Councillors ‘bullied’ over skate park site

BAYSWATER’S new skate and BMX park has been delayed again amidst allegations councillors and their families are being bullied by supporters.

The Wotton Reserve skate and BMX park is being demolished in about a year to make way for state government upgrades at Bayswater station. 

A new park could take a year or more to complete, so skaters and BMXers have been urging Bayswater council to get a replacement going swiftly so the new park’s sorted by the time the old one’s closed. 

Bayswater set up a committee, including many skaters, which looked over a dozen potential sites before settling on Broun Park in November 2020.

The council held off endorsing the decision immediately, kicking it down the road until February 2021 to give time for more consultation. 

People around Broun objected, so the decision’s been delayed again. 

A divided February council meeting voted to investigate whether the skate park can be rebuilt at another spot on Wotton Reserve.

Cr Catherine Ehrhardt fumed over her colleagues’ delay.

She asked councillors if they’d listen to the skate committee they appointed to find a spot, “or are you going to let them think that it was all just for show and let them think that you don’t put any worth in their recommendations or the time and commitment they have put in?”

Cr Michelle Sutherland agreed: “We set up a skate park committee to deal with this, and we had meetings at night, and we had officers giving up their time and this all costs money, so… I can’t see the point of having a skate committee if we’re not going to listen to them.”

Some councillors said they won’t be bullied into rushing a decision.

Cr Stephanie Gray said “the public narrative’s been spun to say that if we don’t immediately support this then we don’t care, we don’t like kids, we don’t like skaters… this narrative is far from the truth”.

Cr Gray said her sons “enjoyed the city’s two skate parks until recently. My son went to the skate park, and was identified as being my son, and threatened, and warned off skating at Wotton, so he and his mates are no longer safe there.

“I have been bullied, my son’s been bullied. Every time I didn’t immediately support what the [skate committee] and what the very loud community wanted, suddenly you’re a baddy.”

Cr Sally Green also opposed Broun Park as the spot, saying residents have written in that they fear “loss of quiet enjoyment due to the concrete click-clacking and grinding and social skatepark Boomshankas which will be held regularly in this skatepark”. Boomshankas were council-run skate days at Wotton. 

Unpleasant

Cr Green, who also has skaters in the family, agreed the public discourse has gotten unpleasant. “I’ve been very careful about going down to the park in the past three or four months, just like Cr Gray, for a very similar reason.”

In the end councillors Steven Ostaszewskyj, Filomena Piffaretti, Sutherland and Ehrhardt voted to just go with Broun Park, but they were outvoted and there’ll now be another two months of pondering whether Wotton Reserve is better.

The Wotton idea’s already had objectors come forward, including sportsclub Morley Windmills who fear it’ll endanger the future of the club if the skating eats up parking and stifles growth.

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