Is desecration too strong a word for the devastation which is now taking place in Yarra Park? Yarra Park is arguably "sacred" in many respects. It contains some of the very few signs left of Aboriginal life in the land that became Melbourne. It is one of the large open spaces envisioned by La Trobe making up the green belt for the new city. It was and is a hugely popular centre of recreation for the city. The first game of Australian Rules Football was played here. It is the site of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, famous the world over for cricket, football, Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Looking at the Park in August 2010 you would think that we have lost sight of all that is sacred. Are we really such barbarians?
A recent letter from the State Government advised that:
With regard to parking in Yarra Park, a number of parameters for car parking in the area have been established. These parameters ensure attention is given to the health of the park when allowing car parking. They include:
- Rotating car parking areas for event days
- Increased the number of car park attendants to minimise cars parking in inappropriate areas
- Ensure cars park away from tree root zones
- Shutting down areas where degraded
Given the current state of the Park application of these parameters would close the whole of Yarra Park for car parking for the remainder of the football season - at least.
This photo essay started on the 2nd August 2010 and has continued over subsequent football weekends. Between the 11th and 13th of August 22 millimetres of rain fell, enough to stop car parking in previous years. Not this year. Parking has continued as this record shows, with repeated serious violations of the car parking criteria.
Local residents believe that Yarra Park and its heritage and community values are under the most severe stress they have faced in many years.
The State Government has recently handed management responsibility for Yarra Park to the MCG Trust. The Trust acknowledges the heritage and community values of Yarra Park and its wider responsibilities. And there is an advisory committee:
But why are the government's guidelines being breached so comprehensively and why has the deterioration of the park been allowed to reach this stage? Will the current downward spiral ever be reversed?
The first weekend of the finals demonstrated the worst of the current Yarra Park management, if you can call it that. The preceding week was full of news of heavy rain and flooding for the weekend. The forecasts proved accurate. But was car parking curtailed in any way? No. The Park was churned to a bog. That anyone escaped injury with slipping and sliding cars and people was sheer luck. The trees and the ground did not escape injury. Nor did the reputations of those responsible - the State Government, the MCG and the AFL.
The tom-toms are beating for the State Government but they can't hear them. Why are foresight and imagination so lacking?
We can do better. We must do better. But it will take vision and leadership to give Yarra Park a sustainable future worthy of its own place in our history and community and worthy of the great MCG.