Inner Melbourne suburb on the brink of losing a community recreational space

Community members and young netballers rallying to save Ryan's Reserve. Photo: Saving Ryan's Reserve

A group of Richmond residents have pledged to campaign against Richard Wynne, the current State Labor member for Richmond, in the next Election after the suburb’s netball courts were sacrificed in a land swap to deliver a new high school.

However, earlier this month, Mr Wynne announced that the rezoning of Ryan’s Reserve, despite strong community opposition, would go ahead, but would deliver a 10-storey commercial/residential development instead.

“Ostensibly a land-swap with the Department of Health and Human Services to build the new Richmond High School on surplus DHHS land, the proposal is to rezone Ryan’s Reserve to allow it to be developed as a 10-storey commercial and residential development,” Maree Nahill, Saving Ryan’s Reserve convenor, commented in The Age.

The story first came to YR in November 2016 when residents began campaigning against the rezoning of Ryan’s Reserve (RR), a popular recreational site at 510 Swan Street in Richmond.

Six months on, momentum is building with Federal Greens Leader Adam Bandt committing to their cause. A disallowance motion was put forward in the Upper House by Greens MLC Greg Barber to reverse the zoning change and will go to a vote on June 7.

The campaign’s Facebook page has asked locals to “write to the Liberal Upper House MP’s to ask them to support the Green’s motion.”

The RR netball courts, which are also used as tennis courts, have been public land for more than 100 years, servicing over 1000 players every year.

Considered an integral part of the community in Richmond, the courts provide people of all ages, particularly girls and women, with a thriving recreational space.

Almost a year ago, there were whispers that the netball competition conducted at RR would be moved to another Richmond location on Gleadell Street.

After locals were officially informed about the proposed move, the netball community argued against it as the new site would be unable to host the volume of people currently using RR. A lack of parking and access issues on Saturdays were among the main issues.

A group of long- time Richmond residents met Mr Wynne to outline their concerns that the plan would be the death knell for the netball competition and participation of girls and women in sport. They also said it was poor planning to be robbing the community of prized and well located recreational space in the Burnley area, which is facing a population growth of more than 70 per cent in the next 20 years.

Saving Ryan’s Reserve convenor, Maree Nihill, had hoped that their arguments would sway the minister’s decision, but to no avail.

Mr Wynne, with his hat on as Planning Minister, had already referred the land to the Government Land Standing Advisory Committee (GLSAC) to assess the land for rezoning to allow a nine-storey commercial and housing development.

In late October the GLSAC held public hearings and received 90 submissions, most of them from people opposed to the rezoning.

The Richmond Netball Association submitted that loss of the courts was discriminatory to women and girls playing netball. The submission also said its competition could not be replicated at Gleadell Street due to capacity issues.

During the public hearings, Mr Wynne had sought to defuse the issue by announcing “new” netball courts at Richmond West Primary School and Melbourne Girls.

With the courts already in existence, and currently used for multiple sports by the schools, the Richmond Netball Association has stated it is not suitable for their needs.

Many campaigners opposing the closure of RR had supported the introduction of a new school for the area to meet the needs of the growing population.

With an obesity epidemic and a significantly lower number of girls and women in sport than men, restricting recreational space has the potential to cause lasting and irreversible damage to the community and taking away Ryan’s Reserve can only serve to punish the current and future residents of Richmond.

Read the GLSAC report here, which reviews the decision for rezoning the land.

And head to the Saving Ryan’s Reserve Facebook page to join the campiagn and keep up to date with the fight for saving the much-loved community netball courts.

Written by Claire Heaney, Saving Ryan’s Reserve

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