Bourke Street Childcare Centre Community Meeting

(2pm, Saturday 1 December 2012, Heffron Hall)

Hello, everyone and welcome. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city.

Following your comments on the proposed new childcare centre at 277 Bourke Street, we've looked for solutions which we want to present to you today.

Our CEO, Monica Barone, will shortly outline some of the challenges and constraints we face in providing a new childcare centre and then we will present the new concept which addresses your concerns: community lane access, design of connection and ramp to the playground.

Following that, I will chair a period of open discussion.

There is need for childcare - and an urgent need - for more childcare in our area. It used to be that parents moved out to the suburbs when they had children. Just over a decade ago, schools were being closed in the inner city; now there are prams and children everywhere, and an active public debate about the need for a new inner city secondary school - some primary schools are at capacity.

This adds to the richness and diversity of city living—a healthy community provides for children as well as the elderly - and all the ages in between.

But it also means we have to provide the parks, the playgrounds and the child-care centres that support young families living in the densely populated inner city. Most of us live in apartments or terraces without a back yard—and increasingly parents rely on childcare so they can work.

A 2008 ABS survey found that 70 per cent of parents needed childcare for work related reasons, with 18 per cent choosing care for the benefit of the child, such as school preparation. Other reasons included needing time to care for relatives and allowing parents time to study.

In the decade between 2001 and 2011, Census data shows that households with children in the City of Sydney increased by over 44 per cent.

At our childcare centres, we give those children priority, particularly children from families most in need of low-cost childcare.

And our research shows an unmet need for 460 childcare places generally in the area from Oxford Street across to Potts Point — with a total gap of more than 2,500 spaces across the whole City of Sydney area.

4,250 long day care and preschool places are currently provided in our local government area by the City, community and private sectors.

And demand is especially strong for children under two. That's why our proposal for Bourke Street particularly focuses on new spaces for babies and toddlers.

Council at its last meeting approved this new childcare centre, and supported my proposal to review community pedestrian access and the design of the bridge linking the building and the play area

Since then, we've looked at ways to redesign the building to retain a total of 63 childcare places and keep the pedestrian access and stairs in Berwick lane.

Our Proposal:

We're going to show you today a proposal that moves the community space to the lower ground level and keeps Berwick Lane open; with three floors of childcare on the Bourke Street ground level, the first floor and upper floor.

Putting the community space at the Berwick Lane level will keep the area well lit, more active and safer—with paving and landscaping improvements to the Lane to make the area more attractive and inviting.

We'll have a presentation in more detail—and the images and model will make clear the new approach.

There are still challenges—as there always will be in trying to fit new community services into densely built up and heritage inner city areas. We don't have the luxury of a 'green fields' development, but we aim to get the right balance between the sometimes competing needs.

We will take this proposal to Council, it will then proceed to detailed design and lodgement of a development application. That process will provide further opportunity to comment on such things as design, traffic planning and the operation of the centre.

Council has also agreed to keep the site and create a new park at 222 Palmer Street, on the site of the present Kindergarten Union pre-school.

While you will see some images of that today to give you an idea of what it might mean, I want to stress that we don't have a design concept for it yet. Some of you are discussing the possibility of a community garden and I think that would be a terrific approach.

Council has also endorsed the purchase of land at the corner of Stanley and Bourke Streets to expand the park at O'Brien's Lane.

It's the result of years of negotiations with the former RTA, now Roads and Maritime Services (RMS). Many of you have been waiting for this since completion of the Eastern Distributor and Cross City Tunnel!

We're also moving ahead with other improved community and cultural facilities, in line with the recommendations of our 2008 City East community facilities consultations and review.

The former Tabernacle will re-open early next year as the Eternity Playhouse. It includes a new, 200-seat theatre, space for creative arts and a café. It will also be available for community use. Next Saturday 8 December we'll have a walk through for residents from 11.30am-12pm.

We're also refurbishing this hall as a community centre and space for cultural events and activities. It will have much-improved natural light, and it will also provide after-school care for up to 30 children. We've approved the proposal in principle and will come back with a detailed DA next year.

Our work at adjacent Albert Sloss Reserve will include new landscaping, furniture and play equipment. It will also have improved accessibility and be better integrated with Heffron Hall.

The City staff who are working on each of these project are here today to answer questions and we will be coming back to you as the work progresses.

Thank you again for coming this afternoon, and I'll now pass you over to Monica.