Australian kids could see their Minecraft designs turned into a real life park in Adelaide

This, only as a park: kids play Minecraft in Ascot, England, August 2014. Image: Getty.

For readers who don’t have children – or who aren’t basically children themselves (and we know some of you are) - it can be easy to forget that Minecraft is the video games phenomenon of its generation. The open-world sandbox game has tens of millions of players, of all ages; but it’s become especially beloved of kids, because at last there’s a game that matches the near-boundless creativity of young minds.

The South Australia state government hasn’t missed this, and it’s running a cute competition for students in Adelaide and the surrounding areas, in which they’ll get to see their Minecraft creations turned into an actual, real life park. As InDaily, a local news site, reports:

The winning designs will help guide national park upgrades worth around $10 million. The competition is open to students in years four, five, six and seven in Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills.

The parks they design as part of this competition might include trails for bushwalking, mountain biking or horse riding, barbecue and picnic areas, public toilets, wheelchair accessible areas, campgrounds, scenic lookouts, adventure playgrounds, interpretive trails, places to launch canoes – or something completely different,” said Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter.

To enter, kids have to submit five screenshots of their ideas, plus upload a three-minute narrated flythrough their Minecraft world.

The final prize – specifically, that AU$8.9m budget – sadly isn’t all earmarked for the creation of one Minecraft-designed park.

Instead, it’s being managed by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board (NR AMLR) as part of a community outreach programme, and we can be pretty sure that most of it isn’t going to go into just this one contest. The entry terms and conditions also mention that it’s only offering the possibility that part of that money might go on “some” of the ideas submitted, so there’s further reason to think that this might be more heat than light.

There are other restrictions on what kinds of things the pupils who enter can do, too. They have to use a vanilla Minecraft installation (which means no mods, and that’s half the game’s fun), and by entering they’ll be surrendering copyright over their creations to NR AMLR.

But. As outreach schemes go, this is a relatively great one. Not only does it respect Minecraft as the creative tool that its players know it is (even if its detractors may misunderstand and disagree), but it shows that some bureaucrats can appreciate that nature and technology aren’t always in opposition. The entries have to respect the existing beauty of Adelaide and its nearby Mount Lofty mountain range, while contributing to it – exactly the kind of nuance that every new generation of engineers and architects needs.


So what was actually in Grant Shapps’ latest transport masterplan?

A tram in Manchester. Image: Getty.

Poor Grant Shapps. This weekend, the UK’s transport secretary unveiled a fairly extensive package of measures intended to make sure Britons can keep moving about during the Covid-19 crisis. On Saturday, he fronted the government’s daily afternoon press briefing; on Sunday, he did the rounds of the morning political shows. 

And were those nasty mean journalists interested in his plans for bicycle repair vouchers, or the doubling of the A66? No they were not: all they wanted to ask about was reports that the Prime Minister’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings had breached the lockdown he himself had helped draw up. The rotten lot.

This is, from some perspectives a shame, because some of the plans aren’t bad. Here’s a quick run down. 

  • The government is releasing a total of £283m to increase frequencies on bus (£254m) and light rail (£29m) networks, enabling more people to travel while maintaining social distancing. 

  • It’s deploying 3,400 people – British Transport Police officers; staff from train operators and Network Rail – to stations, to advise passengers on how to travel safely.

  • It’s promising to amend planning laws to enable councils to reallocate road space and create emergency cycle lanes, using a £225m pot of funding announced earlier this month. 

  • It’s also spending £25m on half a million £50 bike repair vouchers, and £2.5m on adding 1,180 bike parking spaces at 30 railway stations.

All this sounds lovely, but announcements of this sort tend to throw up a few questions, and this is no exception. The UK is home to over 2,500 railway stations, which must raise doubts about whether a few extra bike parking spaces at 30 of them is going to be enough to spark a cycling revolution. And councillors say that £225m for new cycle lanes has been slow to materialise in council bank accounts.

As to the money for public transport: that £29m will be shared between tram networks in five English conurbations (Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Tyne & Wear, Nottingham, Sheffield). Just under £6m each doesn’t sound like the big bucks.

Then there’s the fact that all of these pots of money are dwarfed by the £1bn the government is planning to spend on turning the A66 Transpennine route across the north of England, from Workington to Middlesbrough, into a dual carriageway. Which puts the money allocated to cycling into perspective.

That said, it is refreshing to see the government taking an interest in cycling at all. Also, Grant Shapps genuinely tried to distract the nation from a huge political scandal by talking about bike repair vouchers, and you’ve got to give him credit for that.

More details of the plan on here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.