Updated: May 6
May 6th update here.
Coburg North residents fighting to keep Hosken Reserve as an accessible, natural space say City of Moreland's community engagement is designed to deliver the park into the hands of the municipality's elite NPL soccer clubs. The concerns relate to many aspects of council's consultation including:
seeking views on the future of Hosken Reserve via an anonymous online survey,
presenting biased and misleading information as part of engagement materials,
a lack of fairness and transparency in the selection of residents and 'experts' who will form a 'Refresh' group to shape the new plan for Hosken Reserve.
In March Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of Football Victoria, urged the presidents of all Moreland soccer clubs to instruct thousands of players, administrators, volunteers and fans to complete the council's anonymous online survey about Hosken to show support for the installation of a synthetic pitch. Council and Pascoe Vale FC say a synthetic pitch would allow local clubs to use Hosken Reserve up to 70 hours per week. The club, which has made a submission to the consultation for two new full-size soccer pitches in the north half of Hosken Reserve, appears to have joined forces with a local private school, which is understood to want to use the facilities during weekdays.
In early April six Merlynston residents wrote to Moreland CEO Cathy Henderson to detail significant deficiencies in the design and implementation of the council's community consultation. They have received no response to the letter, which includes six pages of problems with the consultation process. Read the letter to Moreland CEO Cathy Henderson here. Residents also presented a petition to the April council meeting. It requested that the nomination and selection process for the 'Refresh' group be made fair and transparent. The current process seeks to discriminate against hundreds of local residents who have joined a Facebook group to express concerns about plans to convert Hosken Reserve into a dedicated, round-the-clock soccer hub.
The concerns come after the council earlier attempted to install a synthetic soccer pitch on Hosken Reserve's oval without publicising the plans or alerting locals.
When the synthetic plans became public on social media in late 2020, Merlynston residents launched a campaign to keep fair access to their only large green space. They've since been joined by other Moreland ratepayers concerned by council's lack of transparency and by the environmental degradation caused by synthetic sports pitches in parks and schools.
Residents fear their rights to access council's recreation reserves are being whittled away by City of Moreland's apparent willingness to bend to the demands of Football Victoria and clubs competing in its NPL competitions. Rise of expensive, exclusive soccer Moreland has four soccer clubs competing in the NPL Vic 2 fixture (Mens) and in the North competition of the recently expanded Junior Boys NPL, making it one of the most concentrated NPL local government areas in metropolitan Melbourne.
These four Moreland clubs must each field four boys NPL teams (U14, U15, U16, U17). Football Victoria stipulates each JBNPL team should train three times per week and have access to pitches for 40 weeks per year. Each licensed club must have access to one dedicated and approved NPL-standard pitch. NPL teams and clubs are far more expensive to participate in than community teams and attract many players who do not live locally. While the number of male NPL clubs is undoubtably placing a strain on Moreland's sports fields, many local politicians and their supporters have claimed synthetic pitches are about increasing girls and women's access to grassroots' soccer. It is not clear to us:
whether Moreland suffers a genuine lack of space for all the local residents who want to play club soccer
or, whether the existing facilities are simply not being utilised fully, or divided fairly between NPL and community-level soccer
All of Moreland's current girls and women's teams play at the community level (not NPL).
If Moreland residents are being turned away from local clubs and teams, it's not necessarily as simple as a lack of space. Could it also be that they can't find a suitable team to join because there is not enough variety in the local landscape? And of course there's another question. If there is a lack of space to accommodate all local residents who want to play club soccer, is synthetic the answer? That's a topic for another time. Take Action Our community holds strong concerns about the environmental and heat island impact of synthetic sports fields in Moreland's public open space, and council's plans to allow NPL soccer clubs and private schools to dominate Hosken Reserve 45-70 hours/week. If you have concerns about the Hosken Reserve consultation, about synthetic pitches in Moreland's parks, or about the increasing privitisation of access to public parks, please contact: City of Moreland: email@example.com 'Attention to CEO Cathy Henderson' or other relevant members of the council Executive
Also send individual emails to the below councillors who have expressed strong support for a synthetic soccer pitch at Hosken Reserve, the Merlynston community's only large open green space.
Councillors who support synthetic soccer pitches Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cr Helen Pavlidis: HPavlidism@moreland.vic.gov.au Cr Oscar Yildiz: email@example.com Cr Helen Davidson: firstname.lastname@example.org Cr Lambros Tapinos: email@example.com Cr Milad El-Halabi: MElHalabi@moreland.vic.gov.au
You can also contact Cr Sue Bolton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cr Adam Pulford: email@example.com