Stakeholders' Christmas reception

(6pm 25 November 2011, Centennial Hall, Sydney Town Hall)

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to Town Hall. I acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who live in our city. I'd also like to acknowledge Mr Brad Hazzard MP, Mr Chris Hartcher MP, Mr Greg Pearce MLC, Mr John Robertson MP, Mr Jamie Parker MP and Commodore Stephen McDowall representing the Chief of Navy, Royal Australian Navy. I'd also like to acknowledge visiting Mayors and City Councillors in attendance here tonight and also Monica Barone, CEO of City of Sydney.

Tonight is an opportunity to thank you for working with us over the past year to bring a renewed sense of energy and purpose to our City.

We said during preparation of Sustainable Sydney 2030 that we would need partnerships with government, the private sector and the community to make our vision a reality, and over this year, some of those partnerships have emerged, strengthened and are bearing fruit.

The City strongly supported a price on carbon, which will give greater certainty in the shift to renewable energy sources. The passage of the legislation was an enormous relief and I commend all Federal Members who acted responsibly and voted for our future.

This year we've worked through the necessary technical and tendering processes for new sustainable energy, water efficiency and waste plans. In the next fortnight, Council will vote on 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 and UTS, and at Town Hall. This could expand to Martin Place and, we hope, to Barangaroo.

Council will also vote on a contract for low-energy LEDs on all 8000 of our street lights, following an 18 month trial that demonstrated LEDs can halve energy use.

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.

I'm pleased to report that we're on track to achieve, or we are ahead of, all our sustainability targets for 2030, and our organisation itself has been formally certified as Australia's first carbon-neutral council.

And we've signed an agreement with the 13 property companies that own 60 per cent of commercial buildings in the CBD to work with us to develop energy, water and waste systems to improve environmental performance on a precinct wide basis—and they've signed up to our ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The founding members of the "Better Buildings Partnership" are: AMP Capital Investors, Brookfield Office Properties Australia, Charter Hall, Colonial First State Property Global Asset Management, DEXUS, GPT Group, Investa Property Group, Lend Lease, Mirvac, Stockland, Frasers Property, the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney.

The vision of these organisations help set standards of excellence in design and sustainability—such as the stunning new development at 1 Bligh Street—which has received the highest Green Star rating score with the maximum five points for innovation.

The City is providing diverse programs to promote more efficient office tenancies; we've introduced a pilot program to help owners' corporations green their buildings and we're supporting small-to-medium businesses to become more sustainable - and to save money, of course!

This progress has been achieved with the support and active co-operation of our business community - small and large - and I thank you.

I take this opportunity to also thank our Retail Advisory Panel which is working with us to develop a retail strategy for Sydney. The Panel worked with us on Christmas 2011 and have developed a special Christmas website that promotes our city centre as the place to be this Christmas.

As part of our support for a thriving retail sector, the City sponsored Vogue Fashion Night Out, making Sydney one of 17 world cities to hold the event this year.

Our lively business sector is also reflected in the annual City of Sydney Business Awards, which this year attracted a record 640 nominations - a 23 per cent increase on the previous year, and 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 Chamber of Commerce; Haymarket Chamber of Commerce; and Potts Point Partnership—with other groups also developing exciting plans.

We're cutting red tape for business and through our grants for Finegrain Business Development have helped businesses activate York Lane, Market Row, Albert Street, Reiby Place and Sussex Lane - and more will follow.

Our public art program is enlivening some of these areas, with the Laneways Art becoming a feature from October to January. "Forgotten Songs", one of the most popular works of 2009, has now been permanently reinstated in a renewed Angel Place.

We're now reviewing submissions on our draft City Plan - a major document which simplifies more than 60 existing planning documents into one plan, making it easier for 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 following extensive consultation and research, provide for development while unlocking more than a third of the site as public open space. The development, now underway, will create more than 500 new jobs.

At Green Square, we are finalising negotiations with key land owners to deliver $8 billion worth of development for the town centre—which ultimately will provide for 40,000 residents and 20,000 workers. Planning controls are in the final stage, with construction set to start, I hope, next year.

The City has quarantined funds for Green Square community and recreation facilities as the population grows, and this year we purchased land for part of a new public transport corridor to provide mass transit for the area's growth. We are seeking state and federal action to secure the entire transport corridor for Australia's largest urban renewal project.

I would like to thank the new State Government for starting work with us on major projects that will determine the City's future, including Green Square, the late night economy and transport. There is a welcome commitment to cooperation, action and outcomes.

We are working with the State as it finalises light rail plans, and we have committed $180 million for public domain improvements in George Street when light rail proceeds. This will be one of the most important projects that will transform our city in coming decades.

We continue to support car-share companies through dedicated parking spaces across the LGA, and the car-share market for both residents and businesses is growing. It's worth remembering that each car share vehicle can replace as many as 10 private vehicles, so it's an important contributor to reducing congestion in the inner city.

Cyclists, too, help minimise congestion which as you know costs the economy $4 billion annually. We saw cycle trips doubling and in some cases tripling on new cycle paths. Cycling has now risen to approximately two per cent of all trips into the city, and it is growing at around 50 per cent per annum.

We know cycling is not for everyone, but we need to make it safe and viable for those who want the option. Our greatest challenge is not the cycling infrastructure, but the cultural change needed to embed cycling as a healthy and legitimate form of transport.

Our streets don't belong to any one group, not to cyclists, motorists, pedestrians but to us all and our street share program aims to encourage respect for all groups.

Thanks to everyone who has worked with us on fun and educational programmes, such as this year's spectacularly successful new Sydney Rides Festival.

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

We're set to re-activate Oxford Street, especially during the day, by using Council-owned properties to create a cluster of imaginative small businesses and arts studios.

Through our late night economy "OPEN" project, we are working to attract a wider range of people to the city centre at night. Our research showed that our late night economy contributes more than 15 billion dollars a year and accounts for one third of jobs across the city.

I encourage you to read our discussion paper and tell us what you think as we finalise our new policy next year.

In the meantime, we're pushing ahead with a range of quick start projects, such as enabling late night "food trucks" on Sydney streets and redeploying Precinct Ambassadors on George Street to provide immediate benefit over the summer holiday period.

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

This year, we also sponsored commercial productions such as Mary Poppins, Jersey Boys and the new musical, Dr Zhivago, as well as supporting conferences and events that promote Sydney as a lively centre for commerce, tourism and culture.

I've only skimmed the surface, but it gives you a taste of our range of actions during 2011.

Thank you again for your support and we look forward to working with you in 2012.

On behalf of Council, the CEO Monica Barone and our talented and hardworking City staff, I wish you, your families and friends a happy Christmas and a successful and sustainable 2012.

And can I just add that I have established a Lord Mayor's Appeal for East Africa, where as many as 13 million people - half of them children - are suffering from drought and malnutrition.

While we are enjoying our Christmas, some will be huddled in refugee camps, others will be still on the road, looking for help. There are collection buckets here tonight and I ask you to be generous.

Once again, thank you all. And Happy Christmas!