Last night I chaired the last meeting of this term of the City of Sydney Council. It is a privilege to be elected to represent the people of Sydney and this term has been marked by a constructive and co-operative Council.
While there have been inevitable differences of opinion at times, Councillors have maintained a strong focus on working together, prudently managing our budget so that we remain debt free with savings for future projects.
In its last term, the City went through the most extensive consultation ever to find out what kind of city people wanted Sydney to be. The majority told us they wanted action to address climate change.
Our consultation included talking to tens of thousands of residents, businesses and visitors. The result was Sustainable Sydney 2030 - our long term plan for the future with specific actions and targets.
Since that time we have worked with staff to make Sustainable Sydney 2030 a reality and to ensure that it is not a report that sits on a shelf gathering dust!
In 2006, we again talked to our community to find out what kind of local projects they wanted in their village areas. We developed Local Action Plans for each area and, of the 416 projects, 90% are now complete or in progress, and we've started a new round of discussions about future work.
This Council has a lot to be proud of.
The City is in a sound financial position, with no debt, quality services, major capital works program and we have budgeted for projects highlighted in Sustainable Sydney 2030.
Our leading Green Infrastructure plans have been supported by all Councillors.
The Trigeneration Master Plan and the Decentralised Water Master Plan are currently on public exhibition. They are both vital to ensure we achieve the ambitious environmental target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030.
Trigeneration will cut up to a third of our emissions and supply 70% of energy locally. It will also reduce energy costs by $1.5 billion, bypassing the 'network charges' that make up half the average electricity bill. It's a step towards 100% renewable energy, and we're planning on converting the trigeneration network to renewable biogases from waste.
Our decentralised water plan will replace 10% of non-drinking water with recycled water and reduce water pollution by 50% by 2030. Council's own water use will also be reduced by 25%.
We're installing energy efficient LED lights, achieving significant reductions in cost and emissions and now we are rolling them out across the city - the first city in Australia to do so. We've established stormwater harvesting and rain gardens and now have 16 community gardens.
All this work is critical for the future of our City.
This year, researchers have all but closed the case on human activity and our changing climate - it is happening at an alarming rate and we've caused it. Cities generate 80% of emissions and so it is action in our cities that can achieve the greatest cuts.
Earlier this year, Council adopted the draft City Plan - the Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan. This was the culmination of over five years of work replacing the 60 different planning controls inherited from former central Sydney, Leichhardt and South Sydney Councils.
Throughout the City Plan consultation process, the City undertook more than 100 meetings and workshops with residents, businesses, community groups, government agencies and the development industry.
We prepared, as part of the City Plan, comprehensive urban design studies for all our villages. We met with the community and asked what they valued and we looked closely at every street and every property.
The City Plan protects our historic villages and we are meeting housing targets to provide 61,000 new homes as set by the State, by focusing sustainable development in former industrial and urban renewal sites.
We have focused on high quality design through our Design Advisory Panel, while achieving an average of 47 days for assessment. In the last 12 months, the value of development applications determined by the City increased to over $3.1 billion.
The City has overseen the growth of Sydney's vibrant cultural life. Over 4.3 million people participate in festivals organised or sponsored by the City, including New Year's Eve, Sydney Festival, Biennale, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, Sydney Film Festival, Sydney Writers' Festival, Art & About, Yabun Festival, Ultimo Pyrmont Uptown Festival, NAIDOC Week Celebrations, Pyrmont Food and Arts Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival, Newtown Festival, Greek Festival and Christmas celebrations.
We have supported significant public art projects through our Public Art Advisory Panel and installed new artworks, including The Bower on Regent Street, Redfern and Biamia at Redfern Park playground, Aspire in Pyrmont, Windlines in Circular Quay, Bird Song in Angel Place and Between Two Worlds in Kimber Lane Chinatown, Earth v Sky in Bicentennial Park Glebe and the Taylor Square temporary artworks program.
The City is providing studio spaces for artists and creative enterprises and is working with government and industry to improve Sydney's late night economy through our draft Open Sydney policy.
We support business with a range of different initiatives. We host popular workshops and seminars to facilitate advice and encourage networking, we distribute newsletters to keep business people informed and we offer targeted grants programs.
We established a Retail Panel with some of Sydney's best big and small retailers and key government agencies, and we work closely with them to develop new programs to support retail, including increased support for the Christmas festival.
We endorsed new commitments this year totalling $820,000 for events such as Vogue Fashion Night Out, Mercedes Benz Sydney Fashion Festival and Christmas in the City to support retail in the City.
The City has undertaken a major renewal of Pitt Street Mall and main street improvements on Glebe Point Road, Redfern Street, Harris Street, Oxford Street and Darlinghurst Road. Improvements to Abercrombie and Crown Streets are underway.
This Council has put light rail on the State Government's agenda through strong advocacy and detailed research. We strongly support light rail and a pedestrianised George Street and have budgeted $180 million for public domain work when light rail is introduced.
We have also worked hard to achieve a 'once in a lifetime' consensus for our plans with the Transport and Tourism Forum, Committee for Sydney, the Australian National Retailers Association and major businesses on George Street.
Sydneysiders told us they would start riding bikes if we had safe, separated cycleways. We listened and acted. Our bike network is growing in popularity and, even though it is still not complete, we've witnessed an 82% growth in bicycle riding in Sydney over the past two years, the biggest growth of any other comparable city worldwide.
The City has 96 community facilities that are either directly managed by Council or leased to a range of community service organisations under our Accommodation Grants Program.
This includes 9 libraries, 4 pools, 21 centres for children's services, 9 creative spaces and 46 community spaces that cater to young people, our older residents and our culturally and linguistically diverse residents.
Some of the major developments we've built include the award winning and environmentally sustainable Surry Hills Library; the Redfern Park and Oval; Paddington Reservoir Gardens; Pirrama Park; Harmony Park; upgrades to most of our children's playgrounds; the Waterloo Youth facility; the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre and the upgrade of Sydney Town Hall - arguably the City's most important public building.
We've budgeted for future projects some of which include:
- an extra six new childcare centres;
- a new library and community centre in the Green Square Town Centre;
- the redevelopment of Perry Park to provide multi-purpose indoor and outdoor courts;
- a redevelopment of the Juanita Nielsen Community Centre;
- the completion of the Eternity Playhouse;
- an upgrade of Pine Street Creative Arts Centre; and
- improved signage across all the City.
While debates have been quite spirited at times in this Chamber, for the most part we have achieved a coherent, and forward thinking Council.
We should all be proud of what we have achieved for present and future people of Sydney.
I want to thank each and every Councillor - Deputy Lord Mayor Robert Kok, Councillor John McInerney, Councillor Di Tornai, Councillor Phillip Black, Councillor Chris Harris, Councillor Irene Doutney, Councillor Shayne Mallard, Councillor Meredith Burgmann and Councillor Marcelle Hoff, who retired earlier this year due to ill health - for your contribution over the last four years and I wish them well in future endeavours.
Finally, I wish to recognise the outstanding efforts of City staff over this term. We have benefitted from having a dedicated, inspiring and expert staff working at this council, led by our fabulous Chief Executive Officer, Monica Barone, and our committed group of Directors.
Thank you to the CEO, Directors and all staff for all your hard work and expert advice and commitment to our common goals of Sustainable Sydney 2030.