Stakeholders Christmas Reception

(6pm, Thursday 22 November 2012, Centennial Hall)

Thank you, Rod [Kirkman]. Hello, everyone, welcome to Town Hall. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city.

Despite the inevitable disruption of an election year, the City remains firmly on track to achieve its goals, and I thank all former and new Councillors for their work on the important issues facing Sydney.

I'm honoured to have been re-elected as Lord Mayor for a third term, with a strong mandate of over 50 per cent of the Lord Mayoral vote to continue the City's leading, progressive work.

During my first term, we prepared a comprehensive strategy to equip Sydney for the 21st century. That Sydney 2030 Strategy looks to build a Sydney that is sustainable environmentally, economically, socially and culturally.

Since 2004, this Council has completed a significant program of work through a large degree of consensus, with decisions based on research and consultation. And with balanced budgets and no debt, we have the funds to achieve the major projects ahead that we identified to secure the prosperity and liveability of our City.

The greatest challenge facing our city remains global warming. With evidence growing that we are in the critical decade, swift change will be essential for our economy, our way of life and our children's future. I went to the election strongly advocating for continued action and received endorsement to continue that important work.

The City is completing complex negotiations with Origin Energy for new precinct-based tri-generation at Green Square and Prince Alfred Park. Many businesses already operate trigen, but we would like to create a network that maximises environmental benefit and provides a viable financial model for taking the City off the coal-fired grid.

We are developing our master plan for renewable energy and, under the contract we have with Solgen Energy, 30 sites will be fitted with solar panels over the next two years, supplying over 12 per cent of our energy needs.

Our program to replace public domain lights with low-energy-use LED lamps is ahead of schedule.

Work with the private sector continues through the Better Building Partnership, 13 property owners who are collectively responsible for nearly 60 per cent of our CBD office space working with us on emission reductions; and the CitySwitch program, which now has Commonwealth funding to help office tenants reduce their environmental footprint.

Our Smart Green Business program has helped almost 300 businesses improve their environmental performance and - importantly -reduce operating costs.

We're also supporting residents looking for more sustainable living, whether it's through the Smart Green Apartment program; workshops or the 16 community gardens; footpath gardens; or our proposed City Farm.

2012 has been a challenging year for many businesses, so we have expanded our support and we have appreciated the work of our Retail Panel.

We co-ordinated Sydney is Fashion to position Sydney as a fashion destination. In partnership with the NSW Government and Haymarket Chamber of Commerce, we ran the Asia on your Doorstep campaign from July to September to promote Chinatown.

We supported Sydney University's Sydney-China Business Forum in September and produced the Sydney-Chengdu Business Forum as part of our Chinese New Year.

Following a successful trial in April, a comprehensive "Meet and Greet" Ambassador program will operate during the coming cruise ship season. The pilot program engaged over 3,000 passengers and brought very positive feedback.

Let's Talk Business and our Talking Shop seminars have been popular and useful to retailers as have the 101 workshops for people wanting to set up new small businesses.

This year's Business Awards were our biggest yet. A record 830 businesses were nominated and more than 60,000 people voted across the 22 categories.

We've also supported start-ups in Council-owned properties in Oxford Street and William Street. The 16 offices and four retail spaces occupied this year support more than 250 workers and 200 artists and creative workers, and Council has granted a two-year extension to December 2014.

We're working with property owners to encourage them to activate other unused spaces and we're working with the City of Melbourne's Creative Spaces website to provide information on spaces available in Sydney.

The small bar revolution has changed the night time experience - there is now over 60 small bars in our area.

In Chinatown, we've completed the first stage of extensive improvements, created shared spaces for cars and pedestrians, improving lighting and street furniture and introducing public art.

The Visitor Information Kiosk looks terrific and is a great success.

And that's just one of the projects that many of you have helped us with this year - the historic Gardener's Lodge at Victoria Park is now a café with a bush tucker flavour; former Burton Street tabernacle will reopen as the 200-seat Eternity Playhouse early next year; the world famous El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens has been meticulously restored; the refurbished Glebe Town Hall is about to welcome back the community; and improvements for local parks and playgrounds continue.

In June, we launched plans for nine new laneway projects, with landscaping, public art and opportunities for outdoor dining and work is now underway at Albion Place and in King Street Newtown where we are installing Smart Poles.

We have focussed, too, on some of the City's long-neglected areas, providing a fantastic new Youth, Family and Community Centre at Waterloo adjacent to a great skate park and we've continued our matching grants program in Roll Up Redfern to help property owners take down the shutters.

We are continuing to press the case for light rail to transform George Street and support the investment by major retailers in this great street. Our "Connecting our City" strategy aims to make the city calmer, cleaner and better connected, with faster public transport trips, increased bike and walking trips, and less peak hour congestion.

Our cycleway program continues with an emphasis on safe connections to the popular city destinations. Independent bike counts on our separated cycleways show that cycling has doubled since 2012. We're also working hard to encourage safe cycling behaviour, speaking directly to cyclists to encourage safe and legal cycling.

Public transport will become even more important as new developments come on line at the Ashmore Estate, Central Park and Harold Park, where I recently turned the first sod and construction is now underway to create 1,250 new homes, with some affordable housing and significant open space with tramsheds.

At Green Square, we will soon exhibit a Voluntary Planning Agreement with Landcom/Mirvac/Leighton for sites within the Town Centre, and we have undertaken demolition for our own projects on the former South Sydney Hospital site.

We aim to provide needed infrastructure as the population and workforce grows, and have shortlisted five finalists for the design of a new Green Square Library and Community Centre.

The City has committed $440 million to public infrastructure and facilities at Green Square over the next 10 years, including $50 million to date for a transport corridor that is normally a responsibility for the State.

Our determination to get results seems increasingly to require funding toward state work — $180 million committed to support Light Rail in the CBD; $37 million in public domain works to integrate Barangaroo with the City; $4.5 million for CCTV equipment over the past five years to support policing; $2.7 million annually for homelessness services; and more than $48 million to upgrade Crown reserves such Hyde and Prince Alfred Park, with a further $2.5 million annually for maintenance.

We've this year completed five years of research and consultation to endorse the new City Plan and updated planning controls that consolidated 60 existing planning documents. I'm told that State sign-off on the Local Environment Plan is imminent.

This calendar year, the City will deal with approximately 1800 development applications, worth $2.9 billion in new development. Twenty-two of the largest of these, valued at $2.5 billion, were considered by our highly regarded Central Sydney Planning Committee.

There's an urgent need for housing as Sydney's population grows, with an extra million people predicted in Sydney by 2026 and the NSW Government has a target of 61,000 new homes in the City of Sydney by 2036.

We are on track to meet that target, with over 5000 dwelling approvals that haven't yet started.

This includes significant new residential projects in Waterloo and Zetland; Stage 2 of Meriton's 'VSQ' project; Leighton's 'Erko' Project; a truly excellent heritage project for the Royal Edward Victualling Yard building at Pyrmont; and of course the first two Stages of Mirvac's Harold Park were approved and are now underway.

Our City staff appreciate the excellent relationships they have forged with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, in particular with senior staff Sam Haddad, Richard Pearson, Neil McGaffin and the Sydney East Regional Director, Juliet Grant and Minister Hazzard.

We've also progressed work to make Sydney a lively cultural centre, with artworks including Earth v Sky at Glebe Point; the Watling Tree in Albion Place; and Between Two Worlds in Chinatown.

Council has endorsed seven key projects for the Eora Journey honouring Aboriginal culture; developed a Public Art Strategy for Green Square; and issued tenders for a public art curator for the city centre, with a special focus on George Street.

Our innovative night-time economy policy is nearing completion and we are establishing a taskforce of experts to help develop an action plan to promote live music and performance.

And of course we continue to support festivals and cultural events, including Christmas, New Year's Eve with Kylie Minogue, Sydney Festival, Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras—to name just a few of the major upcoming celebrations including the re-launch of Kings Cross held last night.

I thank all the businesses and organisations that have worked with us to help Sydney to continue as Australia's premier city. I also thank our City staff, under the leadership of Monica Barone, who dedicate themselves to those same goals.

And can I just add our charity partner for 2012 New Year's Eve is the Fred Hollows Foundation who have restored sight to over one million people around the globe over the past two decades. Thanks to Fred, the foundation can now restore sight for just $25, we have buckets and staff, who can take your donations and give you receipts.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and look forward to working with you in 2013.

Thank you.