barbeque facilities or playgrounds.
“If they are not to be reinstated as a traditional oval or rectangular field for sports, we will look at different ways to utilise the facilities for the local facilities,” he said.
The Canberra Liberals said they will also engage local clubs and associations to take ownership and care of their facilities and ovals by providing access to practical supports, like topsoil, bore water or small grants.
The plan also said the Canberra Liberals “would endeavour to make sports grounds more affordable and accessible” by reducing ground hire costs for local clubs.
“If we bring more ovals online, there will be more supply so we could look at reducing the cost of ground hire fees,” Mr Milligan said. “There is such a shortage of supply out there that the cost has gone up. We need to bring more ovals back online so we can work towards reducing those fees.”
He said he had heard stories that sports had to turn kids away due to a lack of facilities and infrastructure.
“I have had so many clubs and sporting organisations tell me that they can’t run any more competitions,” he said. “They have the demand for it but they don’t have the infrastructure or facilities.”
The plan also flagged that the Canberra Liberals will explore ways to reduce families’ financial burden to involve their kids in sport, with the plan saying that the average parent spends $1,100 on their kid’s organised sport each year.
Mr Milligan said the Canberra Liberals want to make children’s sport more affordable and will target age groups where participation is low.
He said the ACT will consider following NSW lead and offer a sporting rebate offer to families, which provides $100 twice a year to family to help pay registration fees, or by supporting clubs by lowing the fees and charges they face.
“We want to look at different ways to support more kids getting involved in sport, so we will look at the challenges that parents face when they are enrolling their kids into sporting activities,” Mr Milligan said.
“We will look around the country and see what is currently being implemented to support kids to enrol in sporting activities.”
The Liberals have identified growing areas like Gungahlin and Molonglo have a lack of sporting facilities, with one sporting facility per 6,000 residents in Gungahlin compared to other areas of ACT where there is one facility per 2,500 residents.
Mr Milligan also said there are a number of indoor sports facilities that need to be constructed, such as at Woden, but further detail will be provided in the Liberal’s infrastructure plan to be released in the near future.
To find out more about the Canberra Liberals 10-year plan and to provide feedback, click here.