Prince Alfred Park Opening

(Cleveland and Chalmers Streets)

Good morning, everyone, and welcome. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I'm delighted to welcome you all here today - Councillors and members of the Central Sydney Planning Committee, our Design and Public Art Advisory Panels; residents of Surry Hills and Redfern, and the media.

It's wonderful to be re-opening this park to the community. This is seven and a half hectares of public space - the City's only major park that is not overshadowed by surrounding development - and it's the first upgrade it's had in 50 years.

In the early 19th century, a tributary of Blackwattle Creek flowed through here and the area was known as Cleveland Paddocks after the 1820s Cleveland House over there in Buckingham Street.

A portion of the paddocks was carved off in 1850 for the railway terminus and in 1856 another section was taken for the Cleveland Street Public School.

The remainder was gazetted as a park in December 1865 but a contemporary dismissed it as nothing but "a quagmire with a filthy drain running across it".

By 1869, however, it was home to the first NSW Agricultural Society Show and the following year, a large building was erected and the park landscaped for the second Intercolonial Exhibition which had a focus on industry. That building remained until 1954, although the Agricultural Society Show moved in 1881 to Moore Park.

In 1924, the tennis courts were added and in 1954, the swimming pool and in 1956 a skating rink which lasted several decades.

The Moreton Bay figs from the 1870s park remained, as did the central avenue of planes from the inter-war period but it was a very shabby place indeed when we began work in August 2009. Our consultations with the community gave us a big "to-do" list.

The park provides much-needed open space and recreational facilities for Surry Hills and Redfern and also serves as a major thoroughfare at the southern end of the CBD.

The $18-million-plus renovation includes upgraded paths, accessible to all, and circuits for cycling, walking and jogging.

There is a new children's playground and five new tennis courts with international-standard surfaces so the park can now host professional competitions and exhibitions.

There are two basketball courts and a new half court activating the look-out space over Central Railway and four designated exercise areas, as well as new park furniture and energy efficient lighting.

The children's playground is designed to stimulate imaginative and active play with a dinghy called Galatea, after the boat on which Prince Alfred came to Australia; the elephant slide recalling a curious story of an elephant in the park in 1870 and the balloon structure recalls the balloon ride from Prince Alfred Park to Redfern by balloonist Thomas Gale in September 1870s.

There are also swings, a see-saw, a sandpit and mini-bike loop.

The design includes a 250,000 litre stormwater tank and treatment facilities which will supply 95 per cent of the park's water needs. Swathes of native meadows along Cleveland Street and through the park support biodiversity, and new tree and palm plantings enhance the park's character.

We've created new areas for seating and picknicking and, as you can see, we're forging ahead with work on the pool area.

The pool is being refurbished with a new stainless steel pool lining system; it will be temperature-controlled, with a state-of-the-art filtration system and a ramp for easy access. We have designed a purpose-built plant room to accommodate tri-generation or co-generation in the future, allowing the park, pool and Coronation Centre to be taken off the energy grid.

Landscaping will fold over the structure of the change facilities.

The new pool facility will be surrounded by a new ribbon-like fence. Tall palms that will be planted in the new forecourt and concourse will draw the park landscape into the pool area.

The palms circle a special play area with water toys for children. Landscape mounds and yellow umbrellas will provide shady relaxation and sitting areas. A new café/kiosk will service both park and pool users.

Now-mowable meadows, palm groves and specimen trees, contribute to that biodiversity and sustainability of the pastoral landscape.

We hope to open the pool for the next swimming season either later this year or early next year.

In the next month, we are hoping to go to tender for the Coronation Centre - formerly a child-care area which closed in the 1970s. It will be refurbished as the headquarters for the tennis courts.

As always, this wonderfully-revived parkland is the work of many people.

I'd like to thank residents and park-users who responded to our surveys and to the Community Open Day. Thank you to the City Projects team - especially Damon La'Rance, Lisa Dodd and Andrew Chippendall - who have overseen the project.

Thank you to Sue Barnsley Design and Neeson Murcutt Architects - our very gifted designers. It is especially sad that Nick Murcutt died last month before seeing this project completed, but it is a wonderful legacy he has left our City and a memorial to his talent.

I would also like to thank our hard-working construction contractors, Regal Landscapes, and a special thanks to Tennis Australia for its grant towards the splendid new courts.

This park is a magnificent addition to the City's open space network and takes us a further step towards our 2030 goal of quality recreational facilities and beautiful green spaces for our City communities.

I'm proud to declare it officially open.