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Misinformation about Ku-ring-gai council plans at Golden Jubilee Oval

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 01 March 2011

As discussed (Hornsby Shire trails - support needed) here's what I had to say on the topic:

Subject: Misinformation about Ku-ring-gai council plans at Golden Jubilee Oval
Date: 1 March 2011 11:37

Dear Mayor, Councillors and Members of Parliament,

I write to you regarding the approved provision of mountain bike facilities near Golden Jubilee Oval in Wahroonga and subsequent alteration of these approved plans.

The local newspaper (Upper North Shore Advocate) reports that plans approved by council have been modified by staff[1] and that the local MP, Mr O’Farrell has questioned the need for this facility[2].

To Mr O’Farrell I would simply ask that you speak to your colleague, Shadow Treasurer and member for Manly Mike Baird who has been a staunch supporter of mountain biking in Northern Sydney for a long time now. Mr Baird will confirm there is indeed a massive demand for mountain bike facilities and a dire lack of such facilities on the North Shore and Northern Beaches.

To councillors I would question the authority on which the approved plans have been changed, the scope of their changes (council staff claim they are "minor", but I and other riders would disagree) and the basis for those changes. It is common knowledge that council are aware of misinformation circulating on this matter[3] and as such submissions that are based on this should be ignored, which I believe will exclude the majority of those against the plans.

Taking the above into consideration I respectfully ask council to ensure that plans for Stage One of the project go ahead unchanged as per the original plan put out for submission. I also ask that as the vast majority of untainted submissions on the plan were in favour ("Over 200 submissions in support of and 1 against the mountain biking facilities for the Unstructured Recreation Strategy were received by Council during the public exhibition period."[4]) that Stage Two go ahead as soon as possible.

I have tried to be brief to this point and thank those who read this far for their time. If you are still unconvinced about the level and blantancy of the lobby against this plan and the need for it to progress in full then read on as I address those points.

Official Process

To start, let us consider the period of official submissions that was part of this process and explained on the council's website. As quoted above submissions for/against the plan were 200 to 1! As these submissions were received as part of the process we can assume they were written by those who actually read the plan and formed their opinions based on that plan and their own further research.

Local Flyer

A few months later we then hear about numerous submissions received after the official period for comment has closed, based mostly on misinformation. We can conclude that these submissions were based more on a flyer circulated at the time than the actual council plan as if these residents were concerned about the plan itself they would have raised their voice during the official period for comment.

The flyer put out on this matter (see attached) indeed does have some incredible claims and it is hardly surprising that these scaremonger tactics provoked some residents to write. However, the flyer is completely unfounded and incorrect on key points, thus those prompted to write as a result have sadly been deceived and therefore submissions based on this should be ignored.

The key points on the flyer being, and why they are incorrect are as follows:

1. "... council has approved a Dirt Bike Arena of International repute impacting many areas of our Bush / Backyards".

The opponents of mountain biking play this game again and again. They conveniently (for them) exchange the words 'mountain bike' with 'dirt bike'.

To the general public a dirt bike is a motor bike which is noisy and as it is not human powered able to travel much faster both up hill and on the flat. As motor bikes are also much heavier and have much higher power output than a mountain bike their resulting impact on trails is undesirable.

A mountain bike is a bicycle, powered by humans via pedals. It is clean with zero emissions and a healthy recreation for many ages. Studies have shown that there is no significant difference in impact on a trail between a mountain bike rider and a walker (Thurston and Reader - 2001).

Therefore the claim that council has approved a 'Dirt Bike' facility is simply a lie - this is a mountain bike facility.

Also, 'Arena' conjures up images of the Acer Arena in Homebush. An enormous open or sometimes covered stadium with seating for thousands. Circular in construction with a performance area in the centre. Council has not approved anything of the sort. There will be no enormous stands or giant building.

2. Implication that the facility will bring many, "...Dirt Bike spectators, Crew and Bikers."

Again this is pure fantasy as the plan is not for a competition venue and it is highly unlikely that there will be any spectators at all. At most a rider might bring one of two friends along to perhaps try the sport? Recreational riders have no 'crew' either, even professional mountain bike athletes do not train locally with support crew as that is not the nature of the sport which has a lot to do with learning to be self sufficient.

3. Implication that the facility will cause traffic congestion.

This is pure speculation but I would argue against it. In order to do so all one really needs to do is look at what is going on at Manly Dam, the most used mountain bike track in Sydney.

At Manly Dam there is a 120m strip of parking outside the Hydraulics Lab on King Street. There is another small area for maybe 20-30 cars outside a school on the corner of Sunshine & Gibbs St. There is also parking within the Manly Dam reserve itself but bike riders never park there as it is away from access to the trail and the known meeting spots. Some riders also choose to park on Wakehurst Parkway but I've never seen more than two or three vehicles there.

In all my time visiting the dam (over 6 years now) I have never seen the parking by the school or Hydraulics lab even close to full, despite the popularity of the venue. Nor have I ever seen road congestion of any sort in this area while riding or while travelling there to ride.

Turning to Golden Jubilee Field, there is a 500m stretch of road by the fields (I mean off Esk St), which has numerous parking spots along it from what I can tell. I am sure if we did a proper count there would not be substantially more parking at Manly Dam and the reverse might be true.

I stress again, this is comparing the facilities at Golden Jubilee with the most heavily used mountain bike track in Sydney.

It is also common sense that if residents have no issue with current use of the oval, where players, spectators and supporters arrive and leave en-mass, due to the nature of organised team sports, then how can they worry about a few bike riders arriving and leaving at separate times throughout the day?

Finally take the point on board that many local riders do not even need to drive to facilities to partake in their recreation. By the very nature of cycling, riders can make their way to and from any mountain bike facilities on their bike. This is a very important point when trying to include younger participants - they are not reliant on older family members of friends for transport.

4. Implication that the facility will encourage "... Vandalism, Graffiti and possibly widespread use of Drugs and alcohol..."

Again, just take a look around Manly Dam. Have any of the residents there ever had cause to complain about drug abuse from mountain bike riders? I think you will find not. I would in fact suggest that introducing a facility that would be of great interest to young people, and that requires a deal of fitness and skill to use would actually reduce drug and alcohol abuse in the local community as a result. In fact the Australian Institute of Sport discusses the topic[5]:

"...when young adolescents are involved in organised sports, sport has a positive influence on an individual’s use of alcohol and other social drugs. That is, adolescents involved in organised sport are less likely to use alcohol and other social drugs."

To be up front, the paper also states, "...athletes involved in team sports may be at greater risk of excessive drinking compared with individual athletes..." but given mountain bike riding is not a team sport (unlike other recreation already taking place at the oval I might add) this is unlikely to apply.

Local Petition

I am also aware of a petition that was signed by numerous local residents (see attached for a copy headed to this petition). Although a bit wordy, it is basically against, "An "international" standard mountain bike complex". To be honest that is fair enough, but that is not what the council plan is suggesting so these people have no cause for concern. So as the council plan is not for, "An "international" standard mountain bike complex" then this petition is irrelevant in this matter.

What the council plan is for, those that read it will know, is two small skills areas and a number of short mountain bike trails which link them and make use of some nearby degraded bushland.

The only place 'international' comes in, is that riders have called for these small facilities to be built using guidelines developed internationally and thus be constructed using best practice techniques. The reason for this call is that trails and facilities build to such international guidelines are more sustainable, long lasting and economic to manage and maintain.

To be clear: "international' only describes the standard of design and construction practices, not the size of the facility. If you have any doubt as to this, please see the attached map which compares Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Whakarewarewa Forest Rotorua and the area of the council plan at Golden Jubilee Oval - all to the same scale.

Both Whistler Mountain Bike Park and Whakarewarewa Forest Rotorua could be described as "International Class Facilities". Look at the map to see, while the Golden Jubilee facilities will be very much appreciated by local riders, and perhaps those from the rest of Sydney North region, we are clearly not discussing anything even close to an International class facility.

So to conclude, council has no real option but to ignore many of the submissions and petitions they have received as being simply irrelevant to the Golden Jubilee plans. I again ask council to remain steadfast against ill informed lobbyists and proceed with Stage One of the original approved plans without change. Then follow these up as soon as possible with Stage Two.

Thank you once again for your time,

Robin Rainton
[Address and phone provided]






ar_junkie's picture

Had no idea about the specific content of the flyer, but great response Rob!

Hopefully some (common) sense will kick in...

Flynny's picture

I'd imagine the flier was similar too the one we got regarding our DH track,

We had all sorts of crap about us widening roads and bulldozing and bitumising extra car parks, chopping trees down and having 6000 petrol headed hoons shuttling up and down past residents houses each week...

Thankfully most people in our area are clever enough to see that as nothing but the ravings of the deranged. Turned out to be great publicity for us and our level headed approach.

Hopefully things go the same way with this one too

Flynny's picture

My letter

Dear Mayor, Councillors and Members of Parliament,

I write to you regarding the approved provision of mountain bike facilities near Golden Jubilee Oval in Wahroonga and subsequent alteration of these approved plans.

I notice a scare campaign has been waged with leaflets going out to residents making all sorts of wild claims and using deliberate provocative language such as the substitution of "dirt bike" for mountain bike.

Having recently gone through a similar process with my club, Central Tablelands Mountain bike club, over the approval of a Downhill trail for competition use I can say these tactics are getting tired and I am surprised that they have had an effect on council.
In our area, despite the development details being freely available and spending much time liaising with residents who first raised the concerns we had leaflett drops and anti-MTB advocates on local news using similar language trying to confuse Dirt Bikes, AKA motor bikes, with Mountain bikes, AKA bicycles without motors, and giving false claims about us widening roads and bulldozing and bitumising extra car parks, chopping trees down and having 6000 petrol headed hoons shuttling up and down past residents houses each week... Of course, if that were true residents would be concerned. I would be concerned too. Mountain bikers, by and large, are environmentalists. We take up our sport to get out into the bush to enjoy the piece and quiet and marvel at the unique beauty of the Australian land scape.

Thankfully most people in our area are clever enough to see that as nothing but the ravings of the deranged and it turned out to be great publicity for us and our level headed approach.

In the case of the Wahroonga plans "international standard trails" should be taken as trails built to the internationally recognised IMBA standards for sustainable mountain bike trails, not a venue to international event to take place each week.

When these scare campaigns pop up isn't it our leaders job to educate the concerned community member on the facts of the plan and not just pander to unfounded scare claims?

I would certainly hope that councilors and members of parliament will be able to see through the scare mongering and focus on the facts that mountain biking is a rapidly growing recreation which introduces people to a healthy outdoor life style, which in turn gives them a greater respect for nature and introduces them to conservation values. Properly designed and constructed trails are minimum impact and sustainable.

Also giving riders an official trail network that provide for varying fitness and skill levels has been shown to drastically reduce the amount of unofficial trails that get built.

Yours sincerely
Craig Flynn
President CTMBC

PappaSmurf's picture

Rob gets my Yeah! for the day. Nice one mate.

Tristania's picture

Sent messages to all relevent personnel, as well as made an announement of the news to all my school MTB team to keep those letters coming in!

Caleb's picture

Well it wasn't Rob quality, but I've sent emails off to all concerned.

Exxodus's picture

Dear Mayor, Councillors and Members of Parliament,

I am writing to you regarding the approved provision of mountain bike facilities near Golden Jubilee Oval in Wahroonga and the subsequent alteration of these approved plans.

It was recently reported in the newspaper (Upper North Shore Advocate) that council staff has modified plans previously approved.

Firstly, by what process/mechanism is council staff allowed to modify plans of an approved development? As a graduate of Architecture with over 10 years of experience, I am not allowed to modify approved plans without first submitting a S.96 application. This S.96 then has to be publicly notified and stakeholders are allowed to make further submissions in support of or against the planned changes. Only then does council reassess the application. From what little information is available on this matter, it would appear that this process has been severely compromised. In the interest of the public knowledge and as an interested party, I seek clarification from council of the process which council staff followed. Do council staff have sufficient delegated authority to change the approval without further stakeholder consultation?

Secondly, it would appear that an intentionally misleading and fraudulently worded flyer was circulated around the local area; generating a great deal of misinformation within the local community about the approved facilities. Council staff must have been aware of this flyer and must have known that the information it provided was not only false but also potentially slanderous towards the mountain-biking community. Council staff should have politely disregarded any complaint received by council that repeated the accusations made in that flyer. I won’t go into the details of this flyer but would like to remind you of the letter Mr Robin Rainton sent each of you. It described the issues falsely raised by the flyer perfectly. I am in total agreement with everything Mr. Rainton said in his letter.

As a community of healthy active people, all we have been asking for is a safe, sustainable and local facility in which to practice our chosen sport/hobby. I would like to ask all of you to remain steadfast against the blatant lies spread by the lobby groups, that you inform the locals about the true nature of the previously approved development and that you proceed with the construction of Stage Two [as previously approved] as soon as possible.

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