Public open space strategy guide for local governments

A public open space (POS) strategy empowers the local government to provide robust guidance and feedback on structure plan and subdivision proposals.

Quality public open space networks contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities. They:

  • Provide locations to undertake sport and recreation pursuits, host community events and escape from the urban hardscapes;
  • Accommodate active transport linkages to connect key destination points;
  • Provide opportunities for the preservation of landscape features, natural environments and cultural assets; and
  • Contribute to urban environmental and ecological outcomes. 

The demands upon our open space networks are diverse and competition amongst them has, in recent years limited the capacity of networks to meet community sport and recreation needs.

For more background information please see Appendix 1 - Research, Consultation and Identified Key Challenges.

The State, through the Liveable Neighbourhoods Operational Policy, has placed some responsibility with Local Government to guide open space decision making and the new Draft Liveable Neighbourhoods Policy 2015 further emphasises this position.

It is via local open space strategy and policy that the greatest impact on open space provision can be achieved.  Open space policies and strategies have the capacity to guide how public open space is distributed to establish and protect a parkland network which enhances sense of place, ensures a balanced provision of sport, recreation and nature functions, retains significant environmental and cultural features; and realises opportunities for achieving efficiencies and sharing of infrastructure. 

Local government public open space strategic planning provides local government with the opportunity to:

  • Ensure the provision of equitable access to nature, sport and recreation opportunities throughout the local government area
  • Identify community needs through conducting a supply and demand analysis to identify need (what, where, how much)
  • consider projected demographics, population growth or decline, demographic profile, housing densities (including access to private open space), their day-to-day movements to access to essential infrastructure (public transport, activity centres);
  • Establish neighbourhood identity by identifying natural and cultural features that contribute to the local landscape character;
  • Create a continuous POS network at a district scale by identifying potential networks of connected or linear open space for walking and cycling
  • identify public open space in areas where the land is unlikely to be subject to structure planning, to ensure that piecemeal subdivisions do not result in a fragmented public open space network
  • Consider all available integrated water cycle management information available such as district/regional water management strategies, water supply strategies, water license availability and/or stormwater management planning in coordination with the Department of Water;
  • Identify where district/regional scale sporting facilities or recreational spaces are required and facilitate the formal acquisition of this land or re-zoning, where appropriate
  • Consider areas of environmental importance identified through Local Biodiversity Planning;
  • Consider shared use/co-location of open space (e.g. ovals and schools), and facilities and develop appropriate procedures and management requirements
  • Identify minimum land size and development requirements - to ensure that parks are developed to a minimum standard to enhance residential amenity and to ensure functions identified in planning are fulfilled e.g. playgrounds, shade, shelter, drinking fountains, seating, footpaths/boardwalks.
  • Consider asset costs, maintenance requirements, and whole of life costs
  • Identify the responsibilities and contributions required from the State, local government and proponents.
  • Articulate procedures relating to public open space development plans, and landscaping plans to ensure that agreements are met throughout the planning, development and maintenance of sites
  • Identify handover and audit procedures to ensure infrastructure functions as intended

The strategy should be:

  1. Evidence based;
  2. Take into consideration the views of all stakeholders;
  3. Take into account higher order policies or strategies including Federal, State and other relevant policies from the Local Government itself;
  4. Acknowledge that circumstances may change and that strategies need to adapt over time;
  5. Explicit about responsibilities and accountability for implementation
  6. Holistic rather than focusing on one issue;
  7. Able to identify how the strategy will be delivered, funded and monitored;
  8. Address sustainability, equity and feasibility;
  9. Integrate with other relevant plans and policies

Process for developing and implementing and POS Strategy

Developing a POS strategy requires a systematic approach that identifies all aspects of a Local Government activity that impacts provision of POS.

Characteristics of an effective POS Strategy:

  • Commitment from both Council and Administration to develop and implement the POS Strategy
  • Clearly understood scope
  • An articulated process for community engagement
  • A vision and objectives that reflect and compliment the Local Government’s overall strategic vision
  • Understanding of the Local Government’s current POS and associated assets. This should include consideration of POS that is in State ownership and POS in neighbouring Local Governments
  • A strategic assessment of current and future need including the drivers of changing needs
  • Standards to assist with determining the Local Government response to changing needs
  • Gap analysis comparing current provisions with current and future need
  • Strategies for addressing gaps and priorities for short, medium and long term needs
  • Strategies and priorities that are Integrated  with key Local Government strategic planning and financial documents
  • An implementation process with clearly identified responsibilities and timeframes
  • A process for review.

Steps 1-8 outline a process for developing a POS strategy:

Page reviewed 09 March 2021