Statement by Mayor Louise Crawford
The passionate discussions about whether to extend a trial for Albert Park College (APC) students to access the Gasworks Arts Park have shown how loved this special open space is by residents and students.
The proposal considered by Councillors tonight was never about stopping the students from using the Gasworks Arts Park over 2021. It was seeking to respond to concerns raised by some residents – and observations by Council officers - that more stringent supervision was required by teachers to ensure consistent good behaviour by students.
Gasworks Arts Park has soil contamination which could result in all park users being exposed to toxic chemicals, including lead, if the topsoil is disturbed. There are already ‘goat tracks’ in the park from students not sticking to the paths stipulated in the agreement with the school and this cannot continue as everyone needs to be able to safely enjoy the park.
Our decision tonight extends the trial to the end of 2021 so students can continue to benefit from accessing these beautiful surroundings.
Instead of the proposal to reduce the space able to be used by students, we are retaining the same access available under the 2020 trial apart from a very small patch of land leased by the Gasworks Arts Park and used as a terrace to facilitate people entering their building. This area was unintentionally included in the 2020 trial so we are correcting this anomaly.
To help ensure good behaviour during this next phase of the trial, we have increased the ratio of the required teacher supervision by 50 per cent, effectively rising from four to six teachers. This was proposed by the school to ensure that all the licence regulations required under the trial are followed and we commend APC’s commitment to working with us and the local community so the park can continue to be enjoyed by all.
The 2021 school year trial will end in December. Council can then properly assess how the new arrangements have worked and look at a permanent arrangement. We cannot do a meaningful assessment at this stage as COVID-19 meant there were lengthy periods where students were not at school during the original trial timeframe.
We agree with the Victorian Government’s comments about the importance of open spaces being available to students, particularly those attending vertical schools with little outdoor green space.
We look forward to working with the Government on ways of them planning and delivering these spaces as more vertical schools are appearing in our City and we have finite open space which is already in strong demand.