Stakeholders Christmas Reception 2013

(6pm, Monday 25 November 2013, Centennial Hall)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Town Hall for our Christmas/end of year celebration.

It's good to see so many of you who've worked with us through the year. I would like to acknowledge distinguished guests from:

  • State and Federal Parliaments;
  • The Royal Australian Navy;
  • Commissioner Andrew Scipione;
  • Distinguished members of the Consular Corps;
  • The Deputy Lord Mayor and City of Sydney Councillors;
  • Monica Barone, CEO of the City of Sydney.

Welcome to you all.

As you know I always like to report on highlights of our year's activities at this Reception.

We are very excited that we are on the threshold of transforming George Street with light rail, after years of research and advocacy. Just over a week ago, the state Government released its Environmental Impact Statement.

It's a real game changer for Sydney and businesses are voting with their feet and moving back to what was once our major retail thoroughfare. Light rail will revive not just George Street, but the major streets running parallel and the laneways connecting them.

The City has provided $220 million for new footpaths, trees, street furniture and public art to make George Street a truly great boulevard. And we will do additional work on laneways and public art to create a truly interesting, prosperous and diverse CBD.

We are reaching the point where people understand that infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure, is integral to a prosperous, liveable and sustainable city. Sydney is buzzing, and we want it to remain Australia's premier destination for business, shopping, arts, music, quirky bars, good design and inviting public spaces as a great place to live.

At the City of Sydney, our work sets the framework for a city where business can succeed, where skilled employees want to live and work, where shoppers and tourists want to visit.

We know that, when you create wonderful public spaces, people will come. Good planning and design creates city precincts where people want to spend time. It's about opportunities for discovery and delight; it's about creating a multi-layered city that is good for business and residents, for school-children and older people.

As Elizabeth Farrelly wrote in the Herald just a few weeks ago: "At last Sydney seems to be getting it - that design can make, as well as take, money." She cited 8 Chifley Square, the Central Park retail centre and green wall; our new Prince Alfred Park pool complex; 1 Bligh Street and another newcomer, the Liberty Place development between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets, as signalling what great design can do for a City.

Our Design Advisory Panel is a key player in lifting the bar as well as our terrific team here at the City under the leadership of Graham Jahn, and we are seeing private developments in Sydney that meet the highest standards of design and sustainability.

The City has consistently practised what we preach. Our own buildings and public spaces have won major awards—from Surry Hills Library to Paddington Reservoir Gardens, and the new Waterloo Youth Centre, which received the prestigious Sulman Prize this year.

*******************************

It's a standard we're pursuing at our newest and biggest urban renewal site at Green Square.

After an international competition, we awarded young local architects, Stewart Hollenstein to design a stunning library in the plaza. We have a Green Square public art strategy and a curatorial adviser for its implementation.

Overall, we have committed more than $440 million in funds for infrastructure at Green Square and, last week, adopted a master plan for the aquatic centre and adjoining park.

And we've established an expert Advisory Panel to work with us on implementation. The first private development application for the Town Centre has been lodged with the Council—a major milestone.

*********************************

I'm also pleased that after extensive consultation with the developers and importantly with the local community, work has begun on Stage 1 of Harold Park which includes about 500 residential apartments and commercial uses.

The entire development will create 1,250 new homes, including some affordable housing, conservation of the historic tramsheds and 3.8 hectares of new public open space that link through to the harbour foreshore walk.

*********************************

In the twelve months to September 2013, the City determined 3,500 development applications valued at $2.8 billion, with a 95 per cent approval rate. These range from footway dining applications to a $250 million 37-story commercial building in George Street.

**********************************

Tourism contributes over $5 billion to the City economy and is sustained by events such as our Chinese New Year and Sydney New Year's Eve and the major festivals that we support, from Sydney Festival to Mardi Gras, the Biennale and a host of others.

***********************************

Over the next three years, the City will provide $1.5 million to Business Events Sydney to help secure national and international events while the new International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct is built.

Other strategic contributions to a lively city include adoption of the OPEN Sydney strategy for Sydney's night-time economy; our Cultural Policy Discussion Paper; the Draft Live Music and Live Performance Action Plan; creative incubator spaces in William Street; and the stunning new Eternity Playhouse in the renovated Baptist Tabernacle in Darlinghurst.

We also sponsored the new Corroboree Festival, the Sydney is Fashion campaign and CeBIT. We supported musicals such as Legally Blonde, the Addams Family and Lion King (opening next year) that deliver up to $3 million per month in economic benefits.

And we run a range of programs—from China Connect which helps retail, hospitality and tourism improve their interactions with visitors from China—to seminars for Start-Ups, to forums for local business chambers and precinct promotions.

*************************************

Partnerships with major local universities provide for professional development opportunities and joint work on city and urban planning.

*************************************

We supported the BEAMS festival for a second year, which is putting Chippendale on the map as a creative precinct, and approved grants over $90,000 to help businesses improve the street appeal of their stores in the greater Redfern precinct.

Our sponsorship of village business precincts included projects such as the Slices of Sydney information guides; Love Surry Hills campaign; The Main Drag in Darlinghurst; Lighting Llankelly Place Lights Restoration; Vivid, Walsh Bay; Pyrmont Food Wine & Arts Festival; Newtown Good Food Fair; Asia on your Doorstep; branded banners; and direct grants to local village business partnerships.

***********************************

I'm delighted that the Eora Journey celebrating Aboriginal culture is taking shape under the curatorship of Hetti Perkins. We launched two artworks this year - the vividly painted Redfern terrace and the photographic projections on the wall of the Australian Museum (just last week) which you can see up to 20 February.

A third work commemorating the contribution of aboriginal men and women during wartime, has been commissioned from artist Tony Albert. We hope to have that installed in Hyde Park for the centenary of Anzac in 2015.

**********************************

We continue our work to make Sydney a leading sustainable City through initiatives to green our own operations and by working with our business and residential communities to improve their environmental performance.

The latest report of the International Panel on Climate Change underlines the perilous situation we are in: climate change is happening; it is caused by humans; and urgent action is needed to prevent the worst impacts.

Because the majority of people (over 50%) across the world live in cities and cities produce 75-80% emission, it's in our cities where we can take effective action to get the greatest cuts.

Our target is to reduce emissions, across our own operations and across the City, by 70 per cent based on 2006 levels by 2030. Our suite of green infrastructure master plans to achieve this target is nearly complete and, despite increases to our property portfolio, we have achieved a 23 per cent reduction in emissions.

We've focused on projects that can be picked up by others because they save money and make good business sense.

We were the first Australian city to trial LED lights and we are now rolling out LED street and park lights across the city and this will save $800,000 per annum and reduce light emissions by 51%. The NSW Government is now expanding this to Council street lights across the state.

We have retrofitted 45 of our buildings for water and energy savings, reducing utility bills by more than $1 million. Through CitySwitch, we are working with commercial tenants for similar benefits. The program now has over 473 separate offices signed up nationally, with two million square metres of space.

Another project, Smart Green Business has provided sustainability support to almost 100 businesses through free water and waste assessments and saving them well over $600,000 a year.

At the same time, our work with the Better Buildings Partnership is supporting the major building owners of the city to introduce sustainable initiatives across their property portfolios and through their commercial tenancies. Recently we announced they have made 25% emission reductions over the last three years saving $25 million.

Our plan for precinct-based low-carbon trigeneration has stalled due to costly State and Federal regulatory barriers that make it too expensive at this time to sell electricity to the owners of adjoining buildings, so we are focusing for the moment on the Town Hall precinct where we own Town Hall, Town Hall House and the QVB.

But we have enabled an innovative finance agreement (an Environmental Upgrade Agreement) that will deliver trigeneration to the 4000 future residents of the Central Park development being built by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia on the former Carlton United Brewery site at Broadway. (Low cost, low carbon power.)

*******************************

And we are now able to get on with constructing our 200 km cycle network, including 55km of separated paths. It was corporate executives and City workers that strongly lobbied me for safer bike routes to the CBD when I first became Lord Mayor because they saw the time and health benefits riding to and from their jobs.

The NSW Government's new City Centre Access Plan confirms an integrated cycling network in the city centre and we are getting on with it—construction is underway to complete the north-south Kent Street route, with other CBD routes being designed for construction before light rail work begins.

So much of what we have planned for is coming to fruition, and the next steps promise exciting times for Sydney.

I hope you take time to wander and shop in the city this Christmas, where our Retail Advisory Panel has worked with us on an expanded Christmas program, including new interactive installations in Pitt Street Mall.

This Thursday night is the annual Martin Place children's concert and tree lighting, with family Christmas concerts across our villages over coming weeks. Christmas in the villages has kicked off with 100 businesses partnering with the City to host in-store promotions, supported by on-street entertainment.

And can I just add, our charity partner for our 2013 Christmas festivities is the Australian Children's Music Foundation, who passionately believe that through music young people can express their emotions and channel their energies into creative outlets.

The Foundation provides programs for disadvantaged schools, juvenile justice centres, indigenous and isolated regions and I welcome Don Spencer, their founder and CEO who is here with us tonight.

If you would like to donate, we have buckets available and staff, who can give you receipts.

******************************

I wish you and your families a happy and safe Christmas and a great New Year working with us, I hope, to help Sydney reach its full potential.

Thank you.