Shire in balancing act

September 10, 2020 BY

THE Surf Coast Shire council claims it is doing its best to cut kids some slack during the challenges that come with the coronavirus pandemic, as many younger residents go about building BMX jumps to keep themselves occupied during COVID-19.

The shire’s challenge, however, is to balance the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of these kids with the protection of designated higher-environmental areas where native remnant vegetation is at risk.

According to the council, bike jumps built by children in Ocean Acres Estate at Torquay, which were scheduled to be removed this week, are in a nature reserve, which is why they were slated for removal.

The shire’s general manager of culture and community, Chris Pike, said the bike jumps issue was a complex one.

“As a general principle, in the COVID restriction period, we are trying to cut the kids some slack, the whole mental health impact is a really important and sensitive issue.

“It’s a balancing act and we don’t want to stop kids from getting out, having fun and exercising.

“It’s more about where and how it happens. The challenge in Ocean Acres is that the activity is happening in a nature reserve where we are trying to protect remnant vegetation.”

Some Ocean Acres residents said they were disappointed that the jumps were to be removed, claiming that the kids who built them had been creative and respectful of the reserve.

“Our hope is that council will instead opt to work with the kids to ensure the area is safe – an opportunity for a win/win outcome,” a message sent to the Surf Coast Times read.

The issue had also recently come to the council’s attention in Jan Juc.

“We have to think about safety. For example, there are a number of jumps that have been built in Jan Juc. We removed one in particular, part of which was built up using concrete blocks exposed through the dirt,” Mr Pike said.

“It would be negligent of us to have seen a hazard and not have acted.

“We’re not the fun police, but we’re trying to balance safety, welfare, the environment, and all the things that residents think are important.

“I’d like to think we can accept a bit of risk and try and support the ingenuity that kids have. We don’t want to take that out of life.

“It’s good to be challenged by youngsters. Too many adults are making decisions… we just ask for the parents to be understanding and set a good example.”

Mr Pike said the council would continue to work with the community and see if there was a way to support the kids with a temporary solution.

“We are all ears for the ideas – we encourage all residents to go to our website and submit their project ideas through the community project proposals portal.”