Grasshopper wars erupt over the use of synthetic surfaces in parks

Residents across Sydney are battling local councils over the use of fake grass in public spaces as Planning Minister Rob Stokes launches a study into the use of synthetic surfaces.

A group of residents has taken the Bayside Council to court over the installation of artificial turf in Gardiner Park in Banksia, while the City of Sydney is “reconsidering” plans for a synthetic field in Turruwul Park in Rosebery following a setback from the local community.

Grassroots community groups have also sprung up in other parts of Sydney to combat councils planning to install artificial turf.

Artificial turf will be installed in Gardiner Park in Banksia despite opposition from some residents.

Artificial turf will be installed in Gardiner Park in Banksia despite opposition from some residents.Credit:Wolter Peeters

The use of synthetic surfaces for sports fields and public open spaces will be investigated by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer following the publication of a study on the use of synthetic alternatives to natural grass in public open areas.

“Synthetic grass has become more and more popular for use on sports fields in recent years,” said Mr. Stokes. “But there are significant concerns in society about its use, and the councils need consistent guidelines that address the pros and cons.”

Natural Turf Alliance spokesman Garnet Brownbill said fake grass poses health and environmental risks and should be used sparingly. He said synthetic fields were too hot to use in the summer and produced plastic pollution.

“In Sydney, there are excellent growth conditions for turf, and where we know that a well-constructed turf – not just any turf – can give society an increased need for football and still allow for passive recreation without the environmental damage from synthetic pitches,” he said.

Brownbill said sports facilities at Gardiner Park required upgrading, but artificial turf would disproportionately benefit a football club.

“Park users and residents seeking natural green spaces have been able to enjoy the cool, natural surroundings, but will now be affected by artificial turf, through toxic degassing, odors, high fences and the heat radiating from the plastic, especially if summer, “he said.

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