On 15th February, the same night as the council’s scrutiny committee discussed the results of the “consultation exercise” into geese and parks, we handed in a second paper petition. This concerned the council undertaking non-lethal methods of site management, and also the way in which the council have brought about conflicts between park users in the manner in which they manage the formal parks and open spaces. With particular emphasis, this concerns what happens with the wildfowl that park managers appear unable to see are attracted to a creation of their own making.
On May 18th, the agenda of the cabinet petitions committee included a chance to address it, and for officers to report back at a future meeting. This is the statement made in support of the petition, and relevant points are linked with supporting picture evidence. This blog post will be sent to the committee comprising of Councillors Crompton, Hackett and Davies who were present at the meeting.
The recording of the meeting can be downloaded below.
“This petition calls on SMBC to undertake non-lethal methods of site management regards Canada geese in its formal parks and open spaces. Both ourselves and Animal Aid have made recommendations to the council in respect of this, but key to exploring why there appears to be a the “perceived” conflict of interest between these birds and other users lies with SMBC managers themselves.
This is an entirely man-made conflict, facilitated by poor management of formal parks and nature reserves over the last 20 years. Whilst Sandwell has ploughed vast amounts of public money in shaping formal parks with manicured lawns, its nature reserves have been left to rot and become overgrown jungles.
It is this key reason why Canada geese prefer to reside and moult in formal parks, and shun the nature reserve areas. The council “feed” the geese by providing fresh short grass with a clear line of site right next to the waterside. Meanwhile brambles and nettles are left to thrive, with 3 foot high grass in the nature reserves. The park manager even admitted under scrutiny that their management had not been being carried out satisfactorily.
Into this minefield let’s look at Victoria Park Tipton. Can I ask why it was decided to site most of the parks’ facilities in the area of Victoria Road/Queens Road including picnic benches near to where the geese are known to graze near the park pool? In minutes from the Victoria Park Steering group 2nd June 2003, plans are submitted showing a picnic area fenced and enclosed near to the pool, yet these never materialised. The council therefore placed the benches near the pool, and therefore the geese. Why? There were also outline proposals for the park, yet it appears the skate park totalling £125,000 was the most expensive estimate for “improvement” costs.
This together with the children’s play area, the recycling facilities, the exercise equipment and disabled parking facilities were also located near to the pool.
I’m sure the people of Mayfair Gardens would have been seen to be fully accommodating in sacrificing their privacy by nurturing the local disadvantaged youth to the heart of their philanthropic bosoms, if the choice had been made to locate all of these facilities nearer to their homes and away from the “demonic” waterfowl.
Why are road sweepers alleged by park staff to be unable to sweep areas around the park pool because the paths were made too narrow? Why are they only seen in the park for special events like the “funday” and why were the council comfortable leaving excrement around the lakeside whilst conducting their “consultation” about geese, thus highlighting only the fact that their ground care regime at the site was in itself “crap”? Hypocritically the council claimed that this was a risk to the public, yet they appear happy to leave it there, and no direct evidence of harm has ever been presented.
Your 2006 Sandwell Green Spaces audit makes no mention of geese being a problem to members of the public. The recent consultation revealed that the greater number of people did not consider geese to be “a problem” . That really should have been the end of the matter. But questions remain about the council and its management of parks. We would like to see a statement from senior councillors as to the admitted lies told by parks and countryside staff about the culls, and also the exposed lies concerning the reasons for the original cull report, set out in our report “the prejudiced lie”
which was submitted as a link with this petition. This includes misleading the cabinet member into making false statements on radio about egg pricking and also ignoring existing policy by changing it without consultation.
The conflict of interest between sports users and geese is also council managed. What do councillors make of amateur sports teams collecting goose turds in buckets and then merely dumping them in the long grass? Who has sanctioned this? Are the council happy with this practice- standing by and not bothering to remove this so called “hazard” that could be “inadvertently swallowed”?
The majority of cancelled sports fixtures are down to bad weather. It was stated at one park friends meeting that the council spent around £300-400,000 per annum on sports pitch maintenance, how much is spent on nature reserve mowing?
Manage these areas better and stop scapegoating one species for man-made problems.
Stop culling geese, it’s some of your staff’s behaviour that needs controlling!”