Jewish Board of Deputies Luncheon

(12pm, Thursday 21 November 2013, Deloittes Touch Tomatsu, George Street)

Thank you for this opportunity to tell you firstly about our plans for Sustainable Sydney 2030 and also about our efforts to foster harmony in what is one of the most diverse cities on earth.

I was elected as Mayor in 2004, with a strong commitment to consultation and to sustainability, and in that first term we embarked on a campaign to develop a policy that would deal with the massive challenges posed by climate change and limited resources like water and energy.

We involved tens of thousands of Sydneysiders - residents, multinational corporations and small local businesses, children and visitors - in the most comprehensive consultations ever undertaken here. We also sought the best available advice from experts in relevant fields - people like the great Danish urbanist, Jan Gehl.

The overwhelming message at all levels was that people wanted their city to be liveable and sustainable. They wanted it equipped to cope with all the implications of climate change, to be less destructive in its impacts, so that their children would have a future.

We summed up their aspirations in the phrase Green, Global and Connected.

A Green Sydney would be recognised as a leader with an outstanding environmental performance and new "green" industries stimulating economic growth. We promised to reduce carbon emissions, to deliver a network of green infrastructure to reduce energy, water and waste water demands. New housing and other developments would be nitrated with essential transport, leisure facilities and open space.

A Global Sydney would remain Australia's international gateway, with world-class attractions and sustained investment in cultural infrastructure and amenities. It would have premium spaces for business and quality jobs in the centre. It would embrace innovation and new technologies to stimulate creativity and collaboration.

Connected Sydney would be easy to get around with a walking and cycling network and routes connecting the City villages, city centre and the rest of inner Sydney. The villages would continue as focal points for community life. Relative equality would be improved through increased affordable housing for essential workers and better access to community facilities, programs and services. The City would commit to co-operation between governments, the private sector and the community.

These were to be more than aspirations, and so we set defined targets and a series of measures to achieve them, as well as stringent measures to check on our progress toward s those targets.

We set targets for our own operations, and for the City as a whole. Our latest report card, for the 2013-2013 year, shows us to be well on track.

Firstly, in getting our own house in order:-

  • We have retrofitted 45 of our buildings for water and energy savings.
  • We are rolling out LED street and park lights across the city and this will save $800,000 per annum and reduce light emissions by 51% (NSW Government across the State).
  • We have installed Sydney's largest building based solar photovoltaic system.

Our plan for precinct based Trigeneration has stalled. Trigen is combined cooling, heating and power provided locally and will help us achieve our 70% reduction goal. This has been made difficult by Federal and State government's failure to change regulation which has resulted in it being too expensive to sell electricity to owners of adjoining buildings. So we are, for the moment, focusing on the Town Hall precinct - Town Hall, Town Hall House and QVB which we own.

But we have enabled an innovative finance agreement (an environmental upgrade agreement) that will deliver trigeneration to 4000 future residents of the Central Park development (being built by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia) on the former Carlton United Brewery site at Broadway.

We believe that tri-generation will be able to supply 70 per cent of power in the LGA by 2030, with the remainder coming from solar, wind and waste-to-energy sources. Studies commissioned by the City show there are sufficient renewable gas sources within 150 km of Sydney to replace natural gas and avoid tapping into coal seam gas.

Apart from reducing emissions across the LGA by up to 32 per cent, a tri-gen network would provide the city with a future-proof energy solution. Smart developers recognise the benefits and the first privately-owned network was opened recently for Central Park at Broadway that will provide heating and cooling for 3000 residence and 65,000 square metres of retail and commercial space.

The low-carbon city of the future will rely on decentralised and renewable energy. At present, 80 per cent of our carbon emissions come from the production of electricity - chiefly coal-fired power stations in the Hunter Valley.

Two-thirds of the energy used by these stations is wasted as heat from cooling towers and in transmission down to Sydney, and everyone's power bills go up as the ageing infrastructure needs to be renewed.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy could achieve savings of around $224 million by 2020, or over $1 billion by 2030 in deferred network costs and avoided costs of new power stations to serve growing demand.

Decentralised Water Masterplan is important because only 2% of drinking water is used for drinking. Over 50% is used for flushing toilets, air conditioning cooling towers. We're meeting out goal of reducing water usage by 20% by the end of this year.

We have the city's largest water harvesting project underway in Sydney Park, one of our major parks.

We have planted 9000 trees (green roof/walls) since 2005 which is part of our plan to increase our canopy by 50% 2030. This reduces temperatures in a hot climate and provides oxygen, filters pollutants and carbon, and controls storm water run-off.

Waste - recycling 65%. No domestic waste to landfill instead to advance waste treatment.

(Secondly, we are working with others:-

  • We are working with residents - "Smart Green Apartment's program" - 30 action plans.
  • We are working with property owners and businesses - BBP - 25% reduction $25million.
  • We are working with commercial tenants- City Switch (105 commercial tenancies) signed up and project taken up across Australia)
  • The Green Office program involves 105 commercial tenancies working towards a minimum four-star energy rating.
  • Our Smart Green Business program has helped over 360 businesses improve their environmental performance and save on their utility bills. Collectively, they have reduced carbon emissions by 5,6000 tonnes, saved 202 million litres of water and diverted over 3,600 tonnes of waste from landfill.
  • Transport is another key area where sustainability goes hand-in-hand with improved urban amenity.

After years of research and advocacy, the NSW Government has finally adopted the vision for light-rail through George Street that we outlined in Sustainable Sydney 2030. With a planned pedestrianized zone, the City has allocated $220 million for improvements that will transform what is now a traffic-clogged funnel into a real civic spine, with wider footpaths, more trees, new street furniture and important public art.

The City also welcomes the Government's recently-released CBD Access Strategy. Congestion currently costs Sydney businesses and residents an estimated $5.1 billion a year, and is projected to reach $8.8 billion by 2021 under a do-nothing scenario.

Sydney is recognised globally for its liveability and increasingly for its sustainability, but transport and congestion lets us down.

The new strategy plans for all the different users - pedestrians, bus and train patrons, motorists, cyclists and taxi passengers who all converge in the city centre.

The plan creates a hierarchy to separate and prioritise streets for different transport modes and delivers better public transport options as well as helping motorists to by-pass the City.

It recognises walking as the primary mode in the City spine and the importance of a network of separated bike paths for the growing number of cyclists. We are about to extend the Kent Street cycleway and we're working on the design of another four at Liverpool, Castlereagh, Park and King Streets, and are building one along George Street in Redfern to connect the City to Green Square.

Eventually we'll have 200 km of cycle paths and - incidentally - we're training many of our staff to use our own bike fleet to get about the City.

We've deployed 14 zero-emission electric vehicles in 2012-13 and are using biofuels in many of our diesel trucks.

We're also keen supporters of car-share schemes, providing over 500 parking spaces for share cars across the City. We've also encouraged developers to include car-share spaces in new apartment buildings.

An important part of our 2030 strategy is to support business through grants, sponsorships and workshops that are fostering a network of start-ups and creative businesses. We've made City-owned properties in William and Oxford Streets available to creative entrepreneurs to help them get started and to revitalise areas that have been in the doldrums.

Our commitment to design excellence, and the assistance of our Design Advisory Panel of outstanding architects and designers, has lifted the quality of City projects and brought national and international recognition.

Projects like Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Surry Hills Library and Community Centre, Pirrama Park and our proposed new library at Green Square are outstanding developments that identify Sydney as a place of innovation and excellence.

As I mentioned earlier, the third element of our 2030 mantra after Green and Global was "Connected". At one level, this refers to physical connections across the City. But it also includes connecting our communities, fostering a sense of belonging and social well-being.

Sydney's reputation as a liveable global city to a large extent depends on its diversity and its relative harmony.

But as we learned from a vicious assault on a Jewish family in Bondi last month, racial prejudice and violence are not banished. We have to work to protect our diversity and to promote harmony.

Local government is well placed to do this, given its closeness to its local communities and the many avenues at our disposal to engage with a wide variety of people.

On the macro level, major events such as Chinese New Year, the Living in Harmony festival, Mardi Gras and others bring pride to the communities represented while engaging the Sydney community as a whole.

We also support a range of smaller festivals across the local government area that strengthen the bonds across those communities and foster local pride and local engagement.

Our libraries are increasingly operating as community hubs which not only provide books, e-books, CDs, DVDs and toys, but also host talks, events and classes of all kinds. The wonderful new Green Square Library - designed as a "community living room" - will even provide music rehearsal rooms.

Our libraries include collections in Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Thai and Japanese, our chief community languages, and provide resources for learning English, as well as translating and interpreting services.

We have an extensive program of grants and sponsorships - a total of 20 covering cultural matters, community services, matching grants for projects, footpath gardens and a host of other activities. In fact, footpath and community gardens are becoming a popular way for local neighbourhoods to build community, providing exercise, companionship and access to cheap, healthy fresh food.

We are mindful of the extra help often required by marginalised or vulnerable people. The City has an active program of meetings with public housing tenants, bringing them together with our own people and representatives from Housing NSW, police and other agencies. This gives the tenants the opportunity to have their concerns about issues ranging from maintenance to safety dealt with.

We have also focused on particular ethnic groups or issues. We worked with the Ethnic Communities Council and Relationships Australia on issues of cultural identity and intergenerational conflict, and have done specific studies into the needs of our fast-growing Indonesian and Korean communities.

Our planning and regulatory regimes can also be used to foster a more harmonious City - for example in requiring a certain level of affordable housing in new developments or by providing green space for recreation and local events.

Our work over the past few years to improve Chinatown with new paving and street furniture, a stylish information centre, shared laneways and extensive tree plantings sends a very clear message about the value the City places on that community.

Similarly in Redfern, once one of the city's most deprived areas, street improvements and a fabulous new park with an open-access sports field replacing the former barbed-wire fenced field, now provides local people with places to mingle and a sense of pride in community.

It is a privilege to be able to foster such changes and to witness how communities respond when given opportunities to participate in the life of the City.

It is up to all of us to build community, and I know the Board of Deputies and the Jewish community has some fantastic programs in place to break down barriers and promote understanding.

I thank you for the work that you do and I hope we will all continue to work together to make Sydney the tolerant, peaceful and inclusive city of the future.

Thank you.