O'Brien's Lane Reserve Opening

(10.45am, Bourke & Stanley Streets, Darlinghurst)

Hello, everyone, welcome to the opening of this little park.

Over the past 11 years we have created / upgraded 105 parks - from creating new parks - Harmony Park in Surry Hills, Pirrama Park in Pyrmont to our small neighbourhood spaces such as O'Brien's Lane Reserve which has had a long and chequered history.

The reserve has a long and chequered history.

The lane itself was named for Thomas O'Brien, a landlord with several properties on Bourke Street. Darlinghurst in the late 19th century was one of Sydney's most densely populated suburbs and its rows of terrace houses, built in the 1870s, were backed by laneways for the night-soil man to collect the sewage.

Some of the houses on the corner of Stanley and Bourke Streets were demolished in 1907 to make way for the new electric tramway line which ran to Bellevue Hill through Paddington and Woollahra - the route which is partly followed by today's 389 bus.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Department of Main Roads resumed and demolished more houses on this corner for construction of the former underpass and ultimately the current Eastern Distributor.

In 1973, the Darlinghurst Residents' Action Group asked that the unused area be made available as a children's playground, which the DMR agreed to as a temporary measure. Since it wasn't really suitable as a playground, the City Council developed it as a park in 1975, and officially named it O'Brien's Lane Reserve.

For many years, residents have helped look after the reserve and worked toward securing it as a permanent park.

During planning for the Eastern Distributor and subsequent Cross City Tunnel, this local community urged the State Government to provide this park as part of the compensation for those tollroad projects. I'm sure some of you will remember the numerous meetings and discussions.

In 2012, the City secured the State Government's agreement to sell us this land to us for $2.2 million. It includes the previous park, some former road space, and an area that had been fenced off for years—increasing this new park to just over 500 square metres.

We then began planning and consultation for the park's expansion, design and upgrade.

The improvements include new trees and shrubs, and a new lawn area. Pedestrian access has been upgraded and well-defined spaces for social and recreation activities will increase opportunities for visitors and foster a sense of public ownership.

There is improved sun access, better sightlines into the park and better lighting. The new footpath treatment of O'Brien's Lane provides a seamless transition into the park.

I thank all the people involved in its transformation, most especially:

  • JMD Design
  • Glascott Civil Landscapes for the construction and
  • Our City staff, specially project manager Kathleen Ng and design manager Jacqueline Ong

You've all done a terrific job.

As you know, we're also working on a new childcare centre and community space at 277 Bourke Street, and I invite you all to join me at the open day there, following this event, to see how work is progressing.

Our contractors, Belmadar, will tell you about the project and Andrew Burges Architects, the designers, will also be there to answer your questions.

The new centre will include:

  • A three-storey childcare centre for 60 children with open-air spaces on each floor
  • A multi-purpose community space
  • A bridge linking the centre to the John Birt playground and an elevated platform with shade structures linked to the bridge
  • A refurbished playground with bathroom, storage, landscaping and fencing.

We will also upgrade the surrounding streets, with new paving along sections of Bourke and Liverpool Streets and Berwick Lane, and new sandstone stairs and LED lighting in Berwick Lane.

When 277 Bourke Street opens next year, we will start working on a new small park at 222 Palmer Street. We will provide an opportunity for community gardening and more outdoor space for the local residents.

Construction on East Sydney Cultural and Community Centre and Albert Sloss Reserve are also due to be complete mid-2016.

Together, these projects will add significantly to your part of Sydney

Creating new parks and public spaces, and revitalising old ones, providing new or renewed community facilities has been an important priority for our Independent led Council.

We can make these improvements because for 11 years now, we've had a cohesive plan for Sustainable Sydney 2030, we've budgeted and planned carefully for these on-going projects, we involve the community in the planning process and we have a terrific, dedicated staff to carry them out.

All this is at risk under the government's plan to force amalgamations, giving the City of Sydney a population the size of Tasmania, forcing us into a shot-gun marriage with equally reluctant partners of Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and Botany.

It will mean years of community needs coming second as Council's energy and attention is chiefly absorbed by bedding down the new structure. The government has not put forward any evidence that it will mean cheaper or more efficient services for you.

Since 2004, we've worked hard to keep our commitments to you, (Sydney become a global success story and a vibrant liveable place for its people - for business community not just residents, and we don't want our work to be derailed by the Government's most recent proposed political manipulation. So let's keep it that way!)