This week marks the 10 year anniversary of independent community leadership of the City of Sydney.
As Lord Mayor, my team and I have spent this time working to make Sydney a leading global city - a place where people want to live, work and visit. In that time we've seen more and more people choosing to live in our city centre and villages, and more and varied businesses setting up.
The City we inherited when I became Lord Mayor is very different to the City I lead today. Small bars, award-winning playgrounds and parks, a bike network underway, street upgrades, more child care, bigger and better events, food trucks, more engagement with businesses, an ambitious program to act on climate change, beautifully designed community facilities and commercial developments - these are just some of the changes my team and I have pursued.
We are holding a fundraising event in May to mark ten years and to help ensure this vital work continues. I hope you can join me and our Independent team to celebrate our city's successes and plans for the future.
It's been a big ten years and we have an even bigger ten years planned for the future.
Having strong, independent leadership at the City of Sydney would not be possible without the support and assistance you have given me and the Independent team over the past decade.
Unlike the major parties, we don't accept donations from developers or large corporations. Over the past 10 years we've relied on hundreds of dedicated volunteers who have given up their time doorknocking, operating street stalls, stuffing envelopes and helping out on election days.
Where it began
In 2004, the NSW Labor Government dramatically sacked the City and South Sydney Councils. South Sydney and parts of Leichhardt Councils were merged into the City of Sydney without consulting the community.
This was an attempt to grab our City and lock out our communities. I put together a small team of candidates and we campaigned on claiming it back!
In the space of a few weeks we campaigned hard - meeting thousands of residents, door-knocking across our community, and offering people a better choice.
After being elected Lord Mayor, one of our first actions was to create our City of Villages to recognise and protect the unique character and identity of each part of the new City of Sydney. We have upgraded main streets, restored our historic town halls, and created pocket parks and playgrounds across our villages and CBD.
I believe a successful city needs a plan for the future. In 2007 we undertook the largest ever community consultation in the City's history. We spoke with thousands of residents and businesses about what kind of city Sydney should be.
The result was Sustainable Sydney 2030 - a plan that continues to guide our work today.
You told us you wanted Sydney to be green, global and connected. That's why we have taken strong action to protect our environment, to enhance our international reputation for businesses and culture, and invest in better transport for everyone who comes to our city.
A city with a strong budget
One of my proudest achievements is leading a Council that is financially transparent, responsible and stable. I want to thank our great CEO Monica Barone and all the City staff who have worked with me to achieve this.
In the 1990s, the City of Sydney was close to bankruptcy. Since that time the Council has responsibly planned for the future, invested in property and prudently saved income to pay for new infrastructure and services.
Responsible financial management over the past 10 years has meant that we have consistently delivered debt-free budgets, kept our residential rates amongst the lowest in the Sydney metropolitan area, and financed a substantial capital works program of major projects worth close to a billion dollars.
Supporting better planning and design excellence
Encouraging design excellence and ensuring thoughtful planning are essential to the success of our city.
As well as encouraging the development of high-quality, sustainable office space and residential development, we have made sure the City's own projects adhere to strong principles of design excellence.
In ten years our public projects have won more than 40 national and international design awards.
Our planning work in urban renewal areas will ensure that high-quality design for new homes is coupled with neighbourhood facilities, services and open space.
Green Square is Australia's biggest urban renewal project and we are working to ensure it is beautiful, sustainable and well-functioning. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in vital infrastructure including a new Library and Plaza at the Town Centre, a new aquatic and fitness centre, and new parks and an upgrade to existing parks nearby.
More people are now choosing to raise children in Sydney and the City is investing $55 million in new child care facilities.
Creating a greener city
Taking action on climate change and protecting our environment is the biggest challenge we face.
While other levels of government have failed to take this issue seriously and do the heavy lifting, we have set the City a long-term target to reduce our carbon emissions 70 per cent by 2030. We have already slashed our emissions by 20 per cent and ongoing projects put us in line to achieve 29 per cent over the next few years.
We have created detailed plans to boost renewable energy, support local energy generation, reduce the amount of waste we create, and safeguard precious drinking water.
We have worked to create better transport options including a network of safe, separated cycleways and better pedestrian connections that give people genuine alternatives. We lobbied the NSW Government to support light rail, and after years of hard work, the Government has now endorsed the city's transport plans.
This vision for our city will give people more options and help reduce pollution and congestion.
In the past decade we have weathered the global financial crisis, attracted new businesses and jobs to Sydney, and supported our emerging talent to ensure our economic success continues.
Rather than taking anything away from the CBD, the City of Villages policy we introduced has increased our local economy by adding vitality and interest to the areas just outside the city centre.
This is similar to cities such as New York and London, famous for their distinctive and character-filled villages.
Over the past five years, 40 per cent of all jobs growth across metropolitan Sydney took place in the City of Sydney.
The workforce in our area grew by 13.6 per cent - that means an extra 52,306 jobs. The number of businesses grew by 2,065, or 10.5 per cent.
Our upgrade of places like Glebe Point Road, Harris Street and Redfern Street has breathed life into our main streets and encouraged local shopping.
Our strong support for local, emerging talent has boosted Sydney's growing reputation for innovation. The City is also providing affordable spaces, grants and sponsorship, and mentoring and business advice for emerging enterprises.
Five years ago, less than 50 per cent of our residents lived and worked in our local government area - that figure has now increased to 65 per cent. By creating a city where people come first, jobs and new businesses follow.
Making a more creative city
We have always championed Sydney as a place that supports creativity, diversity and culture. As Lord Mayor I have made this a priority.
Each year the City of Sydney invests more than $34 million in the creative life of our city through sponsorship of festivals and events big and small. We have opened a new, state-of-the-art playhouse in Darlinghurst. And we have invested in public art that surprises and delights.
The small bar revolution has helped create more options for people at night and has enlivened many of the city's laneways and forgotten spaces. Our fleet of food trucks has added a new element to our late night economy. And our work to champion live music will mean that musicians, audiences and venues have the support they need without compromising the amenity of residents.
A new cultural policy for Sydney, to build on the work we already do, will soon come to Council for adoption.
Supporting our GLBTI community is something I've always been passionate about, and we continue to work with them on important issues, including the announcement this year that we'll build a permanent public artwork in Taylor Square to mark the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras in 2018.
Not possible without you
All this success would not have been possible without your support and participation.
There are plenty more challenges to be faced in the coming years. We came in on an attempted party gerrymander to grab our City. We reclaimed it then, and at subsequent elections.
Now the big parties are at it again. Following legislation to get me out of Parliament there are plans to merge the City with surrounding Councils and to boost the non-residential vote to try to ensure party rule.
I hope you will continue to work with us on issues that are important to our community and our future, and to keep Sydney independent.