Shaping the future of Ballarat’s open spaces

What’s important to you when it comes to Ballarat’s outdoor spaces? Is it accessibility, biodiversity or child-friendliness? Now is the time to join the conversation, because the City of Ballarat is developing a new Open Space Strategy which will guide the management and development of the municipality’s open spaces for the next 10 years.

Aerial photo of Ballymanus Park Playground

According to City of Ballarat Manager Strategic Planning Terry Natt, it can sometimes be hard for residents to take a bird’s eye-view of the municipality when providing feedback on consultation. This can be especially true when the topic of consultation may, at first glance, seem vague.

However, that’s exactly what residents are being asked to do with the consultation on the new Open Space Strategy, which will guide the management and development of public parks, reserves and outside spaces for the next ten years.

“Most people want to talk about what’s at the end of their street, which makes perfect sense because it comes back to the question of ‘how does it affect me?’,” Terry says.

“But we need people to take a step back and think strategically — we’re asking people to think about the municipality's backyard, not their own backyard.”

While a high-level document, the Open Spaces Strategy will provide guidance on several issues including how developers can contribute to improving open space, what types of parks are located throughout the city, what activities and equipment are in each type of park, and how outdoor spaces can be equitable for everyone.

“It’s a conceptual idea that we’re trying to sell here to some extent, but the strategy will determine how we spend money and how we prioritise space both in terms of location and use,” Terry says. 

Municipality-wide considerations

Rather than providing feedback on specific parks or outdoor spaces, City of Ballarat Landscape Architect Alison Breach says residents are being asked to provide feedback on specific thematic areas, which will form the structure of the strategy itself.

These themes include biodiversity, accessibility, dogs in open spaces, play, mitigating climate change, infrastructure, First Nations inclusion, and the responsibility of development to contribute to City of Ballarat’s open space.

“The kind of questions we’re asking include ‘do we have the right spaces in the right places?’, ‘Do we need to acquire new open spaces to fill in the gaps?’ and ‘do we have enough tree canopy cover?’,” Alison says.

“The Open Space Strategy is a high-level document, but once adopted, the answers to those questions become our goals.”

Consulting on the open spaces of the future

The first phase of consultation, which began late last year and closed in January, introduced the above themes and asked residents to rank their importance.

The second phase of consultation, which is occurring throughout autumn, will involve in-depth, theme-specific workshops.

“Essentially, it’s helping the City of Ballarat make open spaces that suit the community’s needs,” Allison says.

“How do you want your open spaces to be in the future? That’s what you need to tell us.”