Council Meeting 17/06/2024

Speech for Council Meeting – Proactive Tree Maintenance on Sports Fields.

Presented by Councillor Laura Cowell

I want to address an ongoing challenge that significantly impacts our sporting community: Proactive Tree Maintenance on Sports Fields. This problem has become a critical concern, and it is essential that we, as a Council, take proactive steps to mitigate it.

Challenges with Unplayable Fields

The Sutherland Shire has some of the highest sport participation rates in NSW and a growing population.  The number of community participants have already reached the capacity of the 73 sites with formal assets and 55 green sports field sites that cater to various sports across the Shire. These fields are in high demand, and the situation becomes even more strained when wet weather renders many of them unplayable. I do acknowledge that during this Council term we have implemented the Sports strategy that is moving towards a proactive approach to implementing drainage, irrigation lighting and resurfacing at priority fields. Wet weather not only disrupts scheduled games but also creates a backlog of make-up games that further increases the pressure on our already limited field space.

This situation is compounded by the lack of sufficient lighting due to inadequate tree maintenance. Trees that have not been pruned effectively block floodlights, making evening games impossible and reducing the availability of these fields even further.

Impact on the Community

The impact on our community is significant. With the high demand for field space, every cancellation and delay affect numerous volunteers, teams and players.

The Council and I as a Councillor have received a considerable number of requests for tree maintenance around our sporting fields. These requests highlight several critical issues:

  • Trees obstructing floodlights that are essential for night games and training purposes plus ensuring safety.
  • The risk of tree branches falling near or on spectators and participants, posing safety hazards.
  • Tree coverage preventing proper drying, leading to waterlogged and unplayable conditions of the fields.

The Councils vision in the Sports strategy is clear: “A sustainable and equitable approach to delivering high-quality sports infrastructure and facilities, that enables our community to be leaders in sports participation and performance.”

With an objective to provide our community with access to sports grounds, facilities, and participation opportunities that encourage and facilitate a healthy and active lifestyle. Council measures success by the increased number of sports grounds meeting minimum standards, improved community satisfaction, and a financially sustainable approach to facility management.

To address these challenges, I have proposed the following motion:

  1. The Sports and Active Communities Sub-Committee receive an update on inspections of trees on sports fields in the Local Government Area and the identified associated maintenance works required at its July 2024 meeting.
    • Stakeholder feedback from this update will inform a report on a proactive maintenance program.
  2. Councillors receive a briefing in August 2024 on the same.
  3. Council receives a report at the November 2024 Ordinary Council Meeting on a proactive tree inspection and prioritised maintenance program for trees on sports fields in the Local Government Area. This proactive program is aimed at: a. Ensuring that any safety requirements are actioned in keeping with adopted service standards; b. Informing on the shadowing impact of trees on play, lighting, and surface condition; c. Identifying overhanging tree branches that impact on play; d. Offering a program of maintenance works that prioritises for risk and for more heavily used fields.

I believe that by implementing a proactive maintenance program, Council will ensure that our communities sporting fields are well-maintained and available for use. This will support us to provide our community with the high-quality sports infrastructure they deserve and uphold our commitment to promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

Speech for Council Meeting 17th June 2024 – Mill Creek Trail Association – Mountain Bike Infrastructure in the Sutherland Shire

Presented by Councillor Laura Cowell

I want to address a critical issue impacting our mountain biking community: Mill Creek Trail Association – Mountain Bike Infrastructure in The Sutherland Shire. This motion is aimed at ensuring the development of necessary infrastructure to support the Mill Creek Trail network in Lucas Heights, benefiting both our local residents and the broader community of mountain biking enthusiasts.

Background and Community Support

Since before I was elected to Council back in 2021, the Mill Creek Trail Association has been working with Council on the development of parking. This Council approved funds for the carpark project. There has been a significant amount of stakeholder engagement due to use of the land requiring ANSTO support. In December 2023 due to the many years of delay and concern that they were not being recognised, the Mill Creek Trail Association launched a petition highlighting the gap between policy and actual delivery of mountain biking infrastructure. The petition has gathered significant support, with over 1,400 signatures and numerous comments emphasising the need for better infrastructure and safety measures. This support underscores the community’s demand for proper facilities and safe access to the Mill Creek trail network.

The motion that I have proposed is

THAT Council:

  1. Recognises Mountain Biking as a Legitimate and Valued Sport Within the Community.
  2. Acknowledges the Valuable Contributions of Mill Creek Trail Association (MCTA) Members to Bush Care for the Conservation Area , and council receive a report on the work of Bushcare in the conservation zone at Lucas Heights.
  3. Invites a Representative from the Mill Creek Trail Association to Attend the July 2024 Sport and Active Communities Sub-Committee Meeting and commits to working with MCTA and other stakeholders to progress the timely development of delivery of auxiliary infrastructure, including car parking and cycleway surfacing, on ANSTO owned land to ensure the safe and orderly enjoyment of the Mill Creek Trail, Lucas Heights.
  4. Acknowledges that the Mayor has a scheduled meeting with ANSTO Chief Executive Officer on 14 June 2024 to discuss the needed auxiliary mountain biking infrastructure for safe access to the Mill Creek trail network and to expedite leases to allow for the delivery of this infrastructure.

Mountain biking is immensely popular among our residents, providing a healthy and enjoyable way to experience our natural environment. However, safety concerns, such as the lack of suitable infrastructure and safe access, have led to potential hazards for cyclists and conflicts with vehicles.

The lack of sufficient parking and proper cycleway surfacing has made accessing the trails difficult and dangerous. This has led to the relocation of many organised rides and deters new riders from using the facilities.

The Mill Creek trail network offers a unique opportunity for world-class trails suitable for all skill levels. It has the potential to become a must-ride destination within Sydney, attracting visitors from all over and boosting local tourism.

Providing the necessary infrastructure, such as a well-designed car park, will enhance the overall experience for riders, increase participation, and ensure the safety of all users.


By supporting this motion, we will take significant steps towards recognising mountain biking as a valued sport. This will not only benefit the local mountain biking community but also enhance the recreational opportunities available to all residents and visitors.

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Contact Laura Cowell