Urgent need for youth recreational facilities in Johnsonville

There is an urgent need to ensure the Northern suburbs continue to be a great place for families to raise good kids. Wellington City Council needs to stop its erosion of public recreational space in Johnsonville, beginning with 2 immediate recommended actions:

  1. Replace Johnsonville’s only remaining dedicated Youth facility, the basketball half-court in Johnsonville, which Council demolished to make way for the new Library
  2. Re-prioritise building of a new major Playground in Johnsonville West.

Context – need to respond to demographic pressure

The Northern Suburbs population is increasing rapidly. We know from the Census that empty-nesters are moving out, and young families are moving in. The Council planned for this to happen in 2010 when it re-zoned the area for medium and high-density smaller in-fill housing, units, and town houses. Although these are the sort of homes younger families can afford, they don’t tend to have enough space to kick a ball, run and play.

With all this planned and happening, you’d hope that Council would have prioritised work to enhance and augment recreational facilities across the area. Referring in particular to Youth recreation, Council’s 2017 Play Spaces Policy says Youth facilities must satisfy the actual needs of young people. We know, for example, that Youth may attend high school less regularly (as seniors may do legitimately), or not at all (for example home-schooled). Zeroing in on the lost half-court, staff of the kindy that was adjacent to it have told JCA that local youth used the court “all the time” – including during normal school hours. So it is gratifying that the Play Spaces Policy admits that “the new library development area and further development at Alex Moore Park may result in the need to review half court provision”.

 

Council action

Now, in the face of predictable demographic pressure and resultant recreational needs … what has happened? At best, we can say Council has done nothing; others might accuse Council of wilful negligence.

  • The Play Spaces Policy attempted a quick fix via ‘Community & School Partnerships’, where WCC would improve a school facility in exchange for public access out of school hours. St Brigids School was the suggested location as a fall-back plan (about this, more below) “in the absence of any budget or site” for replacement of the half court. Johnsonville Community Association objected because this would exclude non-students during school hours (for why, see above).
  • Kids have to play somewhere, so there is growing pressure on parks and schools for recreational facilities. But local schools such as West Park, Raroa and Onslow, due to ballooning rolls, have needed to build classrooms on what was outdoor play space. In the face of all this, Council has sacrificed usable and convenient public recreational space, piece by piece, in favour of private building developments, roads, carparks, the swimming pool expansion and the new library.
  • JCA first asked councillors and WCC Officers in 2014 to plan and budget to replace the half court. … Years passed. … Still we have
    • no half-court,
    • no acceptable plan to replace it, and
    • no budget.
  • Council has hinted that it might consider building a replacement Youth facility somewhere in the recreational precinct behind the new Library. But that space on the corner of Dr. Taylor Terrace is the Wanaka St Garden Park and must be retained and renewed as a public garden, as WCC promised at the commencement of the Library build project.

JCA has made 2 recommendations to Council

1) Replace the demolished basketball half-court

half court site proposedJCA recommends that Council take advantage of recent changes to the clubrooms proposal for Alex Moore Park Sport & Community Inc. The asphalted corner of the previously consented clubrooms site (see graphic) is now available without restriction. It is being used as a car park, but its original consent was for a building that will now be built elsewhere. The site as ideal for a half-court; it is accessible, safe, well lit, and co-located with other recreational facilities. It complies fully with WCC Play Spaces Policy.

In February, WCC’s Manager Open Space and Recreation Planning revealed to JCA that WCC planned to pursue the St Brigids option. This is unsuitable because it would be unavailable during school time or other events on St brigids school grounds. Frustratingly, with no announcement from WCC, the “fall-back” became the policy. This must be reversed.

2) Reverse delays in scheduling construction of new major playground for Johnsonville West

In 2017, JCA showed councillors a proposed site for a new major playground in Johnsonville West. JCA celebrated that this was embraced by Council in the 2017 Play Spaces Policy.  It was scheduled for construction in 2020. Brilliant, we thought, and got straight onto it, asking WCC officers to meet with JCA and discuss our vision for the new facility.

What happened? Nothing. Bec Ramsay has told JCA that construction is delayed, not scheduled to proceed in 2021. This delay in engagement and construction is unacceptable.

 

Summing up

So Johnsonville is packed with kids, with more coming, and Council has a duty to do well by them and their mums and dads. On their behalf, JCA is asking all Wellington City Councillors elected representatives, to do all they can to

  • Provide a like for like replacement of the basketball half-court
  • Get the Johnsonville West Playground back on track for completion in 2020
  • Tell JCA what you are doing and include JCA in the process towards solutions that work for everyone.

About Simon Pleasants

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