Committee for Sydney Luncheon Address

(12pm, Friday 2nd August 2013, Hassell, Level 2 Pier 8/9 Hickson Road)

Thank you, Lucy [Turnbull]. Hello, everyone. 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.

I'd also like to acknowledge your Chair, Lucy Turnbull, and of course, Ken Maher and HASSELL, our hosts today.

SYDNEY'S ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

The Committee for Sydney's recent (first) Issues Paper highlights the critical economic importance of cities and the case for investment in Sydney as a national economic priority.

As the Committee's report puts it — "Australian cities are where most Australian wealth and productivity are generated…" and "Australia gets a bigger bang for its public buck by investing in Sydney."

The City of Sydney has put this case to state and federal governments, and welcomes the growing recognition that Sydney's prosperity is linked to our prosperity as a nation. The 2013 State of the Cities Report, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, notes Australia is the most urbanised nation in the world.

Sydney is Australia's global city and its unique environmental, social, cultural and economic characteristics mean that we are consistently places near the top of major global city and liveability indexes.

And the City of Sydney local government area is the economic driver and symbolic focus for Australia's global city.

Our City is home to 20,000 businesses, with 380,000 people travelling to work in the centre each day, with a further 483,000 joining them for shopping, business, entertainment or education.

The local government area has an annual Gross Regional Product or more than $100 billion, or about 7.5 per cent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, and almost one-quarter of the NSW economy.

But, as many of you know, Sydney's share of GDP has declined, only partly due to the resources boom. In international rankings, we are regularly held back by poor environmental sustainability, congestion, public transport and affordability.

IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABLE SYDNEY 2030

When I became Lord Mayor in 2004, I wanted a long-term vision and plan for our City. We consulted widely and the result was Sustainable Sydney 2030, a plan which has won broad acceptance. Many of you were part of our consultation or have partnered with us on the progress we've made since we adopted the plan.

The City remains in a robust financial position to deliver on its strategy to secure our environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability. We have balanced budgets, no debt and a $1.9 billion infrastructure program over 10 years.

Our program includes capital works such as revitalising city laneways, creating or improving parks, six new childcare centres and our cycle network - as well as encouraging greater diversity through supporting small bars, planning for a night-time culture, encouraging creative businesses and start-ups, and supporting our urban villages.

Funding is also in place for major works associated with State Government projects: $220 million to transform George Street with the light rail project; $37 million to integrate Barangaroo with Millers Point; and $440 million to catalyse the $8 billion Green Square development for 40,000 new residents and 22,000 workers.

I will talk more about some of these projects, but want to highlight that the diverse range is needed to foster a multilayered, diverse and energetic city where Sydneysiders want to live and work — and that attracts global capital and global talent.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES

Council this week endorsed for public exhibition a draft Economic Development Strategy. We've also launched the first two associated action plans for Retail and Tourism, with work underway for other key industries-the creative and digital sector, finance and business services, the green economy and local village economies.

I hope that Committee for Sydney members will review the strategies and give us feedback.

Cities are our centres of innovation and productivity, stimulated through clusters of linked activities which generate productivity and drive innovation through interaction and the transfer of ideas.

Indeed, companies in the same industry tend to cluster together in particular cities, with the result that that city becomes more attractive to new companies in the same industry, setting up a cycle that reinforces itself.

Over the last five years - notwithstanding the global financial crisis - the City's economy grew at twice the rate of the rest of Sydney, generating almost 40 per cent of Sydney's metropolitan jobs' growth. Typically those jobs were in the creative industries, in the digital economy, and in the knowledge and tertiary education sectors.

The City's strategy centres on ways we can build on these foundations for success. It looks at how we can create more opportunities and deals with the challenges that - if unaddressed - could limit our growth as a global city.

Chief among those problems is the additional pressure that growth in population and jobs places on inner-city transport networks.

The State of the Cities 2013 report released this week shows that car use for journey-to-work is declining in the outer suburbs of all Australian cities except Sydney where it is still growing, and that the growth in walking, cycling and public transport in the inner and middle-suburbs is slower in Sydney than other cities.

The journey-to-work in particular needs to be addressed so that even as the City grows, we don't strangle the very success that has brought that growth in population and jobs.

LIGHT RAIL

It is exciting that the State Government has committed to light rail after years of advocacy and studies—and I thank the Committee for Sydney for your support to achieve this.

Light rail will be a tremendous boost for Sydney and a real game-changer—not just for better transport, but also the transformation of our CBD for this century. Our plans for the laneways along a pedestrianised George Street will provide opportunities for a rich new mix of businesses and feed new life into the surrounding streets.

We're working closely with the NSW Government on this and we expect the practical problems that are inevitable when major infrastructure works disrupt people's daily lives.

We have been through this - although on a lesser scale - when we undertook street widening and paving and planting in City villages like Glebe and Redfern. The benefits in improved amenity and new businesses mean even some of the most vociferous complainants agree that the pain was worth the gain.

So, please, continue your support through the inevitable challenges of construction!

TRANSPORT OPTIONS - BIKES & KENT STREET

I hope that the Committee for City will also help press for the urgent release of the City Centre Access Study, a critical part of the work needed to transform our CBD.

The plan, promised by March, sets out a new CBD street hierarchy for all forms of transport, including bike routes.

Where possible, cycleways need to be completed prior to the light rail construction to avoid multiple major construction projects simultaneously.

The City of Sydney has $70M committed to get on building cycleways. We are ready to go on the next stage of Kent St, with a $6M contract waiting to be implemented.

From the end of this month, it will cost nearly $70,000 one-off and $9000 per month in cost escalations while we hold off signing a contract.

But until we have a completed access plan the bike routes could be changed, despite previous approvals.

The cycleways construction would create hundreds of jobs in the private sector. Kent Street provides access to Barangaroo and the whole western financial district, where cycling is hugely popular with workers as a way of avoiding congestion and staying fit.

Cycling trips have increased by a massive 113 per cent across the LGA since March 2010, with around 2,000 bikes passing through top peak-hour intersections on an average weekday.

Every one of those cyclists is someone who's not in a car or on our increasingly crowded buses and trains.

The State Government's own strategies recognise cycling is a vital tool for easing congestion, with targets to more than double the mode share of bike in Greater Sydney to five per cent by 2016.

Deputy Premier Anthony Albanese notes every cycle trip benefits the economy $21, and that where practical all future urban road must include a safe, separated cycle way.

SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Sustainable Sydney 2030 set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse emissions across our own operations and across the City by 70 per cent of 2006 levels by 2030, and we're making good progress.

Climate change is the most important issue of our time. With a warming of two degrees, we risk catastrophic climate change - but projections show we are headed for a four to six degree change.

We have always made the case that cities are critical in reducing greenhouse emissions because these centres of mass population cause around 75 per cent of the world's emissions.

We've cut emissions by 19 per cent since 2006, and we expect the next verified emissions inventory for the 2012-2013 year to show savings of more than 20 per cent, despite increases in our property portfolio in that time. Contracted projects will further reduce emissions by 29 per cent by 2016.

We are doing extensive work to identify the lowest-cost and most effective options to reduce green-house gas emissions. Reducing and avoiding energy use is always the first, best option.

A retrofit of 45 council buildings is cutting energy use by 23 per cent and our roll-out of energy-efficient LED lights is cutting emissions from our street lights by 51 per cent and saving almost $800,000 a year in electricity costs.

We're also completing a $6.9 million energy and water efficiency retrofit on 45 City properties, reducing emissions, water consumption and our utility bills; and installing solar panels on 30 City buildings which will supply over 12 per cent of our energy requirements by 2014.

And we have recently put out for discussion a Renewable Energy Master Plan. It's the product of extensive research, giving the most detailed technical, financial and economic assessment of the renewable energy options ever done in Sydney. It maps out strategies available to make the switch to 100 per cent renewable energy. I hope you can get to our Renewable Cities City Conversation on Monday where we are discussing the Renewable Energy Master Plan.

At the same time, we have enabled the first environment upgrade agreement for a trigeneration precinct that will deliver low-carbon energy to the 4,000 future residents of the Central Park development that Frasers Property are building on Broadway.

GREEN SQUARE

Urban consolidation can also provide for growth in an environmentally sustainable way—so long as it is supported by clean efficient transport, a wide range of local community facilities, and more and improved open space.

This is the approach we have taken for the $8 billion Green Square development, allocating $440 million over the next decade to catalyse a sustainable development with basic infrastructure, community facilities and open space.

While Green Square is dense, we want it to be well planned and beautifully designed.

Green Square, being delivered by a partnership with LandCom, Leightons and Mirvac, is one of Australia's largest urban renewal sites, eventually expected to provide 20,000 new jobs and house 48,000 new residents.

Our central role at Green Square has been to ensure that planning controls allow for appropriate growth and development. Our controls aim to provide the workplaces and housing for the target population while keeping development innovative, sustainable and respectful of existing neighbourhoods.

We have mandated about 330 rental units for low-to-moderate income households as development proceeds at Green Square. It is part of our target to achieve the near-fourfold increase in the supply of affordable housing across the city that is needed to provide for key worker and other low income housing.

Earlier this year, the Central Sydney Planning Committee approved the staged construction of essential infrastructure in the Green Square Town Centre, including new roads, footpaths and services such as stormwater, sewer, water, electrical and telecommunications.

We've also engaged the winner of an international design competition for a library in the Town Centre.

Two 20-something local architects, Felicity Stewart and Matthias Hollenstein from Stewart Hollenstein, with Colin Stewart Architects, won out of a field of over 160 architects from 29 countries.

Their design redefines the traditional idea of a library, fusing buildings with the outdoor plaza. Some of the buildings are below ground, while the design includes an amphitheatre, water play zone and open spaces for festivals.

Council has endorsed a master plan for the future Green Square Aquatic Facility and a master plan for the former South Sydney Hospital site, including a range of community facilities and a child care centre. Historic buildings will find new life as arts workshops, meeting rooms, studios, exhibition galleries, rehearsal spaces and a theatrette.

We have also planned new open green space, including a 6,500 square metre park in the Town Centre, a larger park of 15,500 square metres in the nearby Epsom Park precinct and other smaller parks.

And the City has been working to get State buy in for Green Square light rail, including purchasing some sites to help secure the vital transport corridor. I hope The Committee for Sydney could work with us again to help ensure a sustainable, public transport-oriented redevelopment located between the Global City and the airport.

SYDNEY IDENTITY AND CULTURE

Another vital strand of our work for Sydney involves strengthening our cultural identity and 'brand'.

We do this in a host of ways: through partnerships with tourism bodies, with business and tourism operators, as well as supporting musicals, exhibitions and festivals that attract visitors and boost the city's profile.

Through our late night economy "OPEN" project, we are working to transform our City at night and attract a wider range of people. New food trucks and the growing small bars culture are two of the most visible signs.

Our new cultural policy was on public exhibition earlier this year and staff are now working through extensive input and ideas.

During the last year, we committed about $23 million to the City's cultural life.

This includes our own big-ticket events - Sydney New Year's Eve, the ever-growing Chinese New Year and Art & About. Then there are the other festivals for which we are a major sponsor: Sydney Festival, the Mardi Gras, Sydney Biennale, Sydney Writer's Festival and Sydney Film Festival.

At the other end of the scale, we're leasing 18 City-owned retail and office spaces on Oxford Street to cultural and creative tenants at affordable rates. These spaces are working well - bringing in an average of about 7,000 visitors each quarter and upwards of half a million dollars spent on local goods and services in the first 12 months.

Just last week, I launched an extension to William Street, where we have six living and working units for artists and spaces for emerging businesses including fashion designer Romance was Born, architects for the MCA, a music company, and a pop-up gallery.

Two ground-floor showrooms are let to commercial tenants that complement the other tenancies. And there's a small bar in the basement where I'm hoping we'll get some live jazz!

This is building a creative arc from William Street through Darlinghurst and the Burton Street Tabernacle - where a 200-seat theatre will give Sydney a new performance venue -and on to Oxford Street.

We have envisaged more extensive cultural arc from the State Library to the Opera House and around here at Walsh Bay to Barangaroo - the "Cultural Ribbon" identified in Sustainable Sydney 2030.

We launched the Eora Journey a short time ago, making good our promise to both honour Sydney's Aboriginal past and celebrate its contemporary Aboriginal culture in the public domain. We have been fortunate to secure Hetti Perkins as our curator for this ground-breaking, and long-overdue, project.

REFORM

Finally, I want to mention governance and planning reform—I know that this is also one of the Committee for Sydney priorities for 2013.

The NSW Government has underway a number of reform processes, including the Planning Reform White Paper; Draft Metropolitan Strategy; review of the Local Government and City of Sydney Acts; and Sansom review.

The City of Sydney has made detailed submissions on each of these reviews and I encourage you to read them.

While we endorse the need for reform, I am very concerned that processes are not working together and will not deliver the high-quality governance and planning that Sydney needs if it is to remain a global city.

The City has called for a whole-of-government expert panel, including local government representatives, to coordinate the interrelated processes that will determine the future of local government and planning in NSW.

We believe that the planning reforms need to be based on sustainable growth principles, design excellence and social equity. The current draft emphasises economic interests to the detriment of broader long term considerations.

And I am particularly concerned that a key recommendation of the Sansom Review Panel for a 'global city' amalgamation lacks a business case to demonstrate the benefits.

The City went through an amalgamation in 2004, the latest in a long history of political manipulation of City boundaries. Amalgamations are expensive and disruptive—it took more than five years to integrate duplicate staffing, planning controls, rating categories, services and computer systems.

I believe that the mega amalgamation proposal puts at risk the City's sound financial position and our extensive, publicly-endorsed program for the global city.

An improved revenue base for local government across the state and a new relationship of respect with the state government are the two reforms most critical for local government.

For the City, we recommend a new 'City of Sydney Committee' with all tiers of government to consult on and develop an integrated strategic plan and coordinate strategic decision-making for global Sydney.

We recommended retaining the Central Sydney Planning Committee. The 2010 independent review of the CSPC confirmed it operates in a professional and independent manner, and is an effective and efficient committee.

And we have recommended new legislated Regional Mayors Committees bringing together Mayors and senior state government representatives legally mandated to plan, review and monitor implementation of regional strategies.

CONCLUSION

I am proud of what the City has achieved since 2004 and excited by our future program of work.

The best results for Sydney come through a partnership of all levels of government and the private sector, as well as organisations such as the Committee for Sydney. I hope we will continue and strengthen those partnerships.