Brimbank, Australia

Photo by Emma Cross

Implementation, Impact and Replicability

How does the initiative demonstrate evidence of a track record of success against pursued objectives?          

At the opening of Sunvale, a key community member who advocated for this school to become a park and who was very passionate about the community having a say in how the park should be developed, gave a speech. He mentioned that he had never seen the wishes of the community included as extensively as the master plan for Sunvale envisioned. He congratulated Council and Council staff from the Urban Design Department who led the community engagement, master planning, and design and construction phases for this project.

Sunvale Community Park has been embraced by the local community as is in constant use. During COVID-19 restrictions, it became a hub and activity allowing the community to engage in a myriad of exercise activities or just enjoy spending time in a green space. This park contributed to the resilience of the local community in dealing with the many lockdowns associated with COVID -19.

How has the initiative had a ripple effect beyond the scope of the initiative itself, thereby demonstrating a change in the city’s and/or its partners’ way of working with plants?

Given the VERY HIGH challenge ranking for Brimbank, Greener Spaces Better Place has celebrated and featured Brimbanks’ positive collaboration with their community to deliver Sunvale Community Park in Brimbank (VIC), featuring this initiative in Where Will All the Trees Be? p.65, 2020, showcasing this model nationally.

Sunvale Community Park was the first passive park to install integrated blue/green infrastructure.
Since then, Council has adopted an approach to key parks where they are treated as Oasis Parks. This approach is underpinned by assessing a park’s current and future functionality and the potential for using nearby stormwater.

Council has an Integrated Water Management Team (IWMT) that oversees this approach with staff from Engineering, Environment, Urban Design, Assets and Parks. The most recent example of this is the Dempster Park Oasis Upgrade where a blue/green infrastructure system has been installed to treat and harvest local stormwater with the capacity to store 1,000,000 litres of water underground. Sunvale stores 100,000litre.

Council’s IWMT was successful in obtaining $2,000,000 from Melbourne Water and Greater Western Water to fund and deliver Dempster Park project. Brimbank City Council is leading the way in retrofitting parks with blue/green infrastructure to ensure parks are green, cool and functional as the climate warms into this century.

How have other cities expressed interest in the initiative, or what potential does it have to interest other cities and be customised to their own circumstances?

In seeking to make parks sustainable and resilient and to utilise stormwater to make cities more liveable, Sunvale Community Park offers a model for how to achieve this, especially disused 20th century public infrastructure.

From a local government perspective, its vital do have the appropriate design professionals, such as landscape architects delivering policy documents that seek to create quality park/public spaces that deal with climatic and cultural issues on the 21st century. In the 20th century it was given that engineers were embedded in local governments. For the 21st century landscape architect and urban design should be the norm to ensure natural systems are embedded in the way a city functions.
When public assets like schools become obsolete, the state government should not dispose of land to the private sector but assist local governments in repurposing’s these sites for community benefit and for reintroduction of natural systems into cities.

Integrated blue/green infrastructure can ensure that parks become a network of green places that mitigate heatwaves, minimise flooding, create ‘Soak Cities’ and to develop ecological based infrastructure for the well-being of people, plants and associated fauna.

To start the transformation of old public infrastructure, it’s important to start with the community and to use their ideas in creating the vision. Sunvale Community Park has successfully achieved this with the incorporation of over 250 ideas.