Lord Mayor's Community Christmas Reception

(2pm, Sunday 7 December 2014, Sydney Town Hall)

Hello, everyone, welcome to Town Hall.

It's wonderful to celebrate Christmas 2014 with all of you. Thank you to The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir and our Auslan interpreter.

Result of ten years action

This year marks 10 years since I became Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, following the amalgamation of the former City, South Sydney and part of the Leichhardt local government areas.

Our Independent Team set out to create a city where people come first - we know that a city where people want to live is a city that attracts sustainable jobs, businesses and investment.

Over the past decade, we have given Sydney strong, stable, and corruption-free community-based independent leadership. The council is a progressive, efficient and results-focused organisation, with a long-term vision for our city's future, and $1.9 billion budgeted for infrastructure over the next decade.

Our independent auditor, PriceWaterhouse, has confirmed our position as the State's number one council for financial management. To quote them, the City "meets or exceeds all measures" in the Government's own "Fit for the Future" slogan for local government. They said the City's financial position "can't get much better than where we are at the moment".

We are delivering on our vision of Sydney as a City of Villages, with the central business and residential core inter-dependent with the surrounding villages with their homes, local shops, parks, schools and other facilities.

We are one of the fastest-growing residential areas in New South Wales, with over 25,000 new dwellings either completed or approved in the past five years, and we have catered for this increasing population with wonderful new open spaces and a raft of new or upgraded community facilities.

Over the same period, 40 per cent of all jobs growth in metropolitan Sydney has occurred in our area. That's over 50,000 new jobs, a significant number of them in our villages—Pyrmont-Ultimo had a 46 per cent growth, mainly in the digital economy; Surry Hills and Redfern grew by 20 per cent, largely through creative businesses; Glebe, Annandale and Camperdown have seen a 38 per cent increase, and Haymarket and Chinatown a 23 per cent rise.

And as a reflection of Sydney's enviable liveability, this year we were ranked the world's most popular city for tertiary study by the Global Cities Index, and the fourth most appealing destination for skilled international workers, behind London, New York and Paris.

Since 2008, when we adopted Sustainable Sydney 2030, we have worked systematically towards the goals and targets we committed to, and we have made progress in all areas. 2014 has been no exception.


A YEAR IN REVIEW

Firstly the Environment.

The City has been carbon neutral since 2008, and we've reduced our carbon emissions by 21 per cent since 2006, and will reach 26 per cent by 2016. Compare this with the pathetic Federal Government unconditional target of five per cent by 2020—and the State doesn't have any emissions reduction target at all.

Tomorrow night, Council will vote on selecting a contractor for our first trigeneration plant for Town Hall, a project that can reduce the City's organisational carbon emissions by a further three per cent.

In an article in last Sunday's Herald headed "City Risks Blackout without Clover's Trigeneration Plan", the Australian Energy Regulator cites the City's Trigeneration Master Plan as a way to avoid the cost of upgrading aging grid cables—and the only thing in the way is government regulation.

Our LED lighting initiative has reduced emissions and energy use on lighting by over 40 per cent, saving us $800,000 a year in bills and maintenance, and it is now being rolled out across the state for other local government areas.

We've passed the halfway point installing solar panels on the roofs of our council properties, with around 2,050 panels installed across 18 sites so far, including the King George V Recreation Centre which will save 87 tonnes of emissions from that building alone.

And we've retrofitted 45 City properties to reduce electricity, water use and carbon emissions, saving over $1 million a year and enough electricity to supply about 1,000 households a year.

This is of course your money we're saving!

Our Renewable Energy Master Plan shows how all electricity, heating and cooling in the local government area could be supplied from renewable sources - wind, solar and renewable gas from waste. This plan has just won the 2014 European Solar Prize.

We've also developed an Advanced Waste Treatment Master Plan to identify alternatives to landfill by turning the non-recyclable waste we collect into low-carbon energy. We're now working through the issues for contracting and running a treatment plant.

At Haymarket and Circular Quay, we're trialling two Reverse Vending Machines which have so far collected over 40,000 cans and bottles for recycling since July. That's enough to build a tower 19 times the height of Centrepoint—more than enough to demonstrate the need for container deposit legislation!

Our Better Buildings Partnership program involves owners of 60 per cent of CBD commercial office space working with us to reduce emissions. So far they've achieved a 31 per cent reduction and are saving more than $25 million a year in power bills. Our Partnership won Innovator of the Year at the recent Banksia Awards for environmental leadership, and secured the top accolade for excellence in energy saving at the Energy Efficiency Council awards.

CitySwitch, the green office program we jointly founded and sponsor with other councils across Australia and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, is expanding into suburban and regional locations.

And with the support of the State Government, we've worked with owners and residents of 30 apartment buildings through our Smart Green Apartments program, helping them reduce emissions, waste and water use. This has enabled over $1.9 million of investment in resource efficiency projects and significant cost savings.

Because of innovative and effective projects such as these, Sydney now co-chairs with Tokyo the C40 Climate Leadership Group's Energy Efficiency Network for private buildings; and we've just been selected alongside cities such as London, Paris, Chicago and Singapore to join the '100 Resilient Cities' network funded by The Rockefeller Foundation with US $100 million to help cities cope with the impacts of climate change.

Transport

We have committed $220 million to support the NSW Government's plan for light rail along George Street and out to Moore Park and the UNSW. Construction will begin after Anzac Day next year, including new footpaths, plazas and pocket parks in Surry Hills that will be built to the same high design standards as our village main streets.

As part of our plan to transform George Street into a beautiful pedestrian boulevard when light rail is completed, we've endorsed the stunning Cloud Arch by Junya Ishigami outside Town Hall, following an international competition that attracted 700 entries from 25 countries.

More bike paths were opened this year, catering for the 130 per cent increase in the number of cycling trips. That's up to 60,000 trips in the City each day that would otherwise be made by car or on our overcrowded public transport.

Our new routes include Campbell Street linking Bourke Street with the city centre; and George Street linking Prince Alfred Park to Green Square—each with lush plantings to beautify the streets.

Further work is underway on links in Chippendale and Waterloo, and through the CBD. It's important the network is connected, but despite our contract with the State (we're paying them to build our CBD paths), the Minister for Roads is wavering on the full-time Castlereagh Street bike lane, which is the government's own preferred north-south CBD route.

Numerous offices are responding to staff cycling needs by providing end-of-trip facilities, and we've now got "Pit Stop", our own well-patronised facilities in Town Hall House.

This year our Walking Strategy further developed our policy of creating attractive and convenient walking routes; and we launched a comprehensive $8 million wayfinding network, the most extensive planned in the world, that includes tactile and braille signs.

We also launched a Culture Walks app with 10 virtual walking tours, six highlighting historical landmarks and four showing public artworks.

Public Domain and Facilities

Public access remains a key priority, and I recently opened a further extension of the Glebe Harbour Foreshore Walk, completing 2.2 km of uninterrupted waterfront walkway.

With the help of some Federal funding, we've nearly completed our Sydney Park water re-use project. This will collect, filter and reuse 850 million litres of storm water from surrounding suburbs, completing the transformation of this former waste dump into a stunning regional park for the southern growth areas of the City.

We've also endorsed the first stage of a new City Farm at Sydney Park, and will officially open Bamal Way early next year, providing a direct walking link from Erskineville to Sydney Park and St Peter's Station.

It is alarming to read recently that roads surrounding Sydney Park are proposed for one of the exit points for WestConnex traffic. Our parkland would be reduced and isolated, and King Street Newtown, Alexandria, Erskineville and Green Square would suffer further gridlock.

This is backward, 1960s thinking, which is contrary to all expert advice and practice in other world cities. (We'll have to campaign on this and I'll call upon you to get involved.)

This year, our revitalised Redfern Park and Oval was recognised as one of the top parks in the world, receiving a prestigious Green Flag Award for recreation and relaxation from the international peak body, Parks Forum. I like to think that the new training facilities contributed to the Rabbitoh's mighty win this year.

And for the second year in a row, we won the Sulman Medal, the highest accolade for public architecture in NSW, for the outstanding Neeson Murcutt-designed Prince Alfred Park Pool.

This facility also won:

  • Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) NSW — Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design
  • Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) — Australia Award for Urban Design
  • Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) — Good Design Award (Best In Architecture + Interiors)

Our support for quality design - with the enlightened advice of our Design Advisory Panel - is bearing fruit in our public projects and private developments across the City and will be further enhanced as the Green Square community facilities are developed over the next few years.

In March, Council endorsed the outstanding design for the $40 million library by Architects Stewart Hollenstein, a young local team. It includes a flexible range of spaces for books and technology, for meetings, performances and events, an amphitheatre and open space for festivals.

And early last month, we announced a consortium led by Andrew Burges Architects as the winner of the design for the Green Square Aquatic Centre. It was terrific to see another emerging Australian architect win from a field of 143, including 30 international entries.

These projects are included in our $440 million allocation for infrastructure and community facilities, and on the former South Sydney Hospital site we'll have artists' studios, a community shed, a multipurpose space, a theatrette and a community hall. We've sold part of the site to City West Housing to build 104 affordable housing units.

Our plan for precinct-wide, low-carbon trigeneration has been stalled by government regulations that currently make it uneconomic for us to export surplus energy to adjoining neighbours. But we have committed to a private wire network to protect future options at Green Square, and we plan to install trigeneration for the city's own buildings and street lighting in the area.

I recently opened the imaginative and sustainable mixed residential and commercial development, East Village, in Victoria Park. Developers PAYCE, architects Turner and Hassell, and Japanese architect Koichi Takada who worked on the interiors, have created an extraordinary, mixed-used development, with its own low-carbon trigeneration to provide local energy, heating and cooling.

In July, the first two residential precincts of 290 units opened at Harold Park. This redevelopment is delivering four hectares of new public open space, linking Orphan School Creek with Jubilee Park and the Glebe Foreshore. The restored Tram Depot will include 500 square metres of space for community facilities, and our agreement with Mirvac includes dedication of 5,500 square metres of land for affordable housing.

Important to our city communities is the recent announcement by the State Government of the urban renewal of the Bays Precinct, which stretches from the Fish Markets to White Bay, an incredibly significant and precious harbour foreshore area.

I gave a presentation at UrbanGrowth's recent International Summit, arguing that the development of any publicly owned land must bring clear public benefits, extend foreshore access, with parallel integrated transport and other facilities to support increased population densities. Council gave $60,000 to help the community make early contributions to the planning process.

Since 2005, we've planted 10,249 trees - on streets and median strips, and in parks. Among the well-loved local parks we've upgraded are Foley Park and St James Park is on its way in Glebe; Janet Beirne Reserve in Beaconsfield; Napier Street Park in Paddington and the Mary O'Brien Reserve in Zetland; with work about to commence on an expanded O'Brien's lane reserve in East Sydney.

And our streets are loved. Each year, more of the city's left over spaces and traffic islands are beautified with plantings, flower baskets that hang from smart poles in main streets, and rain gardens green our footpaths and filter stormwater. We're even doing the impossible by beautifying Cleveland Street with a simple hedge planting for its whole length.

Other improvements are happening in Crown Street, Darlington Village and along King Street in Newtown. We'll soon begin extensive public domain improvements in Millers Point to help integration with Barangaroo.

We're improving Reg Bartley Oval at Rushcutters Bay and we've opened new playgrounds in Jubilee Park, Glebe, and Fitzroy Gardens in Kings Cross and a new all-abilities spinner is being installed in Pyrmont's Pirrama Park which can accommodate up to 11 children, sitting, standing, or in a wheelchair.

We're investing in six new child care centres with 360 extra places expected to be available by 2016, with a further $22 million allocated for other centres. Work has started on the first, an imaginative $15 million factory conversion at 277 Bourke Street, Darlinghurst. We will approve 3 new child care centres at Council tomorrow night.

Construction will soon begin on the East Sydney Community and Arts Centre opposite Eternity Playhouse, which is a comprehensive reworking of Heffron Hall as a multi-purpose community and arts space that will include out-of-school-hours child care.

Community access has been expanded at Victoria Park's Tote building, with an elevator for ease of access; new function rooms; and an expanded ground-floor library with more computers.

This is part of our work to support a city for all. We have nine libraries and two library links, five community/recreation centres, five pools and aquatic centres, 13 sports fields and ovals.

We fund community transport services and run diverse programs for our community's elders. And we continue to give free rates to pensioners.

We host regular meetings with community housing tenants and strongly support our Millers Point community opposing the State Government selling their homes. We gave a generous grant to local residents groups to fight this decision, provided $100,000 funding to the Redfern Legal Centre to provide assistance to affected tenants, and we expanded our support programs at the Harry Jensen Centre and Abraham Mott Hall.

Following the strong campaign by the homeless sector, supported by the City, we welcomed the Government's decision to restore funding to specialist homelessness services. We continue to put $2.2 million into State-run specialist homeless services and into own Homelessness Unit, including the twice annual Street Counts and the Woolloomooloo Integrated Services Hub.

And this year, the City provided $4.6 million in funding and in-kind grants to support over 235 organisations for local community projects and services, including the Poplar St Tenant Group, Glebe Youth Service, Asylum Seekers Centre, ACON and the RSL.

Culture and the Arts

This year we launched our Cultural Policy, with a 10-year action plan to unlock Sydney's creative potential. An exciting early result is the new $25 million multipurpose centre for dance, theatre, music, film and visual arts studios, which the City will lease for a peppercorn rent for 99 years, through a negotiated agreement on Greenland's new development on Bathurst Street, on the former Waterboard site.

Our "Live Music Matters" action plan includes initiatives to revive Sydney's once-thriving live music scene, at the same time working with the NSW Government, the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and New Democracy to establish a Citizens' Jury to find ways to keep Sydney both vibrant and safe at night. We're still working at getting that balance right.

It was a joy to welcome to Potts Point the new Hayes Theatre, a home for small-scale music theatre and cabaret, with their "Sweet Charity" receiving critical acclaim; while our restoration of the Burton Street Tabernacle as Eternity Playhouse received three heritage awards:

  • Australian Institute of Architects — National Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage.
  • National Trust — Heritage Award for Adaptive Reuse, Government/Corporate.
  • Australian Institute of Architects NSW — Greenway Award for Heritage.

We really enjoyed Nick Enright's 'Daylight Saving' which we saw there recently.

We're continuing our work to provide affordable spaces for creative industries in our Oxford and William Street properties, with over 150 creative entrepreneurs helping create a lively day-time local economy.

Next year, the respected Object Australian Design Centre will move into William Street as an anchor tenant; and Woolworths has proposed a small-format, boutique store in one of our Oxford Street properties, that should increase footfall to the area and give a fillip to local businesses.

We continue our work with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Eora Journey Committees to recognise Aboriginal culture in our public domain, beginning the year with Nicole Foreshew's evocative images projected onto the Australian Museum, and turning the first sod in Hyde Park for Tony Albert's commemoration of indigenous men and women who served their country in wartime.

In the lead-up to the Centenary of Anzac, we've paid special attention to our many war memorials, from the Artillery Gun in Redfern Park to the War Memorials in Paddington and Glebe, and the Soldiers' Memorial in Woolloomooloo. We've done work on the Martin Place Cenotaph and the beautiful Archibald Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park.

And we continue to produce and support a fabulous range of public events, from Sydney New Year's Eve to Chinese New Year, Sydney Festival to Sydney Fringe and the inaugural Walsh Bay Arts Festival; as well as local festivals such as the renewed Kings Cross Festival, the Newtown, Glebe and Ultimo Festivals and the Pyrmont Festival of Wine, Food & Art.

I made a long overdue visit to five Chinese cities this year to thank them for sending large contingents to our Chinese New Year Parade—now the largest outside Asia.

The mayors of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Xi'an and Beijing told us about their impressive work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through massive expansion of public transport and low carbon energy. The Chinese Government has set a 50,000 megwatt tri-generation target - bigger than Australia's entire electricity market, and is becoming a leader in low-emission technologies.

We're about to begin the next stage of improvements in Chinatown, providing more pedestrian space and new pavements, seating, lighting and public art in Thomas Street.

Our food trucks are now a permanent feature of the city, with five new trucks on the road this year and ten more awaiting inspection for final approval.

And our successful campaign for small bars broke the AHA stranglehold over successive State Governments and has seen over 80 established in the city centre and villages.

They have revitalised laneways with the focus now on Abercrombie Lane, Bridge Lane, Tank Stream, and Central and Wilmot Streets in the busy movie theatre precinct.

Our GLBTIQ community was recognised for the fifth time this year as the rainbow flag flew above Town Hall during Mardi Gras and we have raised a rainbow flag above Gilligan's Island at Taylor Square. It joins the 200 banners that the City has flown along Oxford and Flinders Street each year since 2005 to promote Sydney is an inclusive and welcoming city.

Council sponsored the Bingham Cup, the biennial international gay rugby tournament held in Sydney this year, and endorsed my proposal to begin work on a major public artwork at Taylor Square to mark the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras in 2018. I hosted a special Reception for the 78'ers and the outgoing Governor, Dame Marie Bashir.

And this week, a giant red ribbon was projected on Town Hall for World Aids Day.

Under Threat

A decade ago you entrusted our city to leaders from the community with no connection to any political party.

We committed to securing a sustainable future for our city, and to improve the character and liveability of our unique villages while providing for growth in urban renewal areas. By promoting design excellence for our own projects and private development, we have made Sydney a desirable place to live and a magnet for the highly educated and mobile workforce of the 21st century.

In consultation with you, we developed a comprehensive plan, Sustainable Sydney 2030, to accomplish those goals. It influences everything we do, and it's the yardstick by which everything we do is judged.

The results are all around us. We have a thriving, beautiful global city, with a growing economy and an enviable international reputation for liveability. Our City villages, with their unique character, their improved streets and open spaces and their lively local economies, play a significant role in creating a city where people come first.

But we are under constant attack from the State government which persists in meddling with the City in an attempt to seize control. There is a shameful history of our city being sacked or gerrymandered by successive state governments of both political persuasions —it is particularly a NSW disease! It culminated this year with legislation that overrides the democratic principle of one vote, one value and gives two votes for business to one vote for residents!

In Melbourne where this system operates, only one councillor lives in the city, and apartments are being constructed with low ceilings and no bedroom windows, that have to rely on air conditioning. Is that what we want here?

It's a blatant gerrymander that business didn't ask for. It's backed by destructive right-wing interests that want our progressive environmental programs cancelled, our bike lanes pulled out and our cultural and arts programs stopped.

And it's personal too. As Mike Secombe observed in an article in The Saturday Paper in August and I quote:

"…when [the bill's creator, Shooters and Fishers' Robert] Borsak rose in parliament, he had the City of Sydney council in his sights. In particular he was targeting Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

He continues..

"…He was most notably grateful to radio shock jock Alan Jones, "who has been a driving force for this change for a long time" [and] he also thanked the right-wing Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph for its support.

"…They seek to snatch the government away from the people who live in the city and hand it to the people who own the city."

The next move is amalgamations, voluntary now, but forced after the March election. Despite two years of reviews and submissions the government has failed to act on much-needed areas of reform for local government, such as sustainable financing and improved local-state relations.

We know from experience that amalgamations are enormously disruptive and the changes take years to bed down and local communities, businesses and the city as a whole suffers. In the meantime the State continues to excise whole areas from city central, the latest being the Bays Precinct.

Conclusion

We carry on with our great work notwithstanding, but my Christmas card list is shorter this year!

I ask all of you, who've worked with us to build a strong, sustainable and cohesive city, to continue to support our work. Thank you for your contributions and I hope you share my pride in what, together, we have achieved for Sydney.

On a personal note, I am pleased to report that this year grants from my Lord Mayoral Salary Trust reached a total so far to $1.23 million, including four grants totalling $61,800 in October 2014 to help young people express themselves through writing, literature and music; to develop an innovative program supporting people in public housing dealing with mental health issues; and to provide a clinical outreach service for homeless people with diabetes and to support asylum seekers.

I want to thank our outstanding staff, ably led by CEO Monica Barone and the Executive. And I thank our Councillors.

Our charity partner this Christmas is the Australian Children's Music Foundation, who work with young people to channel their energies and emotions creatively through music. Please support them - the Ushers are collecting donations on their behalf today.

And finally, I wish you and your families a joyous Christmas and a great new year. We look forward to continuing working for and with you.

Please welcome The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir to the stage ……..