Community Christmas Reception

(2pm, Sunday 9 December 2012, Centennial Hall)

Thank you, Rod [Kirkman]. Hello, everyone, and a very warm welcome to Town Hall. 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'm honoured to have been re-elected as Lord Mayor for a third term, with a strong mandate of over 50 per cent of the Lord Mayoral vote to press on with our progressive work.

During the last two terms Council has completed a significant program with decisions based on research and consultation.

During the first term, we developed, in consultation with all our communities, a comprehensive strategy to equip Sydney for the 21st century SS2030 - to make our city sustainable environmentally, economically, socially and culturally.

At the September election, I affirmed my commitment to continue implementing that work. And with balanced budgets, free rates to pensioners and no debt, we have the capacity to do work to secure the prosperity and liveability of our city.

This year, we began "2030 in your village" to revisit local plans for our villages to ensure there is adequate open space, community facilities, neighbourhood projects and active main streets.

The next stage of that work will be consulted next year. Meanwhile, most of the projects we developed with you in the 2006 Local Action Plans are underway or complete.

Early next year, we'll reopen the Burton Street Tabernacle in East Sydney as the Eternity Playhouse, with a café and community spaces, and just opposite Council has endorsed concept plans for improvements to Heffron Hall and the adjacent Reserve.

We have also approved a new childcare centre on Bourke Street - which will be the first of six that we've committed to fast-track in response to the growing number of young families in our area and the need for more childcare places.

Our refurbished Glebe Town Hall will welcome back the community early next year; while work is underway at Paddington, Redfern and Erskineville Town Halls; and I hope that on your way in you noticed the stunning photographic wrap around the sandstone restoration project that we are undertaking that will preserve Sydney Town Hall for future generations.

We've commenced planning for the Johnstons Creek parklands, which will integrate 3.8 hectares of new public open space at Harold Park with land at The Crescent and existing areas of the Glebe foreshore. Next year we begin construction on the next stage of the foreshore walk in front of the school.

And we're continuing to improve pocket parks and playgrounds around our villages: including Ethel and Pinkstone Playgrounds in Erskineville; Janet Bierne Reserve in Beaconsfield; Foley Park, St James Park and Jubilee Park Playground in Glebe; Union Street Park and Goddard Playground in Newtown; Napier Street Reserve in Paddington; Fitzroy Gardens playground in Kings Cross, Potts Point; and Chelsea Street Playground in Redfern to name just a few.

The historic Gardener's Lodge in Victoria Park has just opened as a café with a bush-tucker flavour that is providing work and skills-building jobs for young aboriginal people.

In Waterloo, we've built a fantastic new youth centre, adjacent to our great skate park. The building has an exciting design and a distinctive canopy. Like our other buildings, it's sustainable, with energy efficient materials, low-energy lighting, thermal heating and cooling, natural ventilation and tanks to collect rainwater.

Council will tomorrow, I hope, vote on plans to improve the Juanita Nielsen Centre in Woolloomooloo, and last Monday I welcomed our newly created Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel—which will join our well regarded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Public Art, and Design Advisory Panels.

We followed our earlier improvements to Redfern Street with the Roll Up Redfern matching grants to encourage property owners to remove the shutters. This once run down and neglected street is now looking wonderful and new cafes and small bars are providing a more diverse, as well as a safer, environment.

The next stage of the shopfront program will focus on Oxford Street, building on our work to revitalise Oxford Street with floral displays, improvements to Foley Street, public art such as the stunning "Always Was Always Will Be" on the T2 building, and new business opportunities. Council owned properties in Oxford Street and William Streets, are providing opportunities for innovative start-up businesses. The leases, which will run until December 2014, are supporting over 400 workers and artists, and bringing new life to adjoining businesses.

We've completed the first stage of major improvements to Chinatown, including shared spaces for pedestrians and vehicles, better lighting, new street furniture and some striking public art. The new Visitor Information Kiosk looks terrific and is a great success.

Crown Street in Surry Hills, between Cleveland and Devonshire street will be the next main street to get improvements, while new footpath hedges are transforming Cleveland Street. We're installing smartpoles in King Street Newtown and are completing designs for Abercrombie Street, Darlington.

Last Thursday, I turned on the new decorative lighting in Pitt Street Mall, completing the rejuvenation of that important city retail precinct.

From next year, we are halving our outdoor dining fees in our villages to support business and activate our streets.

The Small Bars revolution shows no signs of abating, we now have more than 60 across the LGA. There was a wide range of small business reflected in this year's Business Awards, which were our biggest yet, with a record 830 businesses nominated and more than 60,000 of you voting.

Creativity and culture continue to be a priority in our public domain. New artworks unveiled/opened this year include Earth v Sky at Glebe Point, the Watling Tree in Albion Place, and Between Two Worlds in Chinatown. The famous El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens has been beautifully restored and is now once again the symbol and centrepiece of the Cross.

And we've completed conservation work on other public art and monuments—such as the Baptist Fountain in Hyde Park; murals in Woolloomooloo; "Heaven and Earth" in Chinatown; and Peter Day's 'What Bird is That?" mural in Surry Hills, which Peter repainted 30 years after his original work.

We've developed a Public Art Strategy for Green Square; we're engaging a public art curator for the City Centre, with a special focus on George Street and, importantly, we have committed to seven key projects for the Eora Journey, honouring the living spirit of Aboriginal culture in Sydney.

Our popular festivals and cultural events continue - ranging from our Christmas celebrations in the City centre and in the villages to New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras and, this year, the re-launch of the Kings Cross Festival.

I welcome reports last week that light rail will proceed—Government hasn't confirmed the route yet— but I remain firmly convinced of the importance the CBD spine is to a proposed network. We need to seize the opportunity provided by the extraordinary consensus for action from business and the community. The City has allocated $180 million to support George Street Light Rail and we've completed draft public domain designs so that we are ready to go as soon as the Government makes a decision.

Despite the mischief and politicking, our cycleway program is an ever-growing success. With its emphasis on safe connections to popular city destinations, bicycle commuting is attracting more and more people. Independent counts on our separated cycleways show that numbers increased by 82 per cent (the census says it's a 100% increase) in the two years to March. It gives people another transport option, and like public transport, it will become even more important as new developments come on line at the Ashmore Estate, Central Park and Harold Park.

We are working to ensure that these new developments in our urban renewal areas include quality design, environmental initiatives, affordable housing and high-quality open space or nearby access to it.

Work is progressing on the proposed Town Centre and we've shortlisted five outstanding finalists in the design competition for a new Green Square Library and Community Centre.

We know that our greatest challenge is global warming and we're working across the City on many projects that will help us meet our challenge - especially as 80% of our emissions occur in cities.

Mounting evidence shows that we are in the critical decade and swift change is essential for our economy, our way of life, and our children's future.

The City has been officially recognised as Australia's first carbon-neutral Council, and our action includes:

  • Retrofitting City buildings to improve energy and water efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent from 2006 levels by the end of the year;
  • Working to introduce a planned network of trigeneration systems to provide low-carbon electricity and zero carbon eating and cooling for our own buildings as well as those that are privately owned, halving carbon emissions;
  • Installing $4.3 million worth of solar panels on more than 30 major buildings over two years, cutting annual carbon emissions by 2,250 tonnes;
  • Retrofitting LEDs in 6,500 City owned street and park lighting over three years to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions by 51 per cent;
  • Planting more than 8,200 trees since 2005, with plans to double the city's tree canopy by 2030;
  • Reducing water consumption in the City's buildings by 20 per cent, supplying 27 million litres of recycled water a year to irrigate parks and gardens;
  • Increasing recycling rates from 49 to 66 per cent (year on year) due to advanced waste treatment which removes recyclable materials from domestic waste and produces compost;
  • while our groundbreaking work on the City's Green Infrastructure Plan includes Decentralised Energy and Water Master Plans.

I have only touched on some highlights of our work this year, and I want to thank former and new Councillors for their contributions.

I especially thank our staff, under the leadership of Monica Barone, who are committed to the goals of Sustainable Sydney 2030.

And importantly, I want to thank you for your help, support and contributions to our City this year.

Finally, our charity partner for 2012 New Year's Eve is the Fred Hollows Foundation, which has restored sight to over one million people around the globe over the past two decades. Thanks to Fred, the foundation can now restore sight for just $25, we have buckets and staff, who can take your donations and give you receipts.

I wish you and your families, a happy Christmas and a great New Year.

Thank you.