Chinese New Year 2016: Year of the Monkey

Last night we unveiled the program for next year's Sydney Chinese New Year Festival, celebrating the Year of the Monkey.Over the past 20 years, the City's Chinese New Year Festival has evolved from a small community event to the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside China.With light rail construction transforming the CBD, we have re-imagined the Festival and will make it bigger and better than ever.The Festival's main feature, "Lunar Lanterns", will see giant lanterns representing animal signs of the Chinese Zodiac in CBD locations from 6-14 February 2016.Lanterns will flank the entrance to Circular Quay, the business heart of Martin Place and the bustling streets of Chinatown, encouraging you to follow the trail and find your zodiac sign along the route.For more than 2000 years the lantern has been an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations so I'm pleased we can continue that tradition in a modern way.Groups from Asian communities will be invited to perform and take part in activities at each lantern location over the nine days and nights, showcasing these rich cultures.Lunar Lanterns is our way of creating a spectacular and memorable Chinese New Year Festival experience in place of the parade we have held in the past. Given George Street will be unavailable due to light rail construction, the City tried to find an alternate parade route with the State Government. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a suitable route that would not compromise the size and integrity of the parade.Since it began in Sydney, the City has produced 108 events for the Chinese New Year Festival, supported more than 600 associated events and hosted 10 delegations from China to be part of the celebrations.The festival now attracts more than 600,000 visitors to more than 80 events across the city, making it one of the most popular events in Sydney's calendar.

Reforming Electricity Market Rules

For years the City has been pushing for a system that makes it easier for residents and businesses to access clean power that is generated and used locally.We are now teaming up with the Property Council of Australia and the Total Environment Centre to ask the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to change the rules that govern the electricity market.Local generation of power is a win for the environment, businesses and consumers. Across Australia, more and more businesses and households are generating and exporting local electricity. Local generators range from office buildings with generators in the basement through to sugar mills making electricity from waste heat and residents with rooftop solar installations.More than half the cost of electricity bills for both households and businesses is due to transporting power across long distances from remote power stations. Local generation saves money for the producer and the broader community by bringing down the cost of electricity transport.Unfortunately, under current rules, full network charges are still payable if an office tower with its own generator sends surplus power to the building next door or across the street. This fails to recognise the savings made from not using the long-distance networks of poles and wires.The proposed rule change would ensure local generators receive a credit for surplus power exported to the grid which reflects its economic value - increasing the financial return for local energy projects, making the electricity network more efficient and lowering electricity prices for all consumers over time.Last week I toured the recently completed second stage of the Central Thermal Plant (pictured above). The plant generates hot and chilled water for the Central Park precinct, whilst generating its own electricity with a natural gas fired engine. This provides heating and cooling for 2,100 apartments and 50,000m² of office and commercial space for 11 high rise buildings. You can read more about it here.The AEMC, which manages the rules in the national electricity market, will consult with industry, business and the community and review our proposal. If the AEMC accepts our proposal, projects like the Central Thermal Plant would be viable on a larger scale and cheaper, cleaner electricity, produced locally, would be a possible CBD-wide.  

Invite: Launch of Bamal Way and Sydney Park Water Re-use Project

This weekend we're opening two new City projects - our Sydney Park Water Re-use project and the Bamal Way pedestrian and cycle connection between Coulson Street in Erskenville and Sydney Park Road.I'd love for you to join me at both events. There will be entertainment, giveaways and food at both from 11am - 1pm and I will be at Bamal Way at 11:45am and Sydney Park at 12:15pm.Bamal WayBamal Way provides a much-needed pedestrian and cycle connection between Coulson Street in Erskenville and Sydney Park Road. Works include: A new concrete pathway linking Coulson St to Sydney Park Rd Ramp and stair access to Sydney Park Rd for pram and disabled access A lawn area, new planting beds and terraced retaining walls Stormwater drainage works New trees for extra shade and shrubs; and New lighting to the path and stairway Bamal is a Sydney language word for 'earth, clay or ground'. Bamal Way is on the site of the former Bakewell Brothers pottery works.Sydney ParkWe have just completed an $11.3 million upgrade of Sydney Park wetlands, including the creation of the City's largest system for harvesting storm-water. It can harvest up to 1,0000 litres a second in a major storm, and will capture and clean around 890 mega-litres each year, providing a sustainable water supply for the park and for its wetland rehabilitation.Any remaining water will be cleaned and return to the Alexandria Canal.Since 2004, we have invested $23.25 million in capital works to transform a derelict former brick-making site into a varied and attractive regional park, offering ample scope for active and passive recreation for all ages, a much-needed green lung for this heavily populated part of Sydney.In this recent upgrade we have also created new pathways and viewing platforms through the wetlands, with a water cascade, bridges and picnic tables.Why these upgrades are importantAround one million people a year use Sydney Park. The immediate catchment area for the park has 750,000 residents and more are coming. By 2030, there will be an estimated population of over 53,000 at Green Square and by 2027, development of the Ashmore Estate will boost the local population by another 6,300.We need greater densities in built up city areas for a number of reasons - including sustainability and affordability. But greater densities only work when they are accompanied by the appropriate facilities - including green public spaces.This is why one of my priorities has been providing parks and green spaces across the LGA, from the big waterfront parks like those at Glebe and Pyrmont, to pocket parks and playgrounds and over 10,000 street plantings.Impact of WestConnexThe proposal to widen Campbell Road and Euston Road, shaving off part of the Sydney Park for WestConnex and funnel at least 33,000 cars a day into St Peters is disastrous.This $15.4 billion roads project will eat up transport funding for decades, and rob us of the chance to build 21st century solutions.The NSW Government has not released a business case to back up the claims that the project will be good for Sydney, and may be massively overestimating how many people will use the toll roads.The City has released the only, independent research into the project, and the results are alarming.The toll road will push even more people onto already congested routes. Traffic on Parramatta Road will increase 25 per cent as people try to avoid expensive tolls.By 2021 over 31,000 vehicles a day will be dumped at the St Peters interchange located next to Sydney Park. This will increase to over 55,000 vehicles by 2041.These vehicles will end up on local roads that aren't designed to cope with that amount of traffic. It will create more congestion and seriously impact on Ashmore and Green Square and there could be a serious impact on our much loved Sydney Park.The City will continue to oppose the plans for WestConnex and I urge you to continue to make your voices heard, too. Read more about how to do that here:

Our Inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan

The City has been working on two action plans that will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and increase employment opportunities. The first, our inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), has just been endorsed by Council. Click to read the Plan. The RAP outlines some of our progress so far and documents what the City can do to further the goal of reconciliation.It focuses on three key areas: building respect, forging relationships and creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.The City consulted its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel on the plan, which has since been endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. The two most important aspects for the panel were ongoing cultural learning for City staff and increased employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.Goals include developing new recruitment processes to broaden the pool of people applying for jobs at the City, encouraging the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and increasing pathways for employment at the City through apprenticeships, internships and graduate programs.When we spoke to the Sydney community in 2007 to develop our plan for the future, Sustainable Sydney 2030, one of the strongest responses was for greater recognition for Sydney's Aboriginal history and heritage as well as contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.I believe the actions in this plan will help the City embed reconciliation into the culture of our organisation.The City of Sydney, on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people, is deeply committed to acknowledging, sharing and celebrating the living cultures of Australia's First Peoples.

Getting Ready for Christmas

I was delighted to announce Guy and Jules Sebastian as our 2015 Christmas ambassadors this week. The City will work closely with Guy and Jules as well as our corporate partners, retailers and the media to make Sydney a must-visit destination this Christmas.Guy, who has just represented Australia at the Eurovision Song Contest, and his stylist partner, Jules, will help focus attention on the City's growing Christmas program including city and village concerts, street decorations, large-scale projections, performances and retail promotions.For the first time last year, we successfully co-ordinated activities with businesses and other partners to position the City as a must-see destination during Christmas and encouraged many people to visit and share their experiences on social media.Our Christmas events will be more important than ever this year, as the State Government commences light rail construction. Starting a new infrastructure project is always hard, especially in built up areas in the inner city, and we will work together to make sure our city continues to be a great destination for tourists and visitors during this period of disruption.The full Christmas program will be announced later in the year.

Human Rights Discussion with our Australians of the Year

Last night I had the pleasure of welcoming our four Australians of the Year to Town Hall for their discussion, 2015 Australians of the Year: Inspiring Change in Human Rights, organised by the Australian Human Rights Commission.For the first time ever, all our Australians of the Year are women. ABC presenter Annabel Crabb led Rosie Batty, Jackie French, Drisana Levitzke-Gray and Juliette Wright in conversation about their stories and the human rights issues that drive them. Read more about the Australians of the Year here. At a time when human rights - and human decency - are under attack in our country as never before, it was a valuable opportunity to hear and be inspired by these women.Australia has always prided itself on its egalitarian spirit, but we have perhaps become dangerously complacent. While we still proclaim ourselves as welcoming and egalitarian, the reality is that we turn away refugees, imprison them, without hope, offshore or in remote parts of the country.And even as the increasing prosperity of our cities makes them lively and attractive for many, there are others who are marginalised, priced out of the city, or excluded because the city does not cater for their needs, or simply not made welcome because of perceived "difference".It is part of the job of strong local government to redress these imbalances and to work towards a truly inclusive environment. Over the last eleven years, the City of Sydney has striven to create a city which is not just welcoming, prosperous and beautiful for some of its people, but welcoming, prosperous and beautiful for all. The City has a range of active programs to promote diversity and harmony, whether through cultural events such as Chinese New Year or through our International Student Leadership and Ambassador program.Some of our most important work is around the Eora Journey, using art and culture to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' continuing contribution to Sydney and developing our Reconciliation Action Plan.We support older people through specially designed programs at our community centres and libraries, through services ranging from podiatry to Meals on Wheels to a home library service for residents who, for one reason or another, find it difficult to get to their local library.Our Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel ensures that people with disability are actively involved in shaping the City - as reflected in our Action Plan which sets out the many practical ways in which we can make the City more inclusive and accessible for people with a disability.We support White Ribbon Day and efforts by NSW Police on domestic violence reporting, as well as supporting the first Court Support program in Australia specifically designed for gay and lesbian couples.We have made access to child-care a priority, fast-tracking the development of six new centres to meet increasing demand. We also recognise the economic loss that the lack of women in business leadership - especially in high-growth start-ups - represents and so we support Springboard Enterprises which is working to maximise opportunities for women entrepreneurs.There is much still to do but we will continue to work towards our vision of a genuinely inclusive and welcoming city, a place where the fundamental human rights of all to a safe environment, with opportunities for education, satisfying work and participation in all aspects of city life are possible.If you missed their inspiring talk, you can watch it here:

Awarding the City's Top Businesses

At the end of last week we announced the finalists in the City's new Business Awards. Our 34 finalists will now compete for the chance to win one of 12 awards. Click to see our finalists. It is great to see so many innovative and successful businesses shortlisted for the awards. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to outstanding business achievement in central Sydney.In the past five years alone, more than 50,000 new jobs have been created across the LGA and 2,000 new businesses have opened, representing almost 40 per cent of all jobs growth in metropolitan Sydney.The awards shortlist reflects the large number of new businesses and entrepreneurs that have sprung up in the City's local government area, but there are also a number of long-established businesses nominated.A large number of the shortlisted businesses come from the creative industry. Creative sector businesses had a 9 per cent share of the City's economy in 2012 and the current growth rate of 3.4 per cent makes the creative industry our fastest growing sector, which is expected to account for $14.9 billion by 2030.Another notable trend among the nominees is the number of healthcare-related businesses: from local GP practices, dentists and opticians, to a specialist service for children with hearing loss. The health and social care industry is the biggest employer in Australia.All our businesses - small, medium and large - are crucial to Sydney's liveability and prosperity and I'm proud to work with the NSW Business Chamber to celebrate their success. Sponsoring these new awards is just one of the many ways the City supports business in our area.The winners will be announced at a NSW Business Chamber ceremony in Sydney Town Hall on 23 July.Read more about the Business Awards and see the full list of finalists here:

Sydney again rated among the world's best cities

In its latest edition, global affairs magazine Monocle has ranked Sydney as the fifth best city in the world in its annual quality of life survey.We've moved six places since the last survey, ahead of Stockholm, Vancouver and Helsinki. The table compares metrics ranging from the cost of a cup of coffee to the price of a three-bedroom house, recycling rates, unemployment levels and the percentage of people commuting by bike.This is a fantastic endorsement of the quality of life we are creating in Sydney and enhances our status as a global city. By investing in parks, playgrounds and opens spaces, supporting creativity and cultural pursuits and delivering public and private developments with excellent design Sydney ranks as one of the world's great cities. Read more about Sydney2030. This is not only good for Sydney residents, but good for business as we know that a city with a high quality of life attracts investment and a talented workforce.Monocle's recognition of Sydney's appeal follows findings by global consulting firm AT Kearney last year. Sydney featured in the top 20 for the firm's 2014 Global Cities Index and was ranked as the world's most popular city for international students.And earlier this year, The Economist's Intelligence Unit ranked Sydney number six overall in its list of 50 cities in its Safe Cities Index for 2015.Sydney is thriving. It is the engine room of the NSW economy, which is the best performing economy of any state in Australia. And results like the rankings above show that our approach - guided by Sydney 2030, our plan to create a green, global and connected city - is delivering a more liveable city.All this will be placed at risk if the NSW Government goes ahead with its plan to amalgamate the City with neighbouring councils. An amalgamation at this time would seriously and negatively impact on the future of our City. Read more about that risk and what you can do to help stop an amalgamation here.

The Truth the Tele Won't Print: Green Travel Plans

Today's Daily Telegraph misrepresents the nature of a development approval endorsed at Council over a week ago. The DA requirement to prepare a Travel Plan for customers and staff does not set a precedent for other businesses, does not add onerous red tape and has the full support of the owner.The article refers to a new 300-seat restaurant on Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, the owners have been asked to prepare a Travel Plan for customers and staff getting to and from the venue.The City asked for a Travel Plan because the restaurant is unusually large, is located on an arterial road with no parking, and has a lack of onsite parking.The City received a number of objections from local residents about the DA and the travel plan is just part of a package of measures to mitigate impacts on local residents.This does not create a precedent for Travel Plans to be used at other restaurants. Travel Plans are only required on a case-by-case basis.Travel Plans are used in large businesses to make sure staff and visitors are aware of the best options for walking, riding, public transport or driving.Travel Plans don't require a specific number of trips by any particular form of transport, and customers or visitors aren't forced to share information with the business if they don't want to.Owners of the restaurant on Cleveland Street, which is close to public transport, have advised the City they are happy to prepare a plan to ensure their patrons and staff are aware of the parking shortage, the public transport options, and the best place for taxis to drop and pick up people safely. Restaurant owner Michael Grant, of Cornerstone Property, said he does not regard it as red tape. We support the introduction and council initiative of the Green Travel Plan. We don't see it as red tape or an extra burden, we see it as a value-add to the end patrons. The Travel Plan would be incorporated into the restaurant website to help communicate the easiest and most convenient travel options for the community, to and from the restaurant. Encouraging people to use different transport options if they can, makes it easier for those who do need to drive.Pictured: The restaurant site at 267-271 Cleveland St, Redfern.

Reverse Vending Machines in Wynyard and Redfern

We have installed two new reverse vending machines in Redfern and Wynyard. By placing your old bottles in the machine, you have a chance to win prizes or charity donations.These additions follow a successful trial of machines at Circular Quay and Haymarket that recycled over 75,000 beverage containers in the past twelve months - enough to build a tower 30 times the height of Sydney's Centrepoint Tower.I'm delighted with the success of the reverse vending machines. In NSW only around 42 per cent of bottles and cans are recycled annually so it's important to increase that figure, reducing waste and protecting the environment from plastic pollution.The success of these machines shows that people are actively looking for options to recycle and I'm pleased the State Government has introduced a container deposit scheme to come into effect in 2017. I urge the Federal Government to introduce an Australia-wide scheme as a long-term sustainable solution to beverage container waste.The new reverse vending machines will be located on the Wynyard Park side of Erskine Street and at Redfern Village on the corner of Redfern and Regent Streets. Each machine can hold up to 3,000 containers before it needs to be emptied. There are new prizes on offer too - on top of our regular prizes including entry into a draw for a family pass to Sydney New Year's Eve Dawes Point viewing area, two-for-one food truck vouchers and a ten-cent donation to charity, we're now offering entry into a draw to win an iPad mini and the chance to win bus tickets.

UTS Science Faculty Wins Lord Mayor's Architecture Prize

I was delighted to once again present the Lord Mayor's Prize at the Australian Institute of Architects' annual NSW Architecture Awards at Sydney Town Hall on Friday night.The Lord Mayor's Prize was introduced in 2013 to celebrate design excellence in our city.Our vision is a city with beautifully designed, sustainable buildings and public spaces to encourage innovation, inspiration and pride. In the past decade, we approved development worth $24 billion and we've been internationally recognised and awarded for our focus on design excellence and sustainability - working with private developers and on our own projects.This year the prize went to UTS Science Faculty, Building 7, by Durbach Block Jaggers Architects & BVN Architecture.The building weaves together the built form needed by students and teachers with the open space of the Alumni Green and the surrounding streetscape.The building contains a range of specialist research facilities, clinical teaching spaces and Australia's largest undergraduate science teaching space, a two-hundred seat Super Lab. These purposeful spaces are well connected above and below ground to student commons and meeting spaces. Strategic skylights, reflected light and colour charge these spaces.The building has a 5 Star Green rating and includes innovative air-conditioning, a green roof providing insulation, and a high amount of recycled materials.As this building and those surrounding it evolve and grow, there will be continued opportunities to improve the public domain and create a noteworthy urban public open space for students, visitors and Sydneysiders alike.The City of Sydney's Director of Planning, Graham Jahn AM, prepares the shortlist of entries that helping to create the kind of city we all want to live in, to work in and to visit.This year, the shortlist included: The Irving Street Brewery by Tzannes Associates East Village by Nicholas Turner St Barnabas Church by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp and Llankelly Place Lights by McGregor Westlake Architecture in Association with Conybeare Morrison The most encouraging sign of the health of architecture in Sydney is that there is an increasing number of projects vying for a place on the shortlist. All these projects have contributed to Sydney's growing international reputation as a city of design excellence.

NAIDOC in the City

NAIDOC Week is an important annual event in Sydney. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are intrinsic to our shared story of Sydney, their culture and history permeate our modern city and give it a depth and resonance beyond the everyday.NAIDOC Week, which runs until 12 July, celebrates the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, which grew from the first political groups seeking rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians in the 1920s.Those connections continue in the 21st century, and are recognised by the City of Sydney in our Eora Journey project. Sustainable Sydney 2030 - which evolved out of extensive consultations right across the Sydney community - explicitly calls for greater recognition of the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.Our Eora Journey will tell these stories in a captivating and meaningful way, creating a series of new permanent artworks that celebrate the world's oldest living culture and its significance to Sydney.The Eora Journey, which translates as "the people's journey", includes public art, support for major events, an economic development plan and a knowledge and cultural centre. The City's Barani website also continues to promote the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture of Sydney.This year's theme for NAIDOC Week, "We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate", focuses on the strong spiritual and cultural connections Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to the land and sea.We began celebrations on Monday with a range of family-friendly activities and performances in Hyde Park, including live music, dance, food, art and Australian animals.One of the highlights was the earth oven cooking demonstrations by one of Australia's most acclaimed Aboriginal chefs, Clayton Donovan. I think it's fantastic that Clayton was able to share his bush tucker secrets and create a genuine traditional feast right in the middle of this 21st century global city.There are events today and throughout the weekend. I hope you can take part and learn more about our significant Indigenous culture and heritage.Click here to see the diverse program for NAIDOC Week and take the chance to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.

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