News

Refurbishing Reconciliation Park in Redfern

On the weekend I was very pleased to open the newly refurbished Reconciliation Park in Redfern.I was first compelled to run for South Sydney Council because I was concerned about the lack of parks in our local area. Creating this space was one of the first things I did as a Redfern Ward Alderman, so it is a special park for me.I worked with local residents and South Sydney Council to build the initial park and playground on vacant land bounded by George, James and William streets in Redfern. I worked with David Humphreys and Rodney Monk, who were known as the Public Art Squad, to create a community mural in the park titled 'Think Globally Act Locally'. The mural jointly won the Sir John Sulman Prize for art in 1985.When the park was upgraded again in 1997, it was named Reconciliation Park in acknowledgement of the special place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have in this country and of our on-going commitment to bringing about that reconciliation.When we embarked on this new upgrade in 2012, we asked students at Darlington Public School for their ideas, some of which are incorporated. There is a new playground with a lovely bespoke tree house that includes a perforated roof, a slide, monkey bars and swings.The new playground and the relaxing green space makes for a wonderful space for our diverse community, especially families with young children.I thank everyone who worked to make it a reality: Jane Irwin, Landscape Architect, who designed the park; Fiona Robbe, Landscape Architect, who ran the students ideas session and produced the play equipment design; Wilson Pederson Landscapes, our trusty construction team; and Lisa Dodd and Roxana Vlack from our City Projects team. There are more than 330 small parks and playgrounds across the City area and we're constantly upgrading them for everyone to enjoy.

Fit now and for the future: Council endorses submission to reform process

Last night we held an Extraordinary Council Meeting to consider the City's submission to "Fit for the Future", the NSW Government's scheme to slash the number of local councils.Council endorsed the City's submission that we are fit for the future and should not be amalgamated.BackgroundLate last year, the NSW Government launched its Fit for the Future local government review process, designed to reduce the number of councils in NSW. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has been tasked with reviewing all council proposals, which are due by 30 June 2015. I called last night's Extraordinary Council Meeting to discuss our submission to IPART.The NSW Government's ProposalThe Government has proposed the creation of a 'mega-council' for the City to include Botany Bay, Randwick, Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra - a local government area with a population of over 500,000 (the size of the state of Tasmania), but with no increased responsibility or authority. None of the councils or local communities involved support the proposal.The NSW Government has not produced any evidenced that amalgamations lead to better efficiencies or financial outcomes - our evidence shows an amalgamation of the City will negatively impact on the state's economy.Our submissionOur submission demonstrates that the City has scale and capacity to deliver for our local residential and business communities, and for global Sydney, in partnership with the State Government.This is in line with what the vast majority of our local community wants. A statistically sound, random survey carried out by an independent company on behalf of the City found overwhelming opposition to a larger City of Sydney council area.What's at risk?We were amalgamated in 2004 so we know they take three to five years to be fully complete. During that time a significant focus of the organisation must be on the actual amalgamation itself, rather than fully focusing on delivering projects, infrastructure and services.The impact of another City amalgamation at this current time would put hundreds of millions of private investment at risk and impact negatively on Sydney's future prosperity and the NSW economy.A decline in construction activity of just one per cent over the next decade due to disruption or delays would have a negative economic impact in excess of $300 million.We are "Fit"Leading independent financial auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers have said that the City is a "benchmark against which other councils could be compared" and the NSW Government's own Treasury Corporation (T-Corp) rate the City's finances as "strong" with a "positive outlook" - the only NSW council to receive this rating.In the last eleven years the City has: Approved development worth $24 billion; Seen 2,000 new businesses open and 50,000 new jobs created - 40 per cent of all jobs growth in Sydney metro was in our area; Overseen the completion of 8,000 homes in the five years to June 2014, with a further 17,600 approved, but not yet complete; Upgraded 57 unused laneways with a network of plazas where shops and bars thrive; Invested more than $34M every year in the entertainment and cultural life of our city; Provided over 1,000 childcare places, with work being fast tracked to provide another six childcare centres by 2016; Upgraded 105 parks; Fostered new business sectors leading to 90 small bars, 20 food trucks and 24,000 car share members; Completed over 250 major projects including playgrounds, childcare, pools, libraries, theatres, community and cultural spaces - more than any other NSW council - we're now working on 370 as part of our ten-year plan; Won over 85 awards for the design excellence and sustainability of our projects; and Supported the NSW Government's homeless services with a $14 million investment over 10 years. Read my Lord Mayor Minute, endorsed by the Council, here: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/council/about-council/meetings/calendar-and-business-papers-2015/2015/june/extraordinary-council 

City of Sydney: Fit Now and For the Future

The City of Sydney is finalising our submission to Fit for the Future, the NSW Government's scheme to slash the number of local councils.The Fit for the Future process will decide the shape, size and role of your local council for many years to come. You've told us through our extensive community consultation that the City should retain it's current boundaries and not be amalgamated. Our submission will clearly demonstrate that we are fit now, we are 'fit for the future', and we should not be amalgamated.City of Sydney Councillors will hold an extraordinary council meeting tomorrow (Thursday) evening to discuss the City's submission.This meeting will be public and you are welcome to attend.Extraordinary Council Meeting on the future of the City of SydneyThursday, 18 June at 6:00pmSydney Town Hall Council ChambersThe NSW Government is intent on creating a mega council, by amalgamating the City with Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and Botany Bay. You can help stop this by sending a clear message that you support our plan to remain as we are.I hope to see you on Thursday night. 

Stamping out illegal accommodation providers

Today we announced the formation of a City investigation squad to bolster efforts to shut down illegal accommodation providers. The squad includes former members of Scotland Yard and the Australian military police. It will target providers who exploit visitors - mainly students and young people on working holidays - looking for cheap, long-term accommodation.These unauthorised and unsafe places put our visitors at risk. We are particularly concerned with fire safety, unauthorised building works and anti-social behaviour. At the press conference announcing the squad's work. The team was established in March and has so far seen: Rooms turned into makeshift bathrooms and people sleeping in laundries; A three-bedroom house with 58 beds and 19 illegally constructed bedrooms; People sleeping in bathrooms and in one case, a pantry; One-bedroom apartments with up to 10 people living in each apartment; Sixteen people living in a two-bedroom apartment; Apartment kitchens with serious cockroach infestations; Disconnected smoke detectors; and People sleeping in an apartment building's fire stairs with fire doors damaged or left open. The team has so far executed more than 20 search warrants at properties across the city, obtaining evidence and gathering witness statements with the assistance of the NSW Police Force.It is led by City Investigative Specialist Roy Cottam, a former Senior Detective who has worked with Scotland Yard and the Police Integrity Commission in NSW. He also lectures on criminology, organised crime and leadership with a number of universities.We are the first council in NSW to establish a specialist investigations team using a multi-agency approach to investigate reports of illegal use of property. We also have an educational campaign targeting universities and tertiary institutions to advise students about safe rental choices.Young travelers and students from all over the world who are attracted to Sydney often book accommodation online, only to arrive and discover unacceptable squalor. This new team will help us discover and prosecute those who are breaking the law and exploiting our visitors.

Social and affordable housing for Glebe

On Sunday I joined Housing Minister Brad Hazzard and CEO of Bridge Housing John Nicolades at Cowper Street in Glebe.Five years after the Labor state government announced that existing social housing on the site would be bulldozed to make way for a mixed redevelopment, work is now getting underway to deliver new housing.This site will be transformed into a modern housing development with a total of 495 units - 247 market dwellings, 153 social dwellings and 95 affordable dwellings plus three retail units. With Brad Hazzard and John Nicolades at the site. The increased amount of social housing on the Cowper Street site will be more accessible for older people in our community, as well as people with a disability.Sydney is facing a housing crisis and all levels of government need to work together to deliver more housing choices in the inner city as the price of real estate soars.Nurses, teachers, police officers, cleaners and bus drivers - the people who help make the city run - are increasingly finding they can't afford to live in it.A diverse housing supply is fundamental to the cultural and social vitality, economic growth and liveability of Sydney.Together we need to look at new models of large-scale affordable rental housing - housing that is delivered through partnerships among private developers, institutional investors, the not-for-profit sector and governments.Other global cities, such as New York and London, are tackling housing affordability through proactive policies and strategies backed by significant funding commitments.The work in Glebe is a good example of what can be done, but we need to do much more of it. I look forward to helping the State Government ensure that more affordable and social housing is made available in our city.

Creative Spaces and the Built Environment

Today at the University of Sydney I spoke at the City's forum on Creative Spaces and the Built Environment.The forum brought together experts within the fields of building, planning, access and safety with those working within the cultural, creative and knowledge sector.The knowledge and cultural economy in Sydney is growing fast and we need to make sure our city can support it. More than 85 per cent of creative industries are small businesses, and this sector contributes nearly $45 billion to our national economy. Around 40 per cent of those initiatives based in Sydney.That's why we're building our understand of the regulatory issues impacting upon creative spaces and increasing the number of those spaces in the City.We've already started the process. In order to support and encourage our artists and creative thinkers to live and work in the city, the City of Sydney has developed its Accommodation Grants program and adapted our properties on Oxford and William Streets to host creative start-ups. We've given old shops, offices, warehouses and even a car park a new life by adapting them to house designers, film makers, musicians, screen writers, architects and artists.And recently we gave a grant to the Sydney Fringe Festival for a pop-up theatres trial. The Fringe plans to use around five shopfronts in Newtown and Erskineville as temporary theatres during this year's Festival. The grant will help the Fringe meet the costs of negotiating the approvals process. We hope that this will feed into the development of a temporary theatres license, similar to the licence that's used at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A City of Sydney live/work creative space. During our consultations for our Creative City Policy we were often told that lengthy, costly and seemingly "irrational" regulatory processes were a deterrent to many cultural initiatives. Small and medium creative spaces talked of the difficulties they had in complying with the Building Code.Applicants and consent authorities are often faced with a lack of clear criteria against which to assess the impact of new initiatives such as performance spaces, micro-manufacturing workshops, studios, galleries and pop-up retail spaces. This leads to increased costs and prolonged assessment periods - benefitting no one.As our cities shift from manufacturing and industry to being drivers of our knowledge and cultural economy, we need our regulatory frameworks to adapt, without sacrificing safety, access or amenity.

Education Minister dumps inner-city primary school

The Department of Education has given the City of Sydney and the community last-minute notice that it will not proceed with purchasing land in Ultimo for a new primary school.In December 2014, three months before the state election, Education Minister Adrian Piccoli announced that:Agreement has been reached for a new public school serving the inner city to be built on a site to be purchased from the City of Sydney on the corner of Wattle, Jones and Fig Streets, Ultimo.This agreement was reached after the City offered the Department an additional $8.5 million discount on the cost of the site. Despite the publicly-owned land being valued at more than $100 million, the City agreed to sell it to the NSW Government for $74 million.The Education Minister's broken promise is failing the parents and children of Pyrmont and Ultimo. This betrayal from Adrian Piccoli leaves parents and children from across the inner-city in limbo.City of Sydney staff have been working in good faith since August 2013 to make sure that this land could be sold to allow for a new primary school. Since the Minister's announcement in December that the purchase of the land would go ahead, our staff have tried repeatedly to finalise the sale.The Department and the Minister were always aware that the site would require remediation. That is standard practice for any inner-city building site, especially ones like this that have been used for commercial or industrial purposes.This backflip raises the question: was the Minister ever serious about this purchase, or was it simply an attempt to make the issue go away in the lead up to the March election?The City and the Department of Education had already carried out contamination assessments onsite, including soil and groundwater investigations, to determine the required remediation work needed to meet current standards under the Contaminated Land Management Act. The City also prepared a Remediation Action Plan (RAP) that was reviewed and endorsed by a site auditor accredited by the NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA).Remediation costs were agreed to be $9.5 million, based on a scope of work that substantially exceeds guidelines from the EPA for an educational use. The Department of Education is now claiming the cost would be $53 million.The City had also negotiated for an 80-place childcare centre to be constructed on the site, along with the primary school. The childcare centre was to be owned by the City and provide much needed childcare for local parents.There is strong and continuing growth in the number of families with young children in the City. Forecasts indicate that in the next four years the number of primary-school aged children living in our Local Government Area will increase by 1,171.The Pyrmont/Ultimo area has the highest population density in Australia, with over 14,000 people per square kilometre.Stamp duty from the development boom in Pyrmont/Ultimo has already delivered the NSW Government huge contributions; it's time they delivered adequate services to this community.

The Truth the Tele Won't Print: Grants for a More Liveable City

Today's Daily Telegraph dedicated two full stories and its editorial to criticism of the City's Grants and Sponsorship Program. The program provides funding and support for initiatives that contribute to cultural, social, environmental and economic life in the City. Grants and Sponsorship Program and Funding We know our local community and businesses have a broad range of skills and talents, so we work with individuals, organisations and businesses to bring our vision of a sustainable city to life. By providing cash and in kind support, we help build a wide range of initiatives and projects that make our city diverse, welcoming and a wonderful place to live, work and visit.The Telegraph's criticism focused on grants which were unanimously approved by City of Sydney's Councillors. In 2013/14, the City awarded over $13.1 million through our Grants and Sponsorships Program, including $6.9 million in cash and $6.2 million value-in-kind.One such grant helped 1 Million Women establish a three-month trial to encourage its 82,000 members to reduce home-energy use. Another, $8,730 to the UTS Housing Bike Club, paid for two cargo and 15 community-bikes to help more than 1,200 students with 3,500 accommodation moves a year, cutting down on transport costs.We supported major festivals and events, including Australia's largest corroboree; the Bingham Cup, the international gay rugby competition; Sydney Fringe Festival and the Walsh Bay Arts Festival.We've also helped launch and grow local community events like the East Side Ride, the Newtown Festival and the Surry Hills Festival. And we've partnered with local groups to fund vegie patches, art workshops and pop-up cinemas.Applications for grants are assessed against the City's Grants and Sponsorship Policy and must meet one or more of our key priority areas: Celebrating Culture and Creativity Supporting the Economy and Business Ensuring Environmental Sustainability Building Community The City is a unique place. We provide services for over 200,000 residents, 20,000 businesses and nearly one million visitors a day. Supporting community initiatives is one way we ensure our global city is a liveable, enjoyable and interesting place to be.If you'd like to know more, of if you've been inspired and would like to apply for a grant yourself, visit the City's website here: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/grants-and-sponsorships

Heritage Recognition for Our Industrial Past

We're proposing to heritage list 62 of the City's old industrial warehouses - once home to the factories and manufacturing plants that helped transform Sydney into one of the largest industrialised cities in the South Pacific.Sydney's remaining industrial buildings and structures provide evidence of the major change in Australia when manufacturing surpassed farming and mining as the main employer in the 1940s.Protecting these factories and industrial buildings helps us protect the character and history of our villages. Where the proposed heritage listings are located. The majority of buildings recommended for listing date from the peak period of Sydney's industrialisation during the inter-war and post-war periods from the 1920s to the 50s. In the mix is the last remaining IXL jam factory in Sydney, the Chesty Bond mural, the Rosella and the Wrigley factories and the Alexandria Spinning Mills.A team of heritage, history, architecture, archaeology and planning experts spent 12 months surveying more than 450 industrial places across Sydney to identify the structures of greatest integrity and historical value.We're now consulting with the community on whether the most significant 62 buildings, structures, complexes and two industrial precincts should be heritage listed.This won't mean that the sites are frozen in time and untouched forevermore. Heritage listings provide certainty in the development process for owners and ensure character and significance is maintained when redeveloped or adapted for reuse.You can view the proposed heritage listings and provide feedback at sydneyyoursay.com.au until 30 June 2015.

New Hope for Curbing Climate Change

This week started with two pieces of positive international climate action news: The G7 announced an agreement to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century; and new figures show China's emissions will peak five years earlier than expected.Both announcements are indications of the shift in how the world is dealing with climate change. The world's biggest nations are acknowledging that our dependence on fossil fuels needs to end and we need to transition into a new clean energy system.German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G7 leaders recognise the need to: "decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century". The G7 nations - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States - agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius.Despite the fact that the G7's proposal does not include binding targets, the announcement gives us hope that plans for ending major use of fossil fuels could be agreed on at the Paris climate talks later this year.The news out of China - the world's largest carbon emitter - that its emissions are likely to peak in 2025, is another great sign of our chances to stop global warming at safer levels. China's emissions are expected now to start declining after 2025, which is not great news for Australia coal exporters who have long counted on Chinese consumption of the dirty fuel.At a time when the rest of the world is taking action on climate change, it is disturbing that the Australian Government continues to push us backwards. With temperature records around the world breaking ever more frequently, we need to stop increasing the levels of carbon in the atmosphere that are driving climate change - and that is what the rest of the world is attempting to achieve.I am determined that the City of Sydney will continue to take serious action to reduce our contribution to climate change, including supporting renewable energy.

World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day. To mark the global day of action, the City has pledged to plant a mature tree in every primary school and plant a shrub for every primary student in our local area.The tree planting is as part of the international One Tree Per Child campaign. The campaign was started by Olivia Newton-John and Jon Dee, who are also behind National Tree Day - an organisation responsible for planting 10 million native trees and shrubs across Australia.The City is delighted to support this important program to help children connect with the environment and green our local area. They are our future so it's important that we can teach them about the environment for the city they will inherit.We're planting more street trees and increasing the number of trees in our parks and it's fantastic to join a program that helps children learn about the valuable role that trees play in city life.As these trees grow we hope the children's commitment to their community, and doing their bit to help the environment, will also grow.Green spaces benefit the community's health, cleaning pollutants from the air, creating shade in the hot summer months and enhancing general wellbeing. The City's target is to increase its urban canopy by 50 per cent by 2030.The City has planted around 10,000 street trees in the past decade. There are around 30,000 street trees across the city, and a further 12,000 trees in the city's parks and open spaces. Along with green roofs and walls these trees contribute to the urban canopy, help combat climate change, and create wildlife corridors for native birds and animals.For more information about the program see: http://www.onetreeperchild.comRead more about World Environment Day here: http://www.unep.org/wed/ 

Councillor Forster to Ditch Residential Areas

In a self-interested attempt to gerrymander the City's boundaries, Liberal Councillor Christine Forster is advocating for the separation of the CBD and the City's residential areas.The NSW Government has appointed the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review proposals on "Fit for the Future", the Government's local council reform scheme. IPART is currently accepting submissions to its draft methodology.Councillor Forster made a submission calling for, "the boundaries of the current Local Government Area to be contracted to cover the core CBD and immediately adjacent business districts."Councillor Forster has developed and submitted a plan for the future of the City without any input from the community she claims to represent. It flies in the face of what the community has overwhelmingly said and effectively tells non-CBD residents she doesn't want to represent them.To inform the City's own submission, we have conducted extensive surveys and found 82% of residents and 72% of businesses want the borders to remain the same.Councillor Forster plan is designed to make the City of Sydney a CBD-based council run by big business, for big business, despite the fact that the CBD is one of the most densely populated residential areas in Australia.The key paragraph in Councillor Forster's submission argues going back to a CBD only council:With these considerations in mind, a superior proposal to ensure that the City of Sydney is Fit for the Future would be to create a Local Government Area that truly reflects the new nature of our global city, dominated by the CBD. Rather than the Independent Local Government Review Panel's recommendation that the City of Sydney amalgamate with Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra councils, the superior proposal would be for the boundaries of the current Local Government Area to be contracted to cover the core CBD and immediately adjacent business districts.And other areas of the city would be split around surrounding Councils:The redistribution of current resident ratepayers living toward the existing boundaries of the City of Sydney Local Government Area would clearly assist in providing scale and capacity to the surrounding Council areas through the addition of significant urban growth and residential areas. Under such a scenario, Botany Bay would gain Green Square; Leichhardt would gain the Harold Park development; Marrickville would gain Newtown and Erskineville; and an enlarged Woollahra/Waverley/Randwick would gain parts of Paddington and Centennial Park.The City's other Liberal Councillor, Edward Mandla, doesn't even live in the electorate. These two Councillors are out of touch with our community.For the last 10 years the City has met the needs of over a million people a day who, live, work or visit this local government area and whose combined effort contribute over 23 per cent of the state's economy.Leading independent financial auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers have said the City is a "benchmark against which other councils could be compared", while NSW Treasury Corporation rates the City's finances as "strong" with a "positive outlook" - the only NSW council to receive this rating.The City's programs and investments - including $220 million to transform the CBD with light rail and $440 million in creating community facilities at Green Square - are essential to our state's future and would be at risk with disruptive change.

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