Conference paper
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Abstract: Greenspace has long been recognised as a crucial urban amenity for environmental, social and economic reasons. Garvin (2001, 11) maintains that ‘it is impossible to understand fully the functioning of cities and suburbs or plan adequately for their future’ without a ‘deep appreciation of parks and the way they affect every aspect of our lives’. Internationally, a wide range of research projects, strategic plans and planning guides, prepared by and for government authorities and not-for-profit agencies, attests to an increasing demand for well integrated and high quality greenspace in urban regions (Veal, 2009). Recent Australian work has ranged from evaluating the adequacy of standards of provision for the compact city (Byrne and Sipe 2010; Searle, 2011) to considering the contribution of regional open space to metropolitan form and quality of life (Dooley and Pilgrim, 2010; Low Choy, 2010). Greenspace is vital to the character and amenity of Sydney yet can fly under the radar when other seemingly more pressing issues such as employment, transport and housing dominate contemporary discourse (Freestone et al 2006). Metropolitan Sydney is well endowed with greenspaces which in aggregate comprise approximately 630,000 hectares or 49% of the total land area (NSW DoP 2005). These greenspaces vary widely in type, program, administrative structure and size. They include the extensive and iconic national parks which rim and punctuate the built-up area, three botanic gardens, many sporting grounds and diverse, small pockets of bushland. Nor is Sydney plagued by issues of limited accessibility: 91% of residents live within walking distance (5-10 minutes) to a greenspace; the same percentage is less than a 30 minute drive to a large regional greenspace (NSW DoP 2005). Over the last decade the NSW government has focused less on supply per se and more on ensuring accessibility and improving the quality of facilities and experiences (NSW Government, 2006, 2010). At the same time, important strategic and management challenges need to be confronted. Ownership, management and planning regimes for greenspace at the metropolitan level remain incredibly complex, and no synoptic overview exists. Supply remains an issue for a growing and densifying metropolitan population. Access to diverse and quality open space remains uneven. New environmental demands for metropolitan greenspace in response to climate change adaptation are surfacing. Financial resources are constrained and governance structures are fragmented across an admixture of different state, metropolitan and local stakeholders. Furthermore, in recent years open space has commanded less political attention, with, for example, a demonstrably diminished status in the latest metropolitan strategy (NSW DoP 2010a). How to assess the overall state of play? The aim of this paper is to identify and discuss some of the main strategic and policy challenges for planning metropolitan greenspace in Sydney. The paper has three main sections. First, we attempt to briefly catalogue the evolution and typology of open space within the Sydney region. Second, we overview the current administrative structures for greenspace in the metropolitan region. Third, we identify and discuss a number of key policy challenges currently surfacing or looming in the not too distant future. Our research for the paper draws on a review of recent policy and planning documents, some limited academic reviews, and detailed interviews with senior representatives of key stakeholder organisations in metropolitan greenspace acquisition, funding and management.

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