Labor backs down on Callan Park



SYDNEY — In a stunning backflip, one day after the Greens defeat of the ALP in the October 19 Cunningham federal by-election, NSW Labor planning minister Andrew Refshauge and Port Jackson Labor MP Sandra Nori announced that the government's plan to sell parts of Callan Park would not go ahead.

The NSW Labor government had previously planned to sell off eight hectares of the park to private developers.

In what Hall Greenland of the Friends of Callan Park described as “a heartening victory”, Nori and Refshauge announced that a bill to ban the sale of any Callan Park land would be introduced to parliament this week. Nori claimed she had been working on the bill since September.

In a media statement written straight after the backdown, Greenland outlined some lingering concerns about the bill. “There is no provision for a trust to look after the heritage grounds and buildings and there are provisions for leasing in the bill but no safeguards on those leases.”

Greenland also pointed out that the government still plans to transfer the psychiatric hospital from Callan Park to Concord, even though “the most sensible and humane plan would be to have mental health facilities at both Callan Park and Concord”.

“Even so”, Greenland added, the backflip “is a famous victory for people power and for the environment.”

The campaign to save Callan Park has involved mass meetings of up to 600 people, a demonstration of some 2000 people at the park itself and a community campaign which saw green ribbons festooning houses and street poles around the Rozelle area.

Recent polling had indicated that 90% of local residents were opposed to the proposed sell off. It also indicated a huge drop in electoral support for Labor, with indications that the Greens could possibly win Nori's seat.

From Green Left Weekly, October 30, 2002.
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