Haymarket Chamber of Commerce

(6pm, Tuesday 8 April 2014, East Ocean Restaurant, Haymarket)

Thank you, Brad, [Chan, MC]. Hello, everyone.

I'd also like to acknowledge the NSW Minister for Transport, the Hon Gladys Berejiklian; the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, Sydney's Deputy Lord Mayor, Robyn Kemmis, and Cr Jenny Green

It is music to my ears to hear the Minister speak about the light-rail project and the transformative effect it will have on our City. As you know, we have been making the case for this for many years now, and we are so glad that the NSW Government is taking action on it.

We will be working with them, with a contribution of $220 million and street improvements that will make George Street the great thoroughfare it can and should be.

Obviously, the effects of this will flow into Haymarket and into your businesses and we want you to be involved in our plans to improve the area.

Haymarket, or more specifically Chinatown, is already one of the most vibrant and thriving of Sydney's urban villages. It's also one of the most heavily visited, with our upgraded Information Kiosk - once recording the lowest number of visitor requests - now second only to Circular Quay.

Each year, almost 8 million domestic tourists and 2.8 million international tourists visit Sydney, and Haymarket is a dynamic cultural drawcard for many of them. In addition, there are also 19.2 million domestic day-trippers who can be attracted here.

The City's Chinese New Year celebrations put a strong focus on this area and this year the City is supporting the mid-winter VIVID festival to extend its reach into Haymarket, with opportunities for businesses to be involved and draw new audiences.

Initiatives like Luna Feasts and Asia on Your Doorstep highlight it as a foodie destination, and new smart-phone apps of the City's historical walking tours have been launched to include Haymarket and Chinatown sites.

Chinatown's growth is reflected in the employment figures which saw an additional 11,210 workers and 428 new businesses coming to the area in 2012 - the highest net growth in both business and employment of all the city villages.

Total employment in the area increased in 2012 by over 23 per cent, to almost 60,000 people.

Most of those increases came in the important professional business services category, with the next largest increase occurring in the food and drink sector.

The City is keen to support our small businesses and free seminars such as our Business 101 series, and the ChinaConnect workshops will help many of your members - as well as the support we offer this Chamber through our Village Business Partnership Grant.

But Chinatown is not only about business. For many people, it's home, and it can boast the highest residential occupancy of all the villages, with the most recent available figures showing an increase of more than 28 per cent to a total of 16,644 people.

Among them is a high proportion of students: in fact, 16 per cent of all university and TAFE students in our local government area live in Chinatown. I recently held a Reception for our international students.

Serviced apartments, backpacker accommodation and hotel rooms have also increased, providing for a transient population.

The Haymarket village services financial businesses in the City's north, and the education cluster to the west, as well as the creative industries in the south and east.

A very diverse mix of businesses support these cluster as well as local residents, workers, students and visitors and that activity will only increase as the City makes further improvements and new developments come on-line.

We will be working closely with you as the CBD and south-east light rail is being built and work begins at Darling Harbour. Both initiatives will bring inevitable disruptions which we will be working with you, and the NSW Government, to minimise. But they will also bring new life and increased visibility and vitality to this area.

The City has been working steadily, meanwhile, to make our own improvements inside Chinatown.

We've already completed work in Little Hay Street, Factory Street and Kimber Lane to create better pedestrian links, public art and heritage interpretation, and better settings for local icons.

The work was designed to preserve and enhance the street character, improve seating, lighting and street plantings, and especially to provide better amenity for pedestrians.

We've also finalised the design for the Thomas Street upgrade, between Hay and Quay Streets but we are waiting on approval from Roads and Maritime Services. It's possible that they will ask us to stage the work to alleviate impacts on traffic in the City Centre during the construction phase for the light rail.

We are looking at phasing our work and hope to get approval to begin on the first stage - Hay Street to Ultimo Road - in the second half of this year.

Like our other local projects, it will focus on a shared zone, with wider footpaths, more public space, public art and trees, improved street furniture and lighting and a greatly improved pedestrian environment.

Piece by piece we're creating a Chinatown to be proud of, one that truly reflects the energy and dynamism of this fantastic precinct and its community.