All information in this report was considered correct and current at the time of publication and any errors or omissions are unintentional. The Centre of Sport and Recreation Research and Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University and
the Department of Sport and Recreation disclaims all and any liability of any person in respect of the consequences of any action or consequence for such persons in reliance, whether wholly or partially, on this report.
This document is a summary of a research report prepared by Curtin University’s Centre for Sport and Recreation Research (CSRR) and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University.
The project relied extensively on the collaboration of the local governments who participated in the study: Armadale, Cambridge, Cockburn, Cottesloe, Gosnells, Joondalup, Kwinana, Mandurah, Melville, Mosman Park, Murray, Nedlands, Rockingham, Serpentine-Jarrahdale,
Stirling, Swan, Wanneroo. The study team would like to thank all involved and in particular those local government and Parks and Leisure Australia (WA branch) representatives who comprised the steering group.
The study was funded by the Department of Sport and Recreation.
Authors: Dr Garry Middle, Dr Marian Tye and Isaac Middle
CSRR is a partnership between Curtin University and the Department of Sport and Recreation WA.
CSRR provides an independent perspective to look at the horizon and beyond, and identify issues that will:
CSRR operates by drawing together multi-disciplinary teams to undertake research that informs decision makers.
Sport is not simply about being the best or beating other countries or gaining the most medals. From events like the Olympic Games to local matches on a Saturday afternoon, sport brings people together. It is a key part of creating safe, strong and sustainable
communities. -Nicholson, M. Hoye, R. (Ed’s.) (2008). Sport and social capital. Amsterdam: Elsevier p.72.
Open space is an inherent part of the Australian culture, helping to define Perth and contribute to the physical and mental health of our community. Public open space (POS) comprises the freely accessible areas that support the functions of recreation,
relaxation, socialisation, organised sporting activities, informal play and environmental protection.
The past two decades has seen POS used for a greater range of applications, notably environmental protection, water management and walkable catchments. The introduction of Bush Forever, which aims to protect important bushland in Perth and the move
to better urban stormwater management through Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has seen more open space being set aside for these purposes. Both of these policies have led to significant benefits by delivering positive environmental and social
outcomes for the community. The Western Australian Planning Commission’s (WAPC) Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN) policy, which offers reduced POS provision incentives to developers, has also had implications for open space. When combined, these
initiatives have resulted in the perception that there are now insufficient active reserves (active open space) to accommodate organised sport.
The aim of the research was to find out if the perception that there are insufficient active reserves being provided in the newer suburbs of Perth on which to accommodate organised sport—is correct.
This research focused on active POS which, for the purposes of this study, comprises those spaces that are deliberately designed and managed for organised sporting activities including football ovals, soccer pitches, cricket grounds, rugby grounds
and athletics fields.
Whilst this study focused on POS, where necessary, regional open space (ROS) was also included. POS is vested in and managed by local government, and is given up free-of-cost by a developer at the time of subdivision. ROS is usually reserved and purchased
by the State Government and managed either by the State or the relevant local government.
A total of 139 suburbs were covered in the study, over a period of 18 months. Every piece of POS and ROS was mapped and its exact size calculated.
Each piece of POS had a detailed map drawn showing the use ‘zones’ present. The zones refer to areas of:
Figure 1 is an example of how the mapping was undertaken. It should be noted that the active recreation zone is the actual playing surface and does not include the clubrooms and surrounding area where spectators stand—this is zoned passive recreation.
Suburbs were categorised based on the policies relevant to the provision of POS that applied at the time, notably:
The data for all suburbs in each POS category were combined to provide an overall picture of the types of POS that have been provided. Figure 2 summarises the data for all the areas of POS showing the total proportions of each POS zone or use type.
The data shows that in suburbs constrained by Bush Forever and WSUD, more POS is dedicated to conservation and stormwater than in the Old-inner and the 10% POS suburbs. This has come at a cost to both the provision of active open space and passive open
For those suburbs that are LN constrained, there is significantly more passive open space, reflecting in part the greater number of smaller parks that are passive only spaces and more space set aside for WSUD purposes. This has come at the cost of less
active open space and less space for conservation.
In common to all of the new suburbs overall, there is a reduced supply of active POS.
Old inner suburbs have the highest percentage of open space, followed by the 10% suburbs and Bush Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs. It should be noted that the majority of this open space in the Old-inner suburbs is regional open space (of the 12.47%,
4.98% is POS and 7.49% ROS). The LN constrained suburbs have the lowest percentage of open space. Figure 4 shows the data for active open space only.
As can be seen, the percentage of active open space in Bush Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs, as well as the LN constrained suburbs, is much lower than Old-inner suburbs and the 10% POS suburbs.
Based on this data, it can be concluded that the implementation of Bush Forever, WSUD and LN, whilst delivering significant environmental and social benefits, has resulted in a reduced supply of active POS in the new suburbs.
Four key questions have emerged as an outcome of the findings:
Q1. Does the reduction matter? If yes:
Q2. What is an adequate amount of active open space?
Q3. Is there an existing shortfall of active open space and if so how much?
Q4. What is the predicted shortfall in active open space by 2031 if there is no change in planning policies?
In order to ascertain whether the reduced supply of active open space in the newer suburbs is having an impact, (that is, are existing grounds being heavily and unsustainably used) a case study of the South West Corridor was undertaken as part of the
overall research. Playing fields in both POS and ROS were included in the study, as well as school sports grounds if used for organised sport on weekends and/or training during the week. The case study focused on two specific sports: the winter sport
of soccer and the summer sport of cricket.
The findings highlighted the following for the case study area:
The conclusion reached was yes, the reduced supply is already having an impact
Given the above conclusion, the key follow-on question was “how much active open space is enough?” Based on the data, the study developed Curtin Guidelines, not specific criteria, for the supply of active open space. The Curtin Guidelines
It is important to note that the stated metrics are guidelines and serve to provide an indication of the amount of active open space required. As illustrated in Figure 5, the intent of the Guidelines is best represented by a broad band rather than a fine
line, with action needed if provision falls noticeably below the recommended Guideline.
The study was able to estimate the notional existing shortfall in active open space in the outer metropolitan areas of Perth by applying the above guidelines.
This shortfall is estimated to be 96.7 ha, which equates to approximately 44 senior AFL ovals or 135 senior soccer pitches.
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the current total existing shortfall of open space required for active sport is around 290 ha.
Based on the above, the predicted notional shortfall of active open space by 2031 will be around 165 ha (depending on the population projections used). This equates to 75 senior AFL ovals or 230 senior soccer pitches.
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of open space required for active sport by 2031 is around 495 ha.
Table 1 summarises the data for both existing shortfall and predicted shortfall for the Perth-Peel region, by sub-regions and the total for the whole of the Perth-Peel region.
NOTE: Where two figures are shown in a column (e.g. population growth), the first figure uses the Directions 2031 population predictions and the second the updated WA Tomorrow 2012 data.
The implications for the inner suburbs of Perth were also examined. The study concluded that currently the inner suburbs are well supplied with active open space, with an average of 7.27 m2 per resident, which is well above the Curtin Guideline. However,
Directions 2031 estimates that 47% of the population growth for Perth will be as infill in the inner and middle suburbs.
By 2031, the predicted shortfall of active open space of in the central sub-region of Perth will be 79.0 ha, which is equivalent to 36 senior AFL ovals or 110 senior soccer pitches.
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of open space required for active sport in 2031 in the central sub-region, is around 237 ha.
Of the three planning policies that have likely contributed to the shortages of active playing fields, changes to LN is likely to provide the best opportunities for gains in the future. Both Bush Forever and WSUD design have led to significant environmental
benefits, which should not be significantly changed.
An additional supplementary measure would be to work with the Education Department so that school ovals are available for joint use (school and community), are large enough and fit for purpose to accommodate senior sport.
The new fringe suburbs that have a reduced supply of active open space can be considered active open space poor. There is an opportunity to gain greater insight into these suburbs—it is likely that it will be more costly for these residents
to play sport, both financially and also in terms of time. It could also mean that the participation rates in active sport in these suburbs would be significantly less than in suburbs well-supplied with playing fields and may have particular implications
for junior sport participation in more vulnerable populations.
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