Woolloomooloo Policing Meeting

(Mary McDonald Centre)

Welcome everyone to the regular Woolloomooloo Policing meeting. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land.

To fix problems, we need to listen to each other and work together. There will be time for you to ask questions and raise concerns after the presentations.

I remind you that we don't talk about individuals and their personal matters here and you may sensitive information to give to police, so some things should be discussed in private after the meeting.

Tonight we have a number of people here to provide information and answer questions.

Kings Cross Police

Inspector Simon Jones, Acting Commander

Acting Inspector David Gates Duty Officer

Melissa Selby - Crime Prevention Officer

Sgt Stocks, the Officer in charge at Woolloomooloo

Officers attached to Woolloomooloo Shopfront

Housing NSW

Normally we have Meghan Hibbert from Housing NSW, but she is on leave, and I've been told that the Acting Area Director is unable to attend. The Acting Team Leader is also not here tonight.

Like you, I am very disappointed that there is not a Housing NSW representative here because they are a major landlord and have responsibility for a lot of the concerns that you raise at these meetings. I'll come back to Housing NSW concerns later.

City of Sydney officers:

Jacquie Sequeira (Manager Kings Cross Neighbourhood Service Centre)

Dominic Grenot (Public Housing Liaison Officer)

Katie Phillips (Acting Manager - Homelessness)

Mike Fish (Public Space Liaison Officer)

Ann Hoban - Director City Culture and Community

Paul Carson - Manager Mary McDonald Centre

Also here is Roy Bishop from my Electorate Office.

I will give you a brief update on some of the issues raised at the last meeting and Council activities.

Police Changes

Since our last meeting, Superintendent Tony Crandell has been moved to Surry Hills Command, and the new Commander Superintendent Susan Waites starts at Kings Cross at the end of March.

I understand that Susan asked to come to Kings Cross, and she is keen to work on the crime and safety concerns. I hope she continues the approach that Tony had, working with other agencies and local residents to sort out problems and improve the situation.

Critical Incidents

A number of residents contacted me about several cases of sexual assault in Woolloomooloo, and my staff immediately followed up with the Police Commander. I understand that these incidents relate to drug deals, police have identified alleged offenders who were known to the victims.

Following the December meeting, police have continued to focus on public urination and street drinking and the Acting Commander has reported on what they have been doing on these concerns.

Buses

I sent a letter to Woolloomooloo residents to update you on the 311 bus, which came back to Bourke Street from last Wednesday. I'm sorry that this didn't happen earlier, though it has not been from want of trying.

The new traffic signals on William Street allow buses to turn safely from both Riley Street and Bourke Street, so I hope that the bus services are more reliable. The service should be better for Woolloomooloo residents, with new, quieter, low floor buses and air-conditioning, which is a big advance on the old buses.

You can also use bus services on Riley Street, where there is now a bus stop for local residents to catch 480, 483 and 460 bus services to the city, Sydney University, Annandale, Burwood and Strathfield. I've already heard from some residents that this is a welcome new stop.

Some residents were concerned about parking impacts at the last meeting. To overcome this, we have put angle parking in Nicholson and Plunkett Streets, and have exempted resident vehicles from the time restrictions in eleven spaces on the northern side of Nicholson Street.

There are now more parking spaces where residents can park all day than there were before.

The Kings Cross Community and Information Service also has more funds to provide extra community transport services for people with limited mobility.

Wulla Mulla and Bourke Street Parks

We want to make these two parks into attractive spaces for everyone to enjoy and use. They were not attractive before and we want to make them places for the whole community.

The Walla Mulla Park upgrade has been finished, and includes green walls and a green roof for growing plants; fixing up the toilet block and making it accessible; improving visibility and emergency access; new lights to make the park safer; new furniture and paving; and less clutter.

The next upgrade will focus on the Bourke Street Park, which will begin shortly and include a new toilet block with better facilities; new landscaping, retaining walls and grass; new paving, furniture and exercise equipment; removing unstable trees to make the park safer and increase sunlight; and a purpose built secure space for a future community garden, which will be watered from stormwater.

I'm excited that there will be space for a community garden at the back along the Eastern Distributor wall, as many people would like to grow some veggies, herbs or flowers. If you are interested in getting involved in the community garden, please contact Russ Grayson, on 9265 9786.

We're also looking at whether a community shed might be good to have here in Bourke Street, where people could come and work on practical projects. Men's sheds are very popular, particularly with retired men who like to have a space with tools and materials to make things. And they might be able to teach younger people about practical things that they don't learn at school any more.

The Bourke Street Park work should be finished around the middle of the year.

Juanita Nelson Centre

At the last meeting, someone asked about the Juanita Nelson Centre upgrade, which is still in the very initial phases. Again, we want to update the building and make it more attractive for the local community.

I understand some people are concerned some youth programs have been moved to the PCYC. We are working with the PCYC to run programs for young people because they have excellent facilities there after getting grants for upgrades, including a gym, boxing ring and computer equipment.

Homelessness and Housing NSW

The Street Count found 54 people sleeping rough in Woolloomooloo in February this year. This is about the same number as last August, just before the Wall Mulla works started, but is a significant drop from earlier counts when numbers were between 90 to 114.

At the last meeting, residents were concerned about anti-social behaviour from some people in Tom Uren Square. There are reports that several new people have arrived in the area, and they appear to be responsible for a lot of the problems.

Police targeted this after your reports at the last meeting, and the Acting Commander will report on their action.

After the December meeting, City staff met with the Police, some local residents, businesses and the outreach team to identify action to help.

The City's Homelessness Unit has asked the Neami Way2Home and St Vincent's Hospital outreach services to consider daily joint patrols and suggest strategies to address homelessness. Neami is in the area daily, and we're waiting hear back from St Vincent's Hospital.

City staff and my Electorate Officers have all spoken directly with Housing NSW about coming to these meetings. Housing NSW officers told City staff that these are policing meetings, and they will follow up concerns with police after the meeting.

I don't think this is acceptable, and have written to the Housing NSW CEO asking that senior officers attend these meetings to hear your concerns and take action. There are copies of my letter on the table near the door.

As you know there is an election on 26 March and we will have a new Government with a new Minister, and I want to put homelessness in Woolloomooloo on the new Government's agenda for action.

I have prepared a petition that I hope you will ask people to sign so we can get at least 500 signatures. If we have at least 500 signatures, the Minister has to respond to the concerns raised.

I have included a number of the concerns that you have been raising at these meetings:

Housing NSW owns commercial properties and land in Woolloomooloo that have been vacant for many years. We've been asking for Housing NSW to lease the vacant Cathedral Street properties, and the petition asks for urgent action on this so that t this area is not a no go zone.

Housing vacancies should be filled urgently and houses should not be left sitting vacant. There are thousands of people on waiting lists and they urgently need housing. Housing NSW must speed up the allocation process.

The Commonwealth Government gave new money for extra public housing, and Housing NSW said it would build new housing at 174 Dowling Street, but the land is still empty.

The Camperdown Project will have 88 self contained studio apartments, 12 one bedroom apartments and 4 two bedroom apartments, plus on-site support services, and the building should be finished by late 2011.

This project is designed to help people with complex problems who have been on the street for a long period to get off the street and learn to live in a home like other people. The Government should give priority for this housing to rough sleepers from Woolloomooloo - these are the very people it is supposed to help.

Housing NSW is responsible for Tom Uren Square, and should ensure the area is safe and clean. Changes to the law allow Housing NSW to declare its property an Alcohol Prohibited Zone and Housing NSW is doing this in Waterloo Green. They should fast track this for Tom Uren Square as well, so that police can act to remove alcohol in this area as well as the nearby streets.

Housing NSW should carry out needed maintenance and repairs promptly, ensure that cleaning contractors do their job properly and ensure rapid graffiti removal.

I know you have had serious problems with waste after the Housing NSW contractors sacked the cleaning subcontractors due to their poor performance. I know that a number of tenants and my staff reported this several times to Housing NSW, but it took far too long for them to sort out the problems and get new cleaners organised.

Tenants have repeatedly complained about problems with cleaning, maintenance and repairs and I have repeatedly asked the Minister and Housing NSW to tighten the contracts so the people doing the work are accountable and do a better job.

Housing NSW is a major landowner and landlord in Woolloomooloo, and is also responsible for homelessness. This agency should meet regularly with residents to discuss your concerns and coordinate action.

At the last meeting, residents again asked about the empty housing properties in Cathedral Street, and I have asked the Minister about these in Parliament. I also asked him about extra places in the HASI Program which provides support for people with a disability or illness in their accommodation.

Roy has copies of my petition for the new Government, and I encourage you to take some of these away and collect signatures. There will be a new Government and new Minister, and this means a new opportunity to get action on the longstanding problems with homelessness in Woolloomooloo.

Backpacker Vans

In response to concerns about backpacker vans permanently parked in Victoria and Brougham Streets, the City implemented tow away zones and talked to backpackers and hostels to discourage this behaviour. Since the tow away zones have been installed, 26 vehicles have been towed and the owner has to pay $600 in fines and fees before they get it back.

This is a problem across many Council areas, especially on the beach or around the harbour. Councils don't have the legal power to stop it, and I've asked the Minister for Local Government to return the power to Councils to prevent vehicle sales on public roads so we can better deal with this problem.

City staff met with some residents in Victoria Street recently, and will continue strong enforcement, and there will be a joint Police/Ranger operation checking backpacker vehicles for roadworthiness and defects.

I want to correct some misinformation about the car sales business at Lawrence Hargrave Reserve. The operator took the business online and did not put in a tender to continue the business from that site. The City is working with other Councils to see if there is a site somewhere that backpackers could take their vehicles to sell without causing problems for the community.

If people are blocking the footpath or engaging in anti-social behaviour you should call police.

Cleansing and Waste

Several concerns were raised at the December meeting, which Council officers followed up afterwards.

The City deodorises Tom Uren Square five days a week and monitors the area. Housing NSW is responsible for the land, but does not clean it. City officers will again raise this with Housing NSW.

Residents told us that Plunkett, Stephen and Wilson Streets and the Brougham Street footpath needed cleaning, and these areas were swept, cleaned and all dumped rubbish picked up. There is weekly cleansing in this area between Tuesday and Thursday.

At the last meeting, one resident said that they had paid to get rubbish stored in the Stephens Street garbage bay removed. The City of Sydney only collects waste only from garbage bins, and Housing NSW is responsible for removing waste left dumped or on the street adjacent to this garbage bay.

Housing NSW has not taken responsibility for the garbage bays nor removed them as was supposed to happen, and I can see why residents were upset at the last meeting.

The City's CEO is personally following this up with Mike Allen the Housing NSW Chief Executive to get this done. These bays are no longer needed and they encourage people to dump rubbish that then piles up and causes problems with flies, rats, and spilled rubbish.

Please don't wait until these meetings to get dumped rubbish collected. If you need Council to follow up with street cleaning or waste collection, please call straight away on 9265 9333 so staff can get onto it.

The City also removes large items of waste like mattresses and furniture. If you call by Tuesday 3pm, the truck will pick up on Wednesday, and you can book two weeks in advance.

Activities and Programs

I want to remind you about programs and activities in your area, and there are lots.

The City of Sydney and PCYC are running youth programs at the PCYC on Monday, Wednesday and Friday including art, job help, cooking, and Oz Tag.

There are two play groups at the Juanita Nielson Centre, the Mobile Playbus comes to Woolloomooloo on Mondays, and there are regular Story-times and Rhyme-time at the Rex Centre.

During the April school holidays, the Library will run kids programs, including bicycle maintenance and song writing workshops.

This is the last meeting before the NSW State election on 26 March.

I want to say that I have been proud to serve this community in my role as MP since 1988, and more recently in my role as Lord Mayor. I have enjoyed working with all those who put a lot of time and effort into making a strong community and giving a hand up to people who are struggling. Many of you here attend the meetings, make the phone calls and push to get help when others need a hand, and you help make Woolloomooloo a better place - and I thank you.