Save the Boronia Heights Secondary College Site for the Community
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In 2013, the total cost burden of physical inactivity on the Australian economy was $805 million, including $640 million in direct costs and $165 million in productivity losses (source: University of Sydney 2013). Director of Health Economics at Cornell University, Professor John Cawley, has suggested that governments and businesses now need to look at how to use these figures to prevent people from developing so-called lifestyle-related illnesses.
The Boronia Heights Secondary College site is the perfect opportunity for our local government to show its citizens that our health and wellbeing is more important than the revenue that would be gained from the sale and development of the land. We have an obligation to all peoples of this community to have this parcel of land retained for community use once again.
Being physically active and limiting your sedentary behaviour every day is essential for health and wellbeing. It can create opportunities for a range of fun experiences, make you feel good, improve your health, and be a great way to relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family. This is what our community needs – not more high density housing that due to a range of factors will surely add to our already existent drug problems.
Along with the health benefits of regular physical exercise, it should also be noted that it can create opportunities for socialising and meeting new people and help to prevent and manage mental health problems. Social isolation and loneliness is one of the elements that can make mental health issues far worse.
Ideas for the Land
Some of the sports that would work well on this site are a cross country running circuit, junior female and male football, dedicated cycle racing criterium track, half-court basketball, a walking track and a range of other recreational inclusions such as barbeques, toilets, seating, shade, splash zone and playground facilities all which encourage people to gather, socialise and interact before and after recreational pursuits as well as provide facilities to the community as a whole.
The topography of the site lends itself well to a range of recreation and leisure facilities:
- There is a medium sized football field in place already, which is perfect for junior teams.
- Some existing flat area is available for half-court basketball and possibly a play area for younger children and BBQ and tables with existing natural shade.
- Running and cycling tracks in most cases can work with the natural landscape which means minimal disruption to existing plant life.
- The football field would help multiple local clubs with most already facing pressure on existing grounds to cope with the demands of extra foot traffic on game days and training days since the introduction of female football teams.
- A cross country running circuit would benefit racing clubs, school competition and general public.
- Walking tracks (possibly with lighting down the track) would create opportunities for friends to gather and walk together and get their daily 10,000 steps.
- The criterium cycling track could be approximately 1.2-1.4 km in length and used by clubs like Eastern Vets Cycling, Blackburn Cycling Club (not in Blackburn) run their junior cycle program at the rear of the Seimens building in Bayswater to keep the kids off the road. Once again this club has no local options. The closest crit track is at Casey Fields in Cranbourne Sth. This parcel of land could be used for road racing to benefit local cycle clubs, school rider education and also allow older people who are intimidated or not confident in riding amongst traffic the chance to engage in physical activity in a safe and controlled area.
All of the sports and social areas put forward would cause minimal disruption to existing plant life as some areas are already partially there, running and cycling tracks in most cases can be manipulated around the landscape at hand. If the transformation of the site was done in conjunction with flora and fauna experts it could even be used as a place to encourage and attract local species. You can read more about the threat to natural species and flora at the site here.
Traffic and Noise
As for traffic issues, a housing development of this size is going to attract more than 60-70 cars with traffic coming and going till late in the night along with increased street parking pressure so a recreation reserve would cause minimal disruption. There is from what I can see without measurements enough room for well more than 60 cars in just one area at the top or the Eastern end of the site (possibly the former teacher’s car park) already in existence. As for noise issues -bikes and running make almost zero decibels. The only potential sound would be from our community members laughing, engaging and having fun whilst being physically active – passing the football, giggling in the playground and chatting with friends over a BBQ. A much sweeter tune than that of multiple air conditioning units going from high density housing I’m sure you would agree!
We have an opportunity to do something great for our existing community and generations to follow. I reiterate that the long term benefits of increasing health and well-being and social inclusion far outweigh the profit from high density housing.
The Department of Health encourages people on their website to “Move more, sit less, every day!” This is an opportunity to do just that.
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