Social Sustainability Taskforce Luncheon

(1pm, Thursday 27 November 2014, Treasury Room)

Hello, everyone, welcome to this introductory lunch. It's terrific to have such knowledge, insight and experience gathered around this table!

Monica Barone will be taking you through the background to establishing the Task Force and the details of your role over the coming months.

Thank you to our panel members, for making time to contribute to our very important work for a socially sustainable city.

When my Independent Team came to Town Hall in 2004, we wanted to develop a long-term plan for Sydney - not just a vision, but a plan that we could put into action. The resulting plan, Sustainable Sydney 2030, consists of four main elements: an environmentally sustainable city, one that is economically and culturally sustainable, and, crucially, a socially sustainable city.

When the 2030 plan was finalised and endorsed in 2008, we set to work. Today, the environmental agenda is firmly established, with broad support, and we are well on our way to meeting our targets.

Our Economic Development Strategy, adopted last year, has been well-received by the business sector and the City's economy is growing rapidly. Our Cultural Policy, released a few months ago, has also received widespread support.

Now it's time to refocus on social sustainability. Staff have begun work on a discussion paper to set out the critical issues affecting our communities and to help them in that work, I proposed in August that the City establish this task force.

Among the issues the paper will consider are relative inequality, access and equity of opportunity; the community's ability to adapt to the future and how the City can support the community's health and well-being.

It's a challenging job. Sydney has an extraordinarily diverse population, half of whom were born overseas, one-third of whom speak a language other than English at home.

We are home to one of Sydney's largest Aboriginal communities and the country's biggest GLBTI community.

Our population has increased by 11 per cent since 2006, and in the decade to 2012, we were the largest and fastest growing local government area in NSW.

We have the highest residential densities in Australia, ranging from Elizabeth Bay to the less salubrious Waterloo. And we have one of the highest levels of income inequality in greater Sydney, with more than a quarter of our working-age residents having a weekly income of over $1500 a week, while another quarter earns less than $300 a week.

A key finding of our consultations for the 2030 plan was that people really valued Sydney's social connectivity and its diversity.

Yet given those existing inequalities, couple with a growing population and rising prosperity from some, we risk shrinking opportunity and a slide into a monoculture which rewards certain sectors while relegating others to second-class status.

This is being exacerbated by the State Government decision to sell social housing in Millers Point, destroying an established, supportive community to grab at a cash cow.

Affordable and social housing is vital for a diverse and harmonious city and the 2030 plan sets a target for social housing of 7.5 per cent by 2030, and for affordable housing a further 7.5 per cent as well.

Our affordable housing levy program in Green Square has a target of 330 units, with more than 100 built so far. A similar program in Ultimo-Pyrmont has so far produced over 450 affordable housing units out of a 600-unit target.

We want the State Government to allow us to extend that levy program to other areas.

We care for our communities in other ways, too. We give free rates to pensions and have expanded aged and community services. Over the next two years, we'll spend more than $30 million building six new child-care centres, with another $20 million earmarked for later needs.

We also just recently launched a pilot wayfinding scheme to make the city easier to navigate - especially for vision impaired people.

These are some of the work we're doing to make Sydney more socially sustainable. But we know there is more to be done. Just as we are working towards environmental sustainability, we need to work with equal purpose and commitment to ensure a socially sustainable and equitable city.

Your input will help us do that, so once again, thank you all.