– A letter from Australian Institute of Landscape Architects NSW Group, Sacha Coles, to Hardman, chief executive officer of Homebush Motor Racing Authority and copied to NSW Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally, and chief executive officer of Sydney Olympic Park Authority, Alan Marsh, published in full –

We write on behalf of The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, a nationally recognised professional organisation which provides leadership, structure and a network to harness the intellectual energy of Australian landscape architects.

AILA’s landscape principles are upheld by their registered members, and are to:

  • Value our landscape
  • Protect, enhance and regenerate our landscape
  • Design with respect: for the environment and the community
  • Design for the future: promote sustainability for the benefit of future generations
  • Embrace responsive design

Sydney Olympic Park

The Sydney Olympic Site has been a significant project in the development of landscape architecture, site planning and sustainable design in general, in Australia. It is therefore important to AILA that the urban and environmental planning of the site is protected and preserved.

Sydney Olympic Park – The home of the Green Games, has an international identity as the first “Green” Olympic Site. AILA believes that HMRA’s proposals are in resolute conflict with the designs and outcomes of the site. The decision to host the V8 Supercar race in the heart of Sydney Olympic Park – is completely antithetical to the site’s long standing environmental ethos and compromises the integrity of the  design and ecological restoration work conducted by a large team of design professionals from both Australia and internationally.

AILA is concerned by the lack of consultation with the landscape architecture profession, who were highly involved in the development of the SOP site over the last twenty years. We would have welcomed the opportunity to work with HMRA in developing a solution that maintains the sense of place and landscape on this or another site, while achieving the technical requirements of the proposed course.

There is currently a lot of discussion about the post-Olympic success of green sites, with a focus on the upcoming London Olympics. Sydney is obviously being used as a precedent for the planning and design for that site. AILA are concerned that by introducing uses to the site that are incongruous with the legacy of the Green Games, the NSW Government is suggesting that a ‘Green’ Olympic site is economically unsustainable in the long term.

Significant habitat removal and the introduction of a sport with an unsustainable image, such as V8 racing, significantly detract from the character of the Sydney Olympic Park. AILA are concerned that this will affect or compromise future investment in the site, for example any events that may be associated with the anniversary of the ‘Green Games’ which will occur next year.

Furthermore the physical interventions arising from accommodating the event at Sydney Olympic Park are major concerns to AILA:

  • There has been no consultation regarding the removal of a vast number of Eucalyptus along the proposed track. These great tree lined streets are the investment of over 10 years of growth of native trees. Their removal is not only detrimental to the character of Sydney Olympic Park but it will also contribute to increasing the Urban Heat Island Effect.
  • In addition to the major street trees, the affected streets and avenues were all carefully designed, with high quality pavements, kerbs, access and under-storey planting. All theseelements risk being removed, leaving a ragged appearance and amenity for the 5 years of the V8 operation.
  • Free and open pedestrian and cycle movement throughout the Sydney Olympic Park public domain will be severely curtailed before, during and after the event.
  • There risks being damage to the innovative water treatment system at Sydney Olympic Park due to extreme run off and the like.
  • The site’s ecology, including the Brick pit, water treatment ponds, remediated caps to embedded contamination all are put at risk by the staging of this event.

We call on HMRA to respond to the following questions which are concerned with achieving a balance of the impacts of holding V8 racing at the SOP site. In relation to all of the above, we seek clarification on a number of critical issues:

What safeguards, both financial and physical, are there for the restoration of the lost elements and amenity?
What are the interim measures to be put in place over the periods between events?

What measures are being taken to minimise impacts on the public domain and the accessibility to this major public place?
How is the interaction with other major public facilities (such as the Aquatic Centre) and events being managed?

HMRA and V8 motor racing, as a sport, should be improving its image and implementing strategies to promote its sustainability. Association with the Sydney Olympic Park site should offer opportunities in this area, rather than reduce the sustainability profile of SOP. What are the HRMA’S commitments to align with a “Healthy Cities Programme” in the creation of a sustainable place both during and following the “V8” tenure? (A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving the physical and social environments and expanding the community resources that enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and in developing to their maximum potential.)

Promotion of The Four Pillars of Sustainability’(Environmental/economic/social/corporate)  –
is central to AILA’s advocacy role.

We see a great opportunity for the major participants of the V8 event – HRMA, Ford and Holden to become outstanding corporate citizens by implementing a more than just compensatory replacement of trees. What other initiatives have been committed to over the 5 year tenure that will continue to promote the brands of SOP, HMRA, Ford and Holden?

The visual, cultural and environmental impact of removing vast quantities (rumoured to be up to 900) mature trees cannot be mitigated by replacement planting with less mature species. It is critical to the character of the place to retain the established form and height of the street trees. Removal of mature trees and replacement with less mature species will reduce shade to hard surfaces and increase the amount of heat generated by the bitumen surfaces under the hot summer sun (Urban Heat Island effect). Also, less mature tree species will not necessarily provide a suitable habitat replacement. What are HRMA’s commitments to replacement of the trees currently being removed from the V8 site?

We recommend that any compensatory plantings occur immediately, promoting the establishment of a replacement habitat as soon as possible, and leaving only the replacement trees to be planted at the end of the five year contract. We further require the removal, replacement and compensation of existing trees to be carried out through approved sustainable methods.

Has HMRA conducted a carbon calculation of the project?  And, if so, what is the plan for off-setting the impact of adding to Sydney’s carbon footprint?  By removing trees which are entering intermediate maturity and are capturing carbon and reducing airborne pollutants on the streets, as well as producing CO2 in their race there will be a significant increase in unprocessed carbon emissions.

We believe that SOP is one of the major public assets for all the citizens of the State of NSW. It is a place of design and environmental leadership, a place for events and celebration for all. Therefore it is imperative that this place be managed in the widest possible public interest, in a transparent and inclusive manner. AILA is concerned that the proposed V8 events will imperil this highly valued place, and that all due care and scrutiny is needed to safeguard the long-term interests of the citizens.

The AILA looks forward to the response from HMRA on these issues.