WHEN Dexter Payenberg and his mates saw piles of mulch and a few pallets scattered about in a local park, their eyes lit up.
The adventurous 10-year-olds fashioned themselves a bike track through the bushy corner block, burying the pallets under mounds of mulch to make jumps, and soon the park was full of happy chatter and the occasional commiseration as someone came a cropper.
Parents couldn’t have been happier; their kids were outside, exercising, working together creatively and—best of all—having fun.
“The kids were all dirty and we couldn’t have been happier,” says Dexter’s mum, Nathalie.
But it took just one whinge from one neighbour to bring it all to an end: the City of Melville sent out a contractor who flattened the lot.
The kids are devastated and the parents are furious but the council CEO insists his staff had to act on “public safety concerns”.
“I could understand it if there were older children using drugs, but these are 10-year-olds,” Ms Payenberg told the Herald. “They’re good kids.”
Dexter had been so proud of the track he’d asked his mum to have a look—and that’s when they saw the contractors move in.
“The council worker was nearly in tears when I spoke to him,” Ms Payenberg says. “He was really sad and said ‘this looks awesome’ and that he really wanted to get his own bike and have a go.”
“The kids were all dirty and we couldn’t have been happier,”
She says the council needs to listen more to health experts who warn about the dangers of kids not having enough unstructured play and being too shielded from risk.
Council CEO Shayne Silcox admits the council acted after just one complaint—he refuses to say who, and what the complaint was—but says the kids had also been “digging large holes”.
“On assessment, the unauthorised structures were deemed to present public safety concerns and the large holes deemed to be dangerous.”
He says the council is aware of the benefits of kids having unstructured play in natural settings, mentioning—without irony—playground developments at the former Carawatha primary school site and Wireless Hill park.
Ms Payenberg says, without the mulch piles and pallets the kids are now jumping over the road verge, putting them in far greater danger from cars.
by STEVE GRANT