The announcement of a staggering $1.7 million in government funding heading to a new playground at Riverbank Park in Yass, has re-aggravated the community of Murrumbateman who met with local federal member Kristy McBain on Saturday in a plea for a new playground facility of their own.

The rally was organised by a passionate advocate for local children’s sporting opportunities, Kristen Butler who also started the highly successful little athletics program in the village.

Kristy McBain speaks with Murrumbateman residents who held a rally on Saturday afternoon in protest

Kristy described the community’s desire for a playground as “essential” and vowed she would work with the necessary groups to get the project completed.

“Thank you to Kristen for inviting me to join members of the Murrumbateman community to discuss the need for a local all-abilities recreational playground.” 

“It is clear that an all-abilities playground is essential, not only for the local community but also for the many people travelling through Murrumbateman.”

“I will continue to work with Kristen, the Murrumbateman Progress Association and the Yass Valley Council to ensure that the much-needed project is delivered,” she said. 

Murrumbateman Progress Association President Greg Weekes says Council planning in 2017 identified the need for a category one playground facility in Murrumbateman, but all that has been done so far was an outdated upgrade to the set of swings in Jones Park.

“When Council did their playground strategy plan back in 2017, it identified there were only two playgrounds in Murrumbateman, one is a set of swings in Jones Park and the other is a slightly larger, more modern ‘Category Two’ next to the Anglican Church.”

“The two swings at Jones Park are the oldest in the entire Shire and they were 17 years old and identified as the highest priority for replacement, they have just been replaced last month.”

“In the meantime of course there’s been a lot of playground development in Yass and other villages, and nothing has occurred in Murrumbateman,” he said.

Greg says the Progress Association has done all it can to work with Yass Valley Council on the matter.

“We [the Murrumbateman Progress Association] have met with Council on numerous occasions and we’ve told them that the major concern for the residents of Murrumbateman, particularly for the young families, is that there is no playground suitable for children of all ages.”

Speaking from his personal opinion as a Murrumbateman resident, he believes there are now feelings of genuine outrage that exist within the community in relation to the issue.

“There is a really strong, emotional angst that Murrumbateman is the poor second cousin to Yass and a lot of the residents are really angry about it now.”

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“The more they see developments going on in Yass and nothing being done in Murrumbateman, the angrier they are going to get.”

“The number one issue for Murrumbateman in the Council elections will be a Category One Park. You can bet your dollar on it,” he said.

Yass Valley Council staff report they met with the state government Legacy Grant advisors who said dividing the grant funds across two locations would not meet the NSW government’s criteria, leaving the Yass Riverside Park the only qualifying project Council put forward.

General Manager of Yass Valley Council Chris Berry, says deciding on a location for a Murrumbateman Category One Park is the biggest issue at the present time.

“Available land on the western side of the Barton is the problem. The Rec Grounds are used for more formal recreation/sport – we are currently working with the user groups to finalise an overall plan for the site.”

“The Crown Land off Hercules St has significant biodiversity constraints. The playground area identified in the Fairley estate has been acquired for the new school (although we are negotiating for community access to school grounds and hall),” he wrote.

Mr Berry also said that the Council would prefer to build on land they own, and mentioned the Council owned Hawthorn Estate as a potential destination.

“Historically we have leased some land off the church for open space but there are problems with Council building on privately owned land. The recently approved subdivision off Isabel Drive and currently under construction includes a small playground.” 

“A project to develop an overarching open space strategy for the LGA has been identified in the 2021/22 budget. The most obvious place for a playground in Murrumbateman is on the Council land at Hawthorn but the constraints mapping has not been finalised so location and size have not been identified,” he wrote.

To ensure the project remains on the agenda, Kristy encouraged the public to contact her office at (02) 6284 2442 and Kristy.McBain.MP@aph.gov.au.

Max O’Driscoll