Reserve’s history of strife and community action

From left, principal of Tulliallan Primary School Kathy Sharp, Casey's chair of administrators Noelene Duff PSM, Rebecca Hyland from the Tulliallan Resident Group and her two daughters Georgia and Olivia, Tulliallan Resident Group member Angie Serwecinska, Navepreet Saini from Cranbourne United Soccer Club, and Buddhika Managoda from Eastern Rebel’s Cricket Club. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Ethan Benedicto

The new Kowan Recreational Reserve in Cranbourne North is more than just a welcome addition, but also a hard-fought victory spanning multiple years of community action and legal battles, as its opening was officially announced on Tuesday, 14 May.

The local residents’ struggles initially began in 2019 when the 6.8 hectares of land on 1955 Alisma Boulevard, with the promise to surrounding homes of sports fields, was reneged by developer Konann Pty Ltd.

A Casey Council document stated that Konann applied for a planning permit on 132 residential allotments in 2015, which was met with resistance in the form of more than 1200 signatures by Tulliallan Estate residents at that time.

It was due to a legal loophole that the building of the estate had begun before there was any formal written agreement for a sports field.

Rebecca Hyland, a mum of two and key resident who played a pivotal role in mounting the community effort, expressed her joy on a recent Facebook post, saying that she was “so happy to see the full process”.

“From the beginning with the fight, to all the friends and connections along the way, to the celebrations of when the land was secured by the council,” Ms Hyland said.

The project was part of the State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund, where Casey received $3.3 million for the project. Casey’s chair of administrators Noelene Duff PSM said that they are committed to providing the required infrastructure for all clubs across the municipality, saying that “local sport is such a vital part of our community and something council is very proud to support”.

“The growing Cranbourne North community now has even better access not only to local sport but also for a range of other community activities and celebrations that will no doubt occur in this space,” she said.

Council contributed $1.1 million towards the $10.7 million project, with $6.3 million received through developer contributions.

Going back, the months of May and June 2019 were busy, not just for the residents but for the council and Konann as well.

Konann lodged a claim to the minister of planning and the council for financial loss which were both rejected.

Council then offered to purchase the land for $15.48 million but the developer declined, stating that the value was double according to council documents.

The case then went to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in May 2019, with negotiations between the council and developer bearing no fruit.

Local residents then lodged an application to the ACCC with Ms Hyland commenting to Star News then that “residents are furious with the latest news and want to seek legal advice, as any reduction should not be negotiated”.

Residents sought legal advice from consumer law firm Slater and Gordon, adamant on the fact that the surrounding land was advertised with material that stated a future sports field.

While Ms Hyland confirmed on 24 June 2019 that the ACCC said the case fell outside of the laws that they administer, she told the Star then that her and the residents were “prepared to sit on that land to prevent the bulldozers”.

Both council the Konann Pty Ltd reached an agreement for the former party to purchase the land for sporting facilities in July 2019, with construction that began in the financial year of 2020-21.

The previously undeveloped green field has since been transformed into a sporting precinct, which includes three soccer fields, a cricket oval, cricket practice nets, a playground, shared paths, car parking and a public art piece called Space Knot by Benjamin Storch.

“The construction of the new reserve and surrounding facilities will increase participation in soccer and cricket, and allow maximum use of this reserve,” MsDuff said.

Ms Duff and council CEO Glenn Patterson were joined by members of the Cranbourne United Soccer Club, the Eastern Rebels Cricket Club and representatives from the Tulliallan Resident Group and Tulliallan Primary School to open the reserve.

With the Kowan Recreation Reserve finally open to all, Ms Hyland said that her “heart is full”.

“We needed this green space as it’s essential for the wellbeing of everybody.

“This is just wonderful, it’s packed all the time [and] even when it’s raining there are kids playing soccer because they love it so much,” she said.

The new reserve also features a multi-use pavilion, which includes six change rooms, a large community space, a kitchen and other public amenities.

Cranbourne United Soccer Club secretary Navpreet Saini said the club is committed to creating a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone.

“Every evening, the kids come to the ground to train and have fun, the parents are also actively involved in club activities and enjoy having a place to meet and socialise,” he said.

For Ms Hyland, “it will always be Tulliallan Sports Fields in our hearts, and seeing all the people in the community using the fields – sometimes it’s so busy I can’t see how any more people could fit; thank you to everyone in my community“.