2014 in Review

2014 marked ten years since I became Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney.

That's a decade of strong, stable, corruption-free Independent leadership, from a progressive, efficient and outcome-focused organisation, with a long-term vision for our city's future and $1.9 billion budgeted for infrastructure over the next decade.

In 2008 we adopted Sustainable Sydney 2030 and have worked systematically towards the goals and targets we committed to, and we have made good progress in all areas.

As we look forward to 2015, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate all we achieved last year.


CaptureWe are one of the fastest-growing residential areas in the country, with 8,000 new dwellings built in the past five years and a further 17,600 applications lodged or approved but not yet completed. The figure is 10 per cent of the metropolitan Sydney total over the past 10 years, in just 0.2 per cent of the area.

As of this year, we have been ranked the most popular city to study in by the Global Cities Index and the fourth most appealing destination for skilled international workers, behind London, New York and Paris.

In the past five years, more than 50,000 new jobs have been created across the LGA, and 2,000 new businesses have opened, representing almost 40 per cent of all jobs growth in metropolitan Sydney.

Our independent auditor, PriceWaterhouse, has confirmed our position as the State's number one council for financial management.

To quote them, the City "meets or exceeds all measures" in the Government's own "Fit for the Future" plan for local government. They said the City's financial position "can't get much better than where we are at the moment".

The City of Sydney local government area currently has 1.15 million people in and out of it each day, and generates $100 billion worth of economic activity annually, which is 22 per cent of the State's economy.

This is not by accident. It's the result of careful, long-term planning and investment.

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EurosolarOn the environmental front, we have reduced the City's carbon emissions by 21 per cent, and are on target to reach 26 per cent by 2016. Our LED lighting program has reduced emissions and energy use by over 40 per cent - it is saving the City $800,000 a year in bills and maintenance, and is being rolled out across the state for other local government areas.

The Renewable Energy Master Plan shows how all electricity, heating and cooling in the LGA could be supplied from renewable sources by 2030 - wind, solar and renewable gas from waste. The plan won the 2014 European Solar Prize.

Our Better Buildings Partnership program involves owners of 60 per cent of CBD commercial office space working with us to reduce emissions. So far they've achieved a 31 per cent reduction and are saving more than $25 million a year in power bills. The Better Buildings Partnership was awarded Innovator of the Year at the recent Banksia Awards for environmental leadership.

CitySwitch, the green office program we jointly sponsor with other councils and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, is expanding into suburban and regional locations and our own solar program has passed the halfway mark with over 2,000 panels installed across 18 of the 30 nominated sites.

We signed our third Environmental Upgrade Agreement for an energy-efficiency upgrade for the Anglican Church's St James Hall building on Phillip Street to reduce its energy use by 30 per cent.

RecyclingTo identify alternatives to landfill by turning non-recyclable waste into low-carbon energy, we developed our Advanced Waste Treatment Master Plan. It was well received by industry and we are working through the issues for contracting and running a treatment facility.

At Haymarket and Circular Quay, we are trialling two Reverse Vending Machines which so far have collected over 40,000 cans and bottles since last July for recycling — enough to build a tower 19 times the height of Sydney's Centrepoint Tower.

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CaptureWe support the NSW Government's plan for light rail on George street and to the Moore Park Sports venues and to UNSW, with major construction due to commence after Anzac Day this year. We've committed $220 million to associated street works, including the pedestrianisation of George Street, and in the last year we've worked to ensure the project will be built to the high design standards used for all our projects.

With new bike paths opened in Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo and the CBD in 2014, our network is catering for a 130 per cent increase in the number of bike trips - that's up to 60,000 trips in the city each day, trips that would otherwise be made by car or public transport.

In conjunction with the international Walk21 conference that we co-hosted with the State Government in October, we launched our comprehensive $8 million wayfinding network, including tactile and braille street signs for people of all abilities, the most extensive planned in the world.

CaptureWe continued working to improve public access and I recently opened a further extension of the Glebe harbour Foreshore Walk, completing 2.2 kilometres of uninterrupted waterfront walkway.

We've also nearly completed our expansive Sydney Park water re-use project that has part Federal funding to collect, filter and reuse 850 million litres of storm water from surrounding suburbs. This will complete the transformation of this former waste dump into a stunning regional park to serve southern growth areas of the City.

I'm sure you were also very concerned to read in the Herald recently that Sydney Park's surrounding roads are proposed to be one of the exit points for WestConnex traffic. Further gridlock is not what King Street Newtown, Alexandria, Erskineville and Green Square need. I'm shocked that in the 21st century, 1960s attitudes seem to be dominating government thinking on transport.

Again this year, we won the Sulman Medal, the highest accolade for public architecture in NSW, for the outstanding new Neeson Murcutt-designed Prince Alfred Park Pool.

This new facility won:

  • Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) NSW — Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design
  • Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) — Australia Award for Urban Design
  • Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) — Good Design Awards (Best In Architecture + Interiors) Award

PoolPic-475x31710,249 trees have been planted since 2005, including trees on road median strips in Rosebery, Woolloomooloo, Ultimo and Surry Hills, and we've continued improving our well-loved local parks — Foley and St James Parks, Glebe; Janet Beirne Reserve, Beaconsfield; Napier Street Park, Paddington; and Mary O'Brien Reserve, Zetland.

We've opened new playgrounds at Jubilee Park, Glebe, and Fitzroy Gardens, Kings Cross, with a new all-abilities spinner installed in Pyrmont's Pirrama Park playground. Up to 11 children can play, sitting, standing or in a wheelchair.

We are doing the impossible and beautifying Cleveland Street with simple hedge plantings all the way to City Road. The long-needed facelift to the bustling Crown Street shopping precinct north of Cleveland Street is also nearing completion.

And our streets are loved. What were left over spaces and traffic islands are beautified with plantings, flower baskets hang from smart polies in main streets, and planted rain gardens green our footpaths and filter stormwater.

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MusicThis year, we launched the City's well-received Cultural Policy, with a 10-year action plan to unlock Sydney's creative potential and make its cultural attractions a key element of its international appeal.

Among the most exciting early initiatives is the new $25 million hub for dance, theatre, music, film and visual arts studios which we negotiated as part of the $440 million Greenland development in Bathurst Street, Sydney's tallest residential tower.

Our "Live Music Matters" action plan includes almost 60 initiatives to help revive live music, including opening up our town halls and community centres for rehearsals.

We've worked with the NSW Government, the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and NewDemocracy to establish a Citizens' Jury to keep Sydney both safe and vibrant at night, which is still a work in progress to get the balance right.

I thank the members of our Public Art Advisory Panel and eminent evaluation panellists who've selected world-class artworks for Green Square and the city centre. Following an international public art competition that attracted nearly 700 entries from 25 countries, we endorsed the stunning Cloud Arch by Junya Ishigami outside Town Hall in George Street for when the light rail is completed.

And thank you to our Eora Journey Working Group, who are working with us to recognise Aboriginal culture in our public domain. We began the year with Nicole Foreshew's evocative "Born in darkness before dawn" images projected on the Australian Museum, and our next major project, Tony Albert's commemoration of indigenous servicemen and women in wartime, will be unveiled for Anzac Day this year.

MG_3662-Eternity-Playhouse-night-960x547It was a joy to welcome to Potts Point another new theatre — the Hayes Theatre, which stages small-scale music theatre and cabaret.

Eternity Theatre, the Darlinghurst Theatre Company's new home in East Sydney, received three heritage awards for the imaginative restoration and reuse of the former Baptist tabernacle.

  • Australian Institute of Architects — National Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage.
  • National Trust — Heritage Award for Adaptive Reuse, Government/Corporate.
  • Australian Institute of Architects NSW — Greenway Award for Heritage.

I really enjoyed Nick Enright's 'Daylight Saving' which we saw there recently.

We've continued our work to provide affordable spaces for the creative industries on Oxford and William Streets, supporting over 150 creative entrepreneurs and helping create a lively day-time local economy. And we've approved the respected Object Australian Design Centre to move in as a William Street anchor tenant, commencing next year.

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CaptureWe continue to produce and support fantastic public events including New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers' Festival, Sydney Film Festival, and later this year, an expanded Art & About, as well as the Sydney Fringe, VIVID Sydney and Asia on your Doorstep.

And in the past 12 months, the City's funding and support for Business Events Sydney helped secure 10 international conferences, a $42 million boost for Sydney while Darling Harbour's convention facilities are redeveloped.

In May, I spent over two weeks travelling in China for a NSW trade mission on our creative industries, and to thank the different cities and provinces for sending performers to successive Chinese New Year's Parades, and to deepen our engagement with leading cities of Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xi'an and Wuhan. I'm welcoming and meeting a growing number of senior delegations coming Sydney—who after our Courtesy Calls, I am pleased to say then go and do business.

Our vision of a livelier, more diverse city has seen us support projects that are blossoming into new industries: our food trucks are a permanent feature, with five new trucks on the road this year. This program was recognised at the NSW Local Government Arts & Culture Awards.

Our early support providing accessible locations for car-share on city streets means it's now a thriving business, with memberships held by 17 per cent of City households. There are in total some 20,000 car share members — both residents and businesses—more than triple the number three years ago.

Support for small bars which we successfully championed after decades of opposition from the AHA has also added another - and booming - strand to the city's offering, and to its economy. Over 90 small bars generated more than $60 million in turnover, with 60 other quirky small shops joining the mix in our enlivened laneways.

We continue our support for retailers, working with our Retail Advisory Panel to boost retail in the City. Pitt Street Mall is now activated with a live music and events programs, with associated businesses now able to use the mall free of charge aimed at drawing more shoppers to the city.

We've continued our strong support for small business — with business support grants, local festivals, a partnership with the Small Business Commissioner, sponsorship of the NSW Business Chamber State Awards, a regular business eNewsletter; and ten free organisational seminars a year providing information and practical advice.

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CaptureWe believe Sydney deserves the best and unapologetically pursue design excellence for all our projects and private developments.

Major developments — over 55 metres in Central Sydney and over 25 metres in other areas — must go through a competitive design process. It is the only statutory pre-DA system for private land in the world, paid for by a floor space bonus. Over 100 projects have now been awarded bonus floor space for design excellence, with many recognised internationally.

The Design Advisory Panel's involvement with projects such as the Macquarie Group's 48 Martin Place has influenced the exciting contemporary reinvention of the historic and significant former Commonwealth Bank Building by Johnson Pilton Walker architects, which opened in September with a 6 green star rating.

Another, recent imaginative and sustainable development is East Village at Victoria Park, which I opened in October. Developers PAYCE, architects Turner and Hassell, and Japanese architect Koichi Takada who worked on the interiors, have created an extraordinary, mixed-used development, with its own low-carbon trigeneration to provide local energy, heating and cooling.

This year, 8 Chifley Square, which I also opened, won the AIA's National Awards for Commercial Architecture and One Central Park at Chippendale, a State approved project, was awarded the Best Tall Building in the World for 2014 by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Great development continues across Broadway at UTS - including DCM's fine building and Frank Gehry's first-in-Australia.

Other significant projects approved or in development are AMP's Quay Quarter; Blackstone's 1 Alfred Street; Mirvac Group's 200 George Street; Charter Hall's 333 George Street; Fife Capital's 383 George Street; AMP Capital/Mirvac's 71 Macquarie Street; Crown's 161 Clarence Street; Greenland's 115 Bathurst Street; and Dexus' 5 Martin Place, and Pembroke's 20 Martin Place.

In the 12 months to October 2014, the City determined around 3,300 applications, worth about $4 billion, with an approval rate of 95 per cent.

One-Central-Park-2C-Chippendale-2C-photo-credit-Simon-Wood-620x414The City is now reviewing building height controls in the CBD to see if there are sites where increased heights might be appropriate where there is no overshadowing of public places or affect on public amenity.

And last year we part funded with Sydney Water the $80 million plus essential trunk drainage at Green Square, addressing serious potential flooding issues to allow private development and public facilities to proceed, including our recently approved Green Square Aquatic Centre. Another 10 private towers are anticipated for construction by early this year.

All the stars are aligned at Green Square except increasing traffic congestion and bus stop queues. While the government is to be commended for its initiatives for public transport, there is an urgent unmet need for mass transit at Green Square, which has a proposed population of 54,000 residents and 22,000 workers. It's an indictment on the previous Government that this was not actioned.

The first residential precinct of Harold Park opened in July and we are working with developer Mirvac to deliver almost four hectares of new public open space to link with Jubilee Park and the Glebe foreshore.

The City has also signed an MOU with UrbanGrowth NSW and is working with local communities to get the best outcome from the proposed and significant redevelopment of the Bays Precinct.

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A decade ago, Sydney communities entrusted their City to our independent team with broad goals clearly stated to make Sydney environmentally sustainable; to promote its global ambitions; to expand its green spaces; to build on the strengths of its local villages and by making it a very desirable place to live, to also make it a magnet for the highly educated and mobile workforce of the 21st century.

The results are all around us. We have a thriving, beautiful global city, with a growing economy and an enviable international reputation for liveability.

I hope those of you who have worked with us to get this far will continue to support us as we work to bring initiatives such as George Street and Green Square and many other transformative projects to a successful conclusion.

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