Amount of parkland plummets over past decade

Revealed: The councils with the least public open space tend to be in rural areas. Photo: Jason SouthThe amount of public open space provided by NSW councils has declined 18 per cent over the past 10 years – a loss of parkland of 27,400 hectares.

This may be partly due to the need for additional infrastructure, with a growing population, according to a report measuring the performance of the state’s 152 councils, which was published by the Division of Local Government. Or it might be due to more accurate data, it says.

The councils with the least public open space tend to be rural councils with plenty of ”private” open space in the form of farmland and forests. Gilgandra Council has just five hectares of open space and Gundagai Shire Council seven hectares.

Around Sydney, the councils with the least open space are Burwood with 38 hectares and neighbouring Ashfield with 48 hectares. These figures are dwarfed by Bankstown (844 hectares), Hornsby (2360 hectares), Sutherland (2708 hectares), Blacktown (6032 hectares) and Gosford with 30,768 hectares.

The number of council swimming pools has fallen from 349 to 334 in the past five years. Ageing pools are expensive to maintain and there is a trend towards new, centralised aquatic centres.

NSW councils have added 11,588 kilometres of roads to their networks and an additional 220 community centres and town halls in the last 10 years.

While 75 per cent of councils achieved a moderate financial sustainability rating or better in 2011-12, the overall position of the sector is likely to worsen. By 2014-15, more than 40 per cent of councils could be rated weak, very weak or distressed, the report says.

Figures on revenue spent on administration cast doubt on the theory that bigger councils are more efficient. On average, councils spend 19 per cent of their revenue on governance and administration. Parramatta spends 51 per cent, Liverpool 45 per cent and the City of Sydney 39 per cent.