Sometimes, it’s about the small wins

by Tim Grey-Smith

It’s easy to be cynical about the world of politics and change. We have global inaction on the biggest environmental issue to have ever faced the planet, a federal government that seems to want to take us back into the dark ages, a state government that sees its job to approve mines regardless of the retained value for its citizens, and there’s a general distrust of politics and politicians across the board. Every now and again though you get a win, and no matter how small it may be it keeps your faith in the system and adds a bit of fuel to the fires of change. The following is one of these cases. Be warned though, this story contains no drama, no whinging and very little conflict, so it’s unlikely to be syndicated to the mainstream press any time soon.

A few months ago I was approached by a group of young basketball players, who were interested in investigating the possibility of getting a new court built somewhere within central Fremantle. The rationale was sound; there had been a loss of existing facilities at South Beach when the carpark was extended and since then, they had been playing after hours on local primary school courts. This was causing some issues with the staff at the primary schools as many still run after school care programs and it was seen that the basketball players were impinging on their space.

We met up for a coffee and discussed the options. Their timing was perfect, a proposal to build a court at Wilson Park had just met with strong community disapproval (as residents across the road didn’t want their council maintained front lawn tampered with) and a motion had been passed to “go back to the drawing board” with regards to location.

Meetings were had with parks staff, councillors and the mayor to get a better feel for what councils priorities were, and to see what locations would fit in with larger recreational strategic priorities. There was a general feeling that the re-instatement of some facilities in the South Beach area would be appropriate and that a basketball court at the Esplanade Youth Plaza was always intended in “Stage 2” works, and fully supported.

This information was fed into the budget workshop process, and with the help of Andrew Sullivan and a few other supportive councillors, two line items have appeared in the 2014/2015 budget just approved by council. $165,000 to build a full court at South Beach, and $65,000 for a half court at the EYP. These line items will fully re-instate what was lost when the South Beach carpark was extended, and a fantastic result.

Of course, this is not the end of the conversation. There is still the potential for community conflict around the full court at South Beach, as the current location identified would require the removal of a mature Norfolk pine and the repositioning of BBQ facilities. Being reasonable and community minded people however, the young people who have been championing this cause have already come up with a solution to this problem. A smaller, “pickup” style court, (as shown below) basically one with the middle 1/3 cut out, would both fit the space without the need for the tree to be removed, and satisfy the recreational needs of the players who generally play a 3-on-3 style game anyway. This solution may also free up some budget to have the same treatment done at the EYP.

Northbridge “pickup” style court.

Another great outcome from this is the possibility of a “pop up” court emerging somewhere in the CBD in the interim. Players are all pledging funds from their own pocket to purchase a portable net, which will be located (subject to the standard insurance and health and safety “hoops”) (excuse the pun) in an underutilised public space such as Westgate Mall. This not only has the benefit of creating some usable court space before the other facilities are built, but will turn a dead space into an active one. Again, a great common sense outcome.

Over the next few months, we will see these conversations playing out and if the current trend continues, we will see the needs of recreational users met, without any significant drama or conflict.

Precisely because of this, it is unlikely to get any media attention so I wanted to in some small way, shine some light on what happens regularly within council, and is rarely reported on. It might not be dramatic reading but it’s good governance, and this kind of activity is the backbone of council work and when it works, puts a smile on my face.

A special thanks has to go out to Toby Lynhe, Oli Adeane, Rowan Bond, Dave Kaloczy, Andrew Sullivan and Michael Leers for seeing this through so far. I only wish that more council issues were dealt with in such a calm, logical and respectful manner!

If you’d like to add to the conversation, head over to HoopHopes at