Impact Testimonial

Neal Ames

Name: Neal Ames

Title: Recreation & Open Space Planner

Organisation(s): Waverley Council (Sydney)

Other info:

  • Member of Parks & Leisure Australia (PLA) National Advisory

  • Certified Parks & Leisure Professional

Please outline your work and how our research on green space and health has been helpful in supporting your activities.

I have worked in the recreation and parks industry for 20 years, in a number of diverse roles with different organisations and levels of government. I am a parks, open space and recreation planner. I am also a Sport and Recreation project Manager. I am also one member of a six member PLA National Advisory, which is a small group of industry experts. Our role involves developing policy and guidance for the government, as well as representing the industry. I write policy papers, on the benefit of open space, how to allocate open space and developers contributions to open space. I also lecture on recreation and open space planning courses. I also sit on design review panels and steering committees for the NSW Department of Planning and other states equililents. I also provide input into strategic documents for organisations such as Infrastructure Victoria.

My day to day role for Council is to provide advice and guidance to council on how to manage our open spaces. I provide strategic direction to both council and organisations using our open spaces. I project manage all council's recreation projects. I also write the management plans for our open space, in accordance with the Crown Land Management Act (2016). I keep a very close eye on what Thomas and Xiaoqi are doing in their research, at the PowerLab and for others. Their research is vital to being able to develop policy and make decisions on open space planning, especially the value that our open spaces bring to health benefits for our community.

What are your team/organisational goals over the next 3 to 5 years and how might our research on green space and health continue to be useful?

In local government each and every decision has to be justified and backed by evidence and research. I often use their research to evidence my decisions. The best argument that I have, which comes from Thomas and Xiaoqi only, is the benefit that open space brings for our community. I have combined their work with other research such as Benefit Cost Ratio to build a narrative for projects and policy decisions. Our highest priority over the next few years is to update all our management plans, in accordance with the NSW government's direction. Your research goes straight into these management plans, not just as narrative but also as concepts. The most powerful argument is community health benefits from open space. Their work on health benefits have been referenced in all my management plans. I also reference their work in my lecturing responsibilities. In addition, I write many professional articles on LinkedIn, I often reference their work in these articles. We have a number of infrastructure projects coming up, including playspace and fitness facilities. I often use concepts from their work in designing these facilities.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

All my thoughts on the health benefits of open space for our communities are detailed in my social media posts. A search of that source will give a clear picture of my appreciate of the industry and the issues that it faces.