Table of Contents
All information in this report was considered correct and current at the time of publication and any errors
or omissions are unintentional. The Centre of Sport and Recreation Research and Department of Urban
and Regional Planning, Curtin University and the Department of Sport and Recreation disclaims all and any
liability of any person in respect of the consequences of any action or consequence for such persons in
reliance, whether wholly or partially, on this report.
This document is a summary of a research report prepared by Curtin University’s Centre for Sport and
Recreation Research (CSRR) and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Curtin University.
The project relied extensively on the collaboration of the local governments who participated in the study:
Armadale, Cambridge, Cockburn, Cottesloe, Gosnells, Joondalup, Kwinana, Mandurah, Melville, Mosman
Park, Murray, Nedlands, Rockingham, Serpentine-Jarrahdale, Stirling, Swan, Wanneroo. The study team
would like to thank all involved and in particular those local government and Parks and Leisure Australia
(WA branch) representatives who comprised the steering group.
The study was funded by the Department of Sport and Recreation.
Authors: Dr Garry Middle, Dr Marian Tye and Isaac Middle
About the Centre for Sport and Recreation Research (CSRR):
CSRR is a partnership between Curtin University and the Department of Sport and Recreation WA.
CSRR provides an independent perspective to look at the horizon and beyond, and identify issues that will:
- Impact sport and recreation decision making
- Benefit from sport and recreation association
CSRR operates by drawing together multi-disciplinary teams to undertake research that informs decision
For more information, please contact: Department of Sport and Recreation contact us
Sport is not simply about being the best or beating other
countries or gaining the most medals. From events like the
Olympic Games to local matches on a Saturday afternoon, sport
brings people together. It is a key part of creating safe, strong
and sustainable communities. -Nicholson, M. Hoye, R. (Ed’s.) (2008). Sport and social capital. Amsterdam: Elsevier p.72.
The research found:
- In delivering significant environmental and social benefits, the unintended
consequence of implementing Bush Forever, Water Sensitive Urban Design and
Liveable Neighbourhoods planning policies has been a reduction in the amount of
open space able to accommodate organised sport.
- With a high degree of certainty, the new suburbs in each of the fringe growth subregions
of Perth already have a shortage of active playing fields.
The research concluded:
- If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of open
space required for active sport by 2031 is around 495 hectares.
- Without a change to the relevant planning policies and without the State Government
stepping in to provide additional active open space as Regional Open Space, this
shortage can only get worse.
Open space is an inherent part of the Australian culture, helping to define Perth and contribute to the
physical and mental health of our community. Public open space (POS) comprises the freely accessible
areas that support the functions of recreation, relaxation, socialisation, organised sporting activities,
informal play and environmental protection.
The past two decades has seen POS used for a greater range of applications, notably environmental
protection, water management and walkable catchments. The introduction of Bush Forever, which aims
to protect important bushland in Perth and the move to better urban stormwater management through
Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) has seen more open space being set aside for these purposes. Both
of these policies have led to significant benefits by delivering positive environmental and social outcomes
for the community. The Western Australian Planning Commission’s (WAPC) Liveable Neighbourhoods (LN)
policy, which offers reduced POS provision incentives to developers, has also had implications for open
space. When combined, these initiatives have resulted in the perception that there are now insufficient
active reserves (active open space) to accommodate organised sport.
Aim of the research
The aim of the research was to find out if the perception that there are insufficient active reserves being
provided in the newer suburbs of Perth on which to accommodate organised sport—is correct.
Types of open space covered in this study
This research focused on active POS which, for the purposes of this study, comprises those spaces that are
deliberately designed and managed for organised sporting activities including football ovals, soccer pitches,
cricket grounds, rugby grounds and athletics fields.
Whilst this study focused on POS, where necessary, regional open space (ROS) was also included. POS
is vested in and managed by local government, and is given up free-of-cost by a developer at the time of
subdivision. ROS is usually reserved and purchased by the State Government and managed either by the
State or the relevant local government.
A total of 139 suburbs were covered in the study, over a period of 18 months. Every piece of POS and ROS
was mapped and its exact size calculated.
Each piece of POS had a detailed map drawn showing the use ‘zones’ present. The zones refer to areas of:
- Passive recreation
- Active recreation
- Permanent stormwater
- Passive/temporary wet
- Nature conservation
- Mixed conservation/stormwater
Figure 1 is an example of how the mapping was undertaken. It should be noted that the active recreation
zone is the actual playing surface and does not include the clubrooms and surrounding area where
spectators stand—this is zoned passive recreation.
Suburbs were categorised based on the policies relevant to the provision of POS that applied at the time,
- Those that were built pre Stephenson-Hepburn, called here Old-inner.
- Those built post Stephenson-Hepburn and before the policy constraints came into force, called 10%
- Those that were Bush Forever and WSUD constrained—called Bush Forever and WSUD constrained.
The data for all suburbs in each POS category were combined to provide an overall picture of the types
of POS that have been provided. Figure 2 summarises the data for all the areas of POS showing the total
proportions of each POS zone or use type.
Figure 2: Percentage of each POS use by suburb category
% POS for each category - Old-inner
% POS for each cetegory - Bush Forever & WSUD
% POS for each category - 10% POS
% POS for each category - LN constrained
The data shows that in suburbs constrained by Bush Forever and WSUD, more POS is dedicated to
conservation and stormwater than in the Old-inner and the 10% POS suburbs. This has come at a cost to
both the provision of active open space and passive open space.
For those suburbs that are LN constrained, there is significantly more passive open space, reflecting in
part the greater number of smaller parks that are passive only spaces and more space set aside for WSUD
purposes. This has come at the cost of less active open space and less space for conservation.
In common to all of the new suburbs overall, there is a reduced supply of active POS.
Figure 3 shows the average percentage of open space (POS and ROS) by suburb category
Old inner suburbs have the highest percentage of open space, followed by the 10% suburbs and Bush
Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs. It should be noted that the majority of this open space in the
Old-inner suburbs is regional open space (of the 12.47%, 4.98% is POS and 7.49% ROS). The LN constrained
suburbs have the lowest percentage of open space. Figure 4 shows the data for active open space only.
Figure 4: average percentage of active open space by suburb category
As can be seen, the percentage of active open space in Bush Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs, as
well as the LN constrained suburbs, is much lower than Old-inner suburbs and the 10% POS suburbs.
Based on this data, it can be concluded that the implementation of Bush Forever, WSUD and LN, whilst
delivering significant environmental and social benefits, has resulted in a reduced supply of active POS in
the new suburbs.
Four key questions have emerged as an outcome of the findings:
Q1. Does the reduction matter? If yes:
Q2. What is an adequate amount of active open space?
Q3. Is there an existing shortfall of active open space and if so how much?
Q4. What is the predicted shortfall in active open space by 2031 if there is no change
in planning policies?
Q1. Does the reduction matter?
In order to ascertain whether the reduced supply of active open space in the newer suburbs is having an
impact, (that is, are existing grounds being heavily and unsustainably used) a case study of the South West
Corridor was undertaken as part of the overall research. Playing fields in both POS and ROS were included
in the study, as well as school sports grounds if used for organised sport on weekends and/or training
during the week. The case study focused on two specific sports: the winter sport of soccer and the summer
sport of cricket.
The findings highlighted the following for the case study area:
- Half of the grounds in the study area are being heavily used, primarily because of the absence of
grounds in the Bush Forever and WSUD constrained areas.
- The situation would be worse if it were not for the active open space available elsewhere.
- Should Bush Forever and WSUD constrained suburbs continue to be developed in the south of
the corridor with the same lack of active POS areas, then the pressure on existing grounds located
elsewhere will grow and more grounds will become heavily used. This situation is considered
- Additionally, there is also an issue of spatial equality, where the residents of the new suburbs of
Cockburn have to travel much further to access playing fields than the residents in the established
The conclusion reached was yes, the reduced supply is already having an impact
Q2. What is an adequate amount of active open space?
Given the above conclusion, the key follow-on question was “how much active open space is enough?”
Based on the data, the study developed Curtin Guidelines, not specific criteria, for the supply of active open
space. The Curtin Guidelines are:
NOTE: Active open space refers to the area of the playing surface. In general, at least double that
again needs to be set aside to allow for supporting infrastructure such as club rooms, spectator areas,
- For new suburbs where the density of development is typical for Perth’s suburbs 1.4% of the
subdividable area should be set aside as active open space.
- For infill developments and greenfield developments that are much denser than typical, 6.5m2 of active
open space per resident should be set aside as active open space.
It is important to note that the stated metrics are guidelines and serve to provide an indication of the
amount of active open space required. As illustrated in Figure 5, the intent of the Guidelines is best
represented by a broad band rather than a fine line, with action needed if provision falls noticeably below
the recommended Guideline.
Q3. Is there an existing shortfall of active open space and if so, how much?
The study was able to estimate the notional existing shortfall in active open space in the outer metropolitan
areas of Perth by applying the above guidelines.
This shortfall is estimated to be 96.7 ha, which equates to approximately 44 senior AFL ovals or 135 senior
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the current total existing shortfall of open
space required for active sport is around 290 ha.
Q4. What is the predicted shortfall in active open space by 2031 if
there is no change in planning policies?
- No changes to the application of the three planning policies.
- No additional regional active OS is provided.
- The population predictions in Directions 2031 and also the WA Tomorrow reports
Based on the above, the predicted notional shortfall of active open space by 2031 will be around 165 ha
(depending on the population projections used). This equates to 75 senior AFL ovals or 230 senior soccer
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of open space required for
active sport by 2031 is around 495 ha.
Summarising the data
Table 1 summarises the data for both existing shortfall and predicted shortfall for the Perth-Peel region, by
sub-regions and the total for the whole of the Perth-Peel region.
NOTE: Where two figures are shown in a column (e.g. population growth), the first figure uses the
Directions 2031 population predictions and the second the updated WA Tomorrow 2012 data.
|Sub-region ||Existing shortfall
(playing surface only ||Population growth
(Directions 2031 / WA
Tomorrow) ||Predicted shortfall
(Directions 2031 / WA
Tomorrow) ||Total predicted shortfall
2031 - including support
(Directions 2031 / WA Tomorrow) |
|North West ||27.2 ha ||70,000/80,500 ||45.1/47.8 ha ||135/143 ha |
|North East ||7.0 ha ||50,000/57,500 ||19.8/21.7 ha ||60/65 ha |
|South West ||10.5 ha ||50,000/57,500 ||19.8/21.7 ha ||60/65 ha |
|South East ||30.0 ha ||50,000/57,500 ||42.8/44.7 ha ||128/134 ha |
|Peel ||22.0 ha ||30,000/34,500 ||29.7/30.8 ha ||89/92 ha |
Peel ||96.7 ha ||250,000/287,500 ||160.7/170.2 ha ||482/509 ha |
What about the inner suburbs of Perth?
The implications for the inner suburbs of Perth were also examined. The study concluded that currently the
inner suburbs are well supplied with active open space, with an average of 7.27 m2 per resident, which is
well above the Curtin Guideline. However, Directions 2031 estimates that 47% of the population growth for
Perth will be as infill in the inner and middle suburbs.
By 2031, the predicted shortfall of active open space of in the central sub-region of Perth will be 79.0 ha,
which is equivalent to 36 senior AFL ovals or 110 senior soccer pitches.
If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of open space required for
active sport in 2031 in the central sub-region, is around 237 ha.
- Green – well above the Curtin 1.4% Guideline.
- Blue – reasonably consistent with the Curtin 1.4% Guideline.
- Red – well below the Curtin 1.4% Guideline
Final conclusions from the study
- The data presented in this study make it clear that the implementation of Bush Forever, WSUD and
Liveable Neighbourhoods has resulted in a significant existing shortfall in the supply of active open
space in the fringe growth suburbs—notionally, this shortfall is 51.6 ha.
Projecting to 2031, using the population prediction in Directions 2031, assuming no changes to the
above three polices, and assuming no additional regional active open space is provided, the notional
shortfall of active open space in 2031 will be 160.7 ha (equivalent to 73 senior AFL ovals or 225 senior
Directions 2031 - If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of
open space required for active sport is around 495 ha.
- Further, if instead of using the population prediction in Directions 2031 the updated figures from WA
Tomorrow 2012 are used, the situation is worse: the notional shortfall of active open space in 2031 will
be 170.2 ha (equivalent to 77 senior AFL ovals or 238 senior soccer pitches).
WA Tomorrow —If the provision of the support facilities is taken into account, the total shortfall of
open space required for active sport is around 509 ha.
The situation for each of the four outer growth sub-regions identified in Directions 2031 reflects the
overall picture for Perth.
It can be concluded with a high degree of certainty that the new suburbs in each of the fringe
growth sub-regions of Perth already have a shortage of active playing fields.
Without a change to the relevant planning policies and without the State Government stepping in to
provide additional active open space as ROS, this shortage can only get worse.
Of the three planning policies that have likely contributed to the shortages of active playing fields, changes
to LN is likely to provide the best opportunities for gains in the future. Both Bush Forever and WSUD design
have led to significant environmental benefits, which should not be significantly changed.
An additional supplementary measure would be to work with the Education Department so that
school ovals are available for joint use (school and community), are large enough and fit for purpose to
accommodate senior sport.
The new fringe suburbs that have a reduced supply of active open space can be considered active open
space poor. There is an opportunity to gain greater insight into these suburbs—it is likely that it will be more
costly for these residents to play sport, both financially and also in terms of time. It could also mean that the
participation rates in active sport in these suburbs would be significantly less than in suburbs well-supplied
with playing fields and may have particular implications for junior sport participation in more vulnerable
- Bush Forever
- Bush Forever is a Government policy that aims to protect significant bushland
in the coastal plain portion of the Perth Metropolitan area. Whilst there is a
considerable bushland already reserved, Bush Forever identifies additional
areas that need to be protected so that our conservation reserve system is
comprehensive, adequate and representative of the ecological communities of
the region. The Government has committed $100M to implement Bush Forever.
Much of this additional land will be purchased, but some will be included as
Public Open Space (POS).
- Water Sensitive
- WSUD is a more environmentally sensitive way to manage urban stormwater
and drainage. Traditionally, stormwater was directly discharged into the Swan
River, wetlands and the ocean. This caused a range of negative impacts including
pollution of wetland and the Swan River. WSUD avoids these problems by
treating stormwater at the source and making water management part of the
landscape. Inevitably, more open space is required to accommodate this.
- LN is a planning policy that seeks better urban design for our suburbs based on
broad sustainability principles. One key element of LN is better accessibility to
open spaces. POS became part of the design of the suburb, which favoured more
linear parks and smaller pocket parks favouring passive uses over larger active
- Developed in 1955, by Gordon Stephenson and Alistair Hepburn, the Stephenson-
Hepburn Plan was the strategic plan guiding the growth and development of
Perth and Fremantle until 1970. The plan led to the establishment of the statutory
Metropolitan Region Scheme.