Park ownership posed

By Grace Jones | posted on September 26, 2019

YAKAMIA residents may be restricted from using a local park during school hours in the future with Bethel Christian School potentially seeking to apply for ownership of Worra Park.

Earlier this month Yakamia residents received a letter and a survey from school Principal Mim Butler to canvas the opinions of residents about the park.

“Bethel Christian School (BCS) is growing and we are exploring ways to enhance facilities which benefit our students, and which also benefit the community,” she said in the letter.

Resident Levi Wheatcroft said during public question time on Tuesday night at a City of Albany council meeting that the letter was concerning as it alluded to a partnership between the public and the school.

“But no detail regarding the nature of this partnership, nor commitment regarding the management of public concerns is provided,” he said.

“There must be mutual benefit for all stakeholders. While the benefits to the school are obvious, the benefits to other park users and local residents are unclear.”

Gillian McBride also spoke against the potential for Worra Park to be taken under private ownership.

“It concerns me greatly that the City of Albany is considering handing over public spaces to private organisations in order to save a few dollars in maintenance,” she said.

“Is that even allowed?

“Even consideration of this proposal is setting a dangerous precedent and saying to the Albany community that private organisations are more important than they are, and that any public space is up for grabs.”

City Mayor Dennis Wellington said if the school submitted a development application it would not set a precedent.

“It’s an isolated issue. We would never hand over all of our parks. It just won’t happen,” he said.

City council Yakamia Ward candidate Chris Thomson said everyone would need to keep an open mind on the project.

“Council has a history in recent times of consulting only with landholders abutting the area affected,” he said.

“My concern is that once the information from the survey is in and when a development application is lodged, will the City only consult with those 10 landholders?”

Mr Thomson said to an extent the school was attempting to privatise the park but had done the right thing in consulting with the community first.

Bethel Christian School Principal Mim Butler and Yakamia Ward Councillor Anthony Moir were contacted for comment.