But Mr Shoebridge said Carsingha had driven the asset into the ground during its long-term lease, and it was difficult to see how handling it another 50 or 99 years would deliver benefits to the public.
The inquiry also heard about concerns from community groups that the new legislation will lead to greater commercialization of Sydney’s five major parks, and a lack of decision-making by community trust boards.
The Greater Sydney Parklands was initially set up as an overarching agency in 2020 through administrative arrangements to oversee Centennial Park and Moore Park, Callan Park, Parramatta Park, Western Sydney Parkland and Fernhill Estate.
Facing a roadblock in the upper house, Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes, who has been responsible for the legislation, said he was open to considering further changes to get it through Parliament.
“Yes we would be more than willing to look at changes to the bill. We want this bill to stand the test of time, ”he told the inquiry.
However, Mr Stokes the city was at a crossroads in deciding whether to have the benefit of strategic management across the parks, or establish more trusts and more administrative processes.
Labor upper house MP Penny Sharpe said one of the biggest fears was the loss of local input into the parks, citing “genuine concern” about the lack of influence community trust boards would have.
Mr Stokes said the law changes were aimed at recognizing the role of local communities but also had a broader imperative to bring the city’s park network together, citing the way the National Parks and Wildlife Service looked after national parks across the state.
The 61-hectare Callan Park in Sydney’s inner west has been at the center of a long-running battle over the type and extent of development of the parkland.
The bill as it stands will ban for-profit activity in Callan Park except for artistic and cultural events, such as music festivals. Non-profit enterprises will be able to operate cafes and other eateries.
But former Inner West mayor Rochelle Porteous said the bill’s flaw was that it worked on the premise that the city’s “iconic parks” needed to be self funding. “It opens Callan Park up for business. Callan Park is a park – it is not an entertainment complex, ”she said.
“The fact that you have heritage buildings in Callan Park, as in some of the other parks as well, is a blessing, and it is something that should be taken on board by the state government and properly funded.”
With the pandemic highlighting the importance of parklands for the public, Parramatta Lord Mayor Donna Davis said they should be funded in the same way as the government funds education and hospitals.
Randwick mayor Ryan Parker said his council had “strong reservations” about the financial powers of the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust, and a lack of community representation in decision-making.
“At its heart, we’re concerned that the new arrangements will strip localized attention … as well as lead to increased commercialization,” he said.
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