Generous proposal ... Knox has offered $1million to lay a running
track in The Glade park.
Private school money talks in council decision
By Matthew Moore
Sydney Morning Herald
May 31, 2011
A SYDNEY council has given in-principle support to a plan by two wealthy private schools to pay $2 million for a synthetic running track in a public park near their schools in Wahroonga.
After the offer of $1 million each from Abbotsleigh and Knox to lay a track in a nearby park called The Glade, Ku-ring-gai Council last week abandoned its support for an upgrade of an established grass athletics track at Bannockburn Oval, two suburbs away in Pymble.
Although the council will undertake further assessments before a final decision, the headmistress of Abbotsleigh, Judith Poole, said she was ''rapt'' with the council's support for her plan, which would mean students would no longer take buses to Narrabeen or Olympic Park, where the nearest tracks are.
With councils increasingly short of funds, Ku-ring-gai has called for partners to help fund community infrastructure, and Ms Poole said the schools thought this was a great chance to provide facilities for their students and the community.
Under their proposal, the schools will lease the track for three hours a day during term and hold a total of four carnivals each year, and other schools or sporting groups will be able to rent the track at other times.
The president of Ku-ring-gai Little Athletics, John McFadden, opposed the plan and said the council should have stuck with its original support for upgrading the existing 300 metre track at Bannockburn Oval, where his group has run events for more than 30 years.
''We feel disappointment council has dropped the idea … the two ovals have not changed, so money must be the thing that's pushed them to that decision.''
Mr McFadden said the council had also seriously underestimated the cost of installing and maintaining a synthetic track that would be vulnerable to attacks by vandals.
''If you build a track it needs to be fenced and locked because unfortunately people like to damage them, set fire to bins on them or ride bikes on them … and they are very expensive to repair.''
Ms Poole said Little Athletics had not even agreed to discuss the schools' plan with the council and she had no interest in funding a track at Bannockburn Oval because her students would be unable to walk to it.
''Once I got them into a bus, why would I pay a million dollars?'' she said.