Fred Caterson Reserve is one of our most treasured facilities in The Hills Shire, catering for both passive and active recreation. It is home to an array of sports and local sporting organisations, including Castle Hill BMX Club, Hills Basketball Association, Castle Hill Cricket Club, Castle Hill United Soccer Club, Hills District Tennis Association and the Castle Hill Radio Control Car Club. The Reserve is utilised by locals and visitors to the area who play on the soccer fields, use the cricket nets, basketball stadium, baseball fields and the tennis courts, and race their cars on the remote control car track. Fred Caterson is a natural wonder, with residents also using this facility for passive recreation, such as for bushwalking and cycling.
As the Mayor, I understand how important Fred Caterson Reserve is for the health and well-being of this community, especially as our population continues to grow and the demand for more facilities increases.
By 2036, the Shire’s population is estimated to reach more than 290,000 people. Closer to Fred Caterson Reserve – the Hills Showground Precinct will grow by another 11,000 people in the short to medium term and then by more than 20,000 in the longer term. Most of these people will be living in high-rise residential, as the State Government has zoned this area as one of their eight station precincts along the Sydney Metro Northwest urban corridor. These precincts have been designed to take advantage of the new rail line as the main mode of transport to jobs, shopping centres, sporting complexes and other popular destinations around Sydney.
As a Council, one of our key roles is to ensure that our residents have equal and equitable access to sporting facilities and passive recreation. Identifying additional sites for active recreation around already built-up areas such as our station precincts is a challenge, as it is for councils all across Sydney. Our adopted Master Plan for the Reserve, therefore, identifies a balance of providing necessary sport and recreation infrastructure for existing and future populations, whilst maintaining the ecology within this area.
We have allocated three sporting fields to be built on the former Hills Pony Club site, which is substantially clear of vegetation as a result of its previous uses. Other aspects of the Plan include expanding the tennis centre, improving the pathway network, updating the spectator facilities, as well as upgrading the radio control car track and improving the facilities within and around the BMX track. The plan also proposes conservation and restoration of the reserve’s ecological communities through revegetation and restoration activities, enhancing and highlighting the natural beauty of the site.
As part of these plans, Fred Caterson Reserve has been identified as the site for premier rugby union in The Hills. Council invited Expressions of Interest (EOI) in August 2020 for the establishment, management and maintenance of a premier rugby union facility. Council accepted Eastwood District Rugby Union Football Club’s (EDRUFC) application at its Ordinary Meeting of Council on 24 November 2020 and entered into a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with them to progress the project. Eastwood is the pathway to elite Rugby for much of north and north-western Sydney, including The Hills area, which stretches all the way to Wisemans Ferry.
Partnering with another stakeholder allows embellishment of the facility to a higher standard for the community than what would otherwise be possible. The opportunity will also allow residents to participate in community competitions and provide a pathway to play elite rugby. This is an amazing feat for this Council and adds to the premier rugby league facility that will be established at Kellyville Memorial Park in partnership with the Parramatta Eels, as well as our other homes for basketball, AFL and cricket, tennis and the soon-to-be delivered hockey fields at Gables.
The overall cost for the Fred Caterson Reserve expansion project is yet to be finalised. However, in our Contributions Plan (CP19) for the Showground Precinct, Council is collecting $9.4 million to provide three base level fields, as well as amenities, car parking and associated facilities for community sport. Council usually collects developer contributions from new development, which is then used to build the facilities our residents will need to live their very best lives, such as parks, reserves, footpaths and much more. The final costs will be considered by Council as part of our normal budgeting processes. It should also be highlighted, that under the terms of the proposed agreement with EDRUFC, any facilities provided above that ‘base level’ will be the responsibility of EDRUFC through their own funds.
I’ve had residents contact me with concerns about the proposed plans and the impacts these plans could have on our local environment. I want to let you know that any proposal seeks to retain as much vegetation as possible and will comply with environmental legislation. It is also important that opportunities are made available for tree replanting and bushland regeneration. Our Council Officers have walked the site with an external ecological expert to make sure that we fully understand the communities living in Fred Caterson Reserve. What we are doing is working through the ecological expert’s advice and adapting our plans to minimise the impact on the environment and achieve compliance with environmental standards. In the coming months, we look forward to sharing our final plans with you. Depending on the approval pathways and the final version of the works, further opportunities for comment will be available. In the meantime, I encourage you to sign-up to the ‘Have your say’ newsletter and follow Council’s social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) so that you can be kept up to date on the latest Council news.
Additionally, Council has confirmed with EDRUFC that there is no intention to provide a full-time licensed clubhouse. We understand that if Council is asked to consider permitting licensed activities on site that any licensed activities would only be complementary to game-day activities and be subject to the usual independent approval processes. This is the same for the lighting, noise and traffic, which must meet the legislation that’s in place.
Another question that I have received is about community access and fencing. I can let you know that Fred Caterson Reserve will continue to remain a community facility and will continue to be enjoyed by residents and visitors. Fences that are about 1.2 metres and some higher at the goal ends will be constructed around the new fields. Fences are built around all fields across the Shire, and that’s to keep unauthorised vehicles off these sites and to also prevent balls from leaving the venue, as well as for security purposes and crowd control.
It is a challenge to provide more fields and facilities in an established area, but as a Council, we are planning and making the most of our current facilities to cater for the growth that is coming our way.
Fred Caterson Reserve is a gem of The Hills, and residents should be assured that I am committed to seeing its natural beauty and unique character retained in the years ahead. As our Shire grows, we look forward to the Reserve remaining the home of both active recreation and quality passive enjoyment.
Mayor of The Hills Shire,
Dr Peter Gangemi