Billabong opening part of community celebration

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It may have polarised the community for more than six years, but this long weekend all roads lead to Campbelltown Billabong Parklands.

Even signs have gone up at the main entrances to Campbelltown, from Raby Road to Narellan Road.

There will be a formal opening by the Mayor, George Greiss, this Saturday, followed by events and activities for residents and visitors during the entire long weekend.

Mayor Greiss, pictured above, showed the South West Voice around a couple of weeks as workers were putting the finishing touches to the controversial project.

The verdict: it’s a pretty good facility that combines parkland with swimming in the huge lagoon, which is interconnected to a smaller children’s pool, a series of streams and zero-depth splash play area.

Whether the people of Campbelltown will agree that they are getting value for money is quite another thing, and with a council election just three months away we’re going to hear a lot more on that front.

As for Mayor Greiss, who inherited the project that was originally going to cost ratepayers a little over $3 million, he had no choice but to deliver it as best as he could.

In response to criticisms that there had been major blowouts he ordered a KPMG audit.

Council did vote in favour of spending another $13 million, as well as bringing forward an $8 million worth of drainage works in the precinct.

“I took the view that we just had to deliver it,’’ says Mayor Greiss.

“I also took the view that Campbelltown deserves the best and I think we have delivered that with this facility.

“It’s the biggest project ever undertaken by Campbelltown Council, and the other thing to remember is that the Billabong will be here for the next  50 years.’’

Other than budget blowouts and delays, the project was criticised for two other things: its close proximity to the Gordon Fetterplace Aquatic Centre, and the lack of parking.

On the second issue, council has maintained that it won’t be a problem because people will use public transport, walk or maybe even get dropped off.

But during our visit we spotted some new car parking spaces on the southern end of the Billabong, along The Parkway.

Ben Hoyle, deputy general manager and director of city services, who came along during our tour with the mayor, informed the Voice that 72 new parking spaces had been created.

Which brings the total number of carparking spaces right next to the Billabong to more than 250.

Mr Hoyle said he was confident that the extra spaces, combined with a number of other measures, will mean parking will not be the disaster some people have been predicting.

Mayor Greiss with Ben Hoyle on the bridge between the swimming areas. Pictures by South West Voice Photography.

“We have also improved the underpass  near the cricket oval so people can park in the areas west of Appin Road, a short walk to the billabong,’’ he said.

The special grand opening event this Saturday (June 8) will be followed by a series of community events and activities on Sunday and Monday (June 9-10).

Mayor Greiss says this means Campbelltown residents will have exclusive access during the opening weekend to explore the Parklands and take part in the festivities.

“I’m delighted to be able to invite local residents to this exciting opening weekend to get a first look at the Campbelltown Billabong Parklands, a spectacular one-of-a-kind recreation space for South West Sydney,” he said.

“The opening weekend will be a fantastic celebration and I look forward to welcoming people into the Parklands for the first time,” he said.

“The Billabong Parklands is a significant investment in the future of Campbelltown and will be a meeting place in the heart of our city for friends and families to enjoy over many generations to come.’’

Following the opening event, access to the Parklands will be available via a ticket booking system. All tickets are free of charge. Visit the council website for more information.

The events program includes the official opening ceremony on the morning of Saturday 8 June followed by a series of range of family-friendly activities and stage performances as well as food trucks and food and merchandise giveaways to be held across the three days.

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