Step 3 – audit of existing public open space

Public open space strategy guide for local governments.

An audit of current public open space provision and associated facilities forms an essential component of the strategy. This forms the basis for determining how well current needs are being met and what is required to meet the future needs of the community.

It is important that there is a good understanding of the current public space assets that the local government has (for example foreshore reserves, public open space, regional open space etc.). Detailed information on these assets should be collected including:

  • ownership (facilities and land)
  • land administration information such as leases/licences/easements on the land
  • its purpose/function
  • facilities and infrastructure
  • current condition
  • usage
  • cost/revenue
  • cyclical maintenance requirements
  • upgrade, replacement and redevelopment intentions.

In addition, it is important to consider public open space or regional open space in surrounding areas that may also be meeting the needs of the community (for example regional playing grounds, parks and facilities).

Public open space can be described using the characteristics and terminology outlined in Table 1.  

Table 1: Public open space can be described using the characteristics and terminology
  • Recreation spaces: Provide a setting for informal play and physical activity
  • Sport spaces: Provide a setting for formal structured sporting activities
  • Nature spaces: Provide a setting where people can enjoy nearby nature and protect local biodiversity and natural area values
  • Catchment hierarchy (typical size and how far a user might travel to visit the site) includes four categories – local open space (0.4 to 1 hectares within 400 metres or 5 minute walk), neighbourhood open space (1 to 5 hectares within 800 metres or 10 minute walk), district open space (5 to 15+ hectares within 2 kilometres metres or 5 minute drive), and regional open space (size variable dependant on function serves more than one geographical or social regions users likely to use private or public transport to access).
  • The public open space network – configuration of spaces, distribution of spaces, linkages between spaces (linear open space, trails), co-location with community purposes sites and schools to create destinations.
  • Long term
  • Spaces with short term uses
  • Changes in use over time – adaptability/flexibility

The University of Western Australia developed a “Quality of Public Open Space Tool” (POST) to assist in the process of auditing public open spaces such as parks and ovals, with particular emphasis on the physical attributes that may either encourage or discourage their use for physical activity. Also available is the Public Open Space Desktop Audit Tool (POSDAT) which is tailored for those using aerial photography to conduct an audit.

Placescape (Dr May Carter) in collaboration with the Centre for Built Environment and Health at UWA and Playce developed an audit tool for the City of Subiaco. The resulting open space assessment template and guide is a local government scale tool for auditing public open space.

Page reviewed 09 March 2021