Reflecting on 2011

2011 has been a busy and very productive year - here are some highlights:

Parliament

In Parliament, I continued to focus on getting action and raising issues on behalf of inner city communities. In addition to introducing three private members bills, I spoke 53 times in Parliament and asked over 100 questions on topics including the Paddington Bowling Club, the Sydney Fish Market redevelopment, vacant Housing NSW properties, national park protection and community education.

I supported legislation which:

  • repealed Part 3A from the planning system and returned more planning to local councils;
  • introduced a "three strikes out" system where offences like serving drunk patrons or allowing assaults can lead to a liquor licence suspension or cancellation;
  • banned corporate political donations; and
  • established a new umbrella agency, Transport for NSW to coordinate all transport planning.

I opposed legislation which:

  • capped wages for frontline workers;
  • introduced mandatory life sentences for the murder of police officers; and
  • put a moratorium on new and expanded marine protections.

The passage of my Local Government Amendment (Roadside Vehicle Sales) Bill, with cross-parliamentary support, has allowed the City of Sydney to take action to prevent backpackers using Victoria Street as a de facto car sales yard and camp site.

My Strata Legislation Amendment Bill, developed through comprehensive consultation, aims to improve the position of owners and residents of strata properties. My Residential Tenancies Amendment (Occupancy Agreements) Bill will give renters like boarders and lodgers not covered by mainstream tenancy laws basic rights.

Environment

The City was officially endorsed as Australia's first carbon-neutral council and we are on track to achieve our ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets—70 per cent less than 2006 levels by 2030.

Council endorsed a preferred contractor to provide greener local energy through tri-generation. We are working to establish low-carbon precincts at Green Square, on the CUB site, UTS and at Town Hall. Council approved a contract to install low-energy LEDs on 6,500 street lights, following an 18 month trial that demonstrated LEDs can halve energy use and pay for themselves in around 12 years.

Building retrofits have reduced carbon emissions by 17 per cent across our property portfolio since 2006 and we have signed up to a full portfolio refit that will reduce emissions by 20 per cent.

And we are two years ahead on our waste targets to divert two thirds of household waste from landfill by directing it to recycling and composting.

Transport

The NSW Government backed our advice that George Street is the preferred route for light rail in the city centre. We'll continue to lobby for a light-rail network through the City and out to UNSW and Green Square. We've set aside $180 million for public domain improvements in George Street when light rail proceeds.

We've completed the Kent Street bike route connecting Pyrmont with the Harbour Bridge (our "Bridge to Bridge" route) and the Bourke Street cycleway ("the Woop") from Woolloomooloo to Waterloo.

Council has endorsed design for a separated cycleway on Wentworth Avenue from Liverpool Street to Elizabeth Street — which will link College Street through Prince Alfred Park and on to Redfern and the south.

Public domain and facilities

We've planted over 7,000 trees in the past five years, with a target for 20,000 more over the next 20 years to increase our urban canopy by 50 per cent.

This year, we completed improvements to Rushcutters Bay Park, with more open space and trees, a new kiosk and facilities, revitalised tennis courts and a restored Reg Bartley Oval.

We've re-landscaped Prince Alfred Park including a natural meadow and provided new barbeque facilities and children's playground. For active sports it includes a running and walking circuit, exercise areas, five tennis courts, two basketball courts, a new half court and a heated pool currently under construction.

We've continued our revitalisation of small parks and playgrounds that provide vital recreational space for our village neighbourhoods—including Lillian Fowler Reserve in Newtown; Rochford Street playground, Kirsova 2 Playground, Flora & Knight Reserve and Green Bans Park in Erskineville.

We've also renewed Bourke Street and Walla Mulla reserves to provide much-improved open space for Woolloomooloo.

This year we sponsored a car market for backpackers in the Kings Cross car park as part of our strategy to end disruptive vehicle sales in Victoria Street. After my Private Members Bill went through Parliament, our rangers finally have the power to fine backpackers selling vehicles on the street.

In Chinatown, the revitalisation of Little Hay Street, Kimber Lane and Factory Street is underway and we've endorsed proposals for a City Farm at Sydney Park.

Planning and development

At Green Square, we are finalising negotiations with key land owners to deliver $8 billion worth of development for the Town Centre.

The City has quarantined funds for Green Square community, cultural and recreation facilities as the population grows, and this year we purchased land for part of a public transport corridor. We are seeking State and Federal action to secure the entire corridor.

We're now reviewing submissions on our draft City Plan - a major document that simplifies more than 60 existing planning documents into one plan, making it easier for both business and residents.

It balances preservation of our distinctive villages with the need for more housing and office, retail and industrial floor space.

New planning controls for Harold Park, adopted this year, provide for development while unlocking more than a third of the site as public open space. And at Ashmore Estate in Erskineville, the City has rejected draft planning controls imposed by the previous government after independent research showed they would create an unacceptable over-development.

Economy and business

Our lively business sector is reflected in the annual City of Sydney Business Awards, which this year attracted a record 640 nominations - a 62 per cent increase in the number of people voting.

Late last year, we revised our business support program, renaming it the Village Business Partnership Program, to help business groups representing local economies. The first grants have been approved for South Sydney, Haymarket, Potts Point, and Pyrmont/Ultimo.

Our Redfern Shopfront Improvement Matching Grant Program has funded the removal of 12 roller shutters from shopfronts and our Finegrain Business Development Program has enabled cafes, small bars and even a shirt shop in hidden spaces such as Reiby Place, York Lane, Alberta Street, Market Row and Sussex Lane

As part of our support for a thriving retail sector, the City sponsored Vogue Fashion Night Out and continued working with our Retail Advisory Panel on a range of events.

Culture

We are supporting our creative communities through studio spaces, conversion of the Burton Street Tabernacle to the 200-seat "Eternity Playhouse" with a gallery and café and temporary art projects in Taylor Square.

We're set to re-activate Oxford Street by using Council-owned properties to create a cluster of imaginative small businesses and arts studios. And Council endorsed my proposal to use vacant properties on William Street for a creative industry hub.

Over 60 cultural and community organisations already receive offices, rehearsal, performance or studio space through the City's Accommodation Grants Program.

Through our late night economy "OPEN" project, we are working as well at attracting a wider range of people and activities to the city at night, and improving safety and residential amenity.

In the meantime, we're pushing ahead with quick start projects, such as late night "food trucks" and redeploying portable urinals and Precinct Ambassadors over the summer holiday period.

With the help of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel we launched Barani/Barrabugu - or Yesterday/Tomorrow - a free booklet on more than 60 important Aboriginal sites across the City.

Art and About 2011 featured works by international Michael Landy's Acts of Kindness and Janet Echelman's stunning Tsunami 1.26, just outside Town Hall on George Street.

A new City Art website was launched profiling some 200 artworks, with map functions allowing people to explore public art in Sydney.

We continued to draw enormous crowds to events such as New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year, and we are a major supporter of Sydney Festival, Mardi Gras and the Sydney Writers' Festival.

I'm tremendously proud of our achievements in 2011. I thank you for your support and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2012.

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