Global City Making Talk

(6pm, Wednesday 18 September 2013, Darling Quarter Theatre)

The job for city government is to build strong, resilient cities, places that are both robust and engaging, that welcome a variety of people and provide a range of functions, and of course, places that support a strong economy.

We consulted widely with residents, workers, business owners and visitors to develop our vision for Sydney and developed a fully-funded program of projects aimed to improve amenity, strengthen identity and support local businesses in both the City centre and the City villages.

We also have argued for legislative changes which have allowed a new urban culture to emerge.

The most obvious example of that is in the small bars legislation which has transformed the night-life options for residents and visitors, both in the central city and the villages. Dozens of young entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to open their own business, while their customers are enjoying the experience of a more civilised drinking culture.

But young entrepreneurs are expanding in other areas, too - especially start-ups and creative businesses which are an increasingly significant sector of the City economy. We actively encourage this sector - both through our informative seminar series designed to help them get started and through the provision of affordable accommodation in City owned properties at Oxford and William Streets.

They activate these areas and offer a tremendous boost to the local economies.

At Oxford Street, we have 18 creative-industry tenants, with four exhibition or retail spaces at ground level. The spaces are working so well - bringing in an average of about 7,000 visitors each quarter and upwards of half a million dollars spent on local goods and services in the first 12 months - that we're extending the tenancies through to the end of next year.

Altogether, more than 160 creatives are working from those spaces at any given time; more than 700 artists have exhibited there in the first year, and tenants have collaborated or linked with more than 300 others in the local area.

It's exciting for us to see other projects we've long argued for finally coming into reality - notably George Street light-rail and the cycling network. Finally, the State Government has recognised the value of these projects to global Sydney and our years of making the case for them will pay off.

We have allocated $220 million to place-making works that will transform George Street from a traffic funnel to a place for people. It will feature wider paths, new pedestrian spaces and street furniture, more trees, public art and revitalised laneways. Angel Place is an outstanding example of what our laneways program has already achieved where a once-dingy space is now a vibrant area with a fabulous art work.

I'm proud to say that design excellence is a hallmark of our work - whether it's in public art or the design of public buildings like the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre at Ultimo or the Surry Hills library on Crown Street, or in our public parks like Pirrama Park at Pyrmont, or Prince Alfred Park behind Central Station.

Our much criticised cycle paths have finally won government endorsement and we will now proceed to complete the network, giving thousands of City residents and commuters a safe, healthy and cheap alternative way of getting about.

We are working with residential communities to improve local amenity in the City villages, making streets that are liveable and walkable, with parks, fresh food and child-care within easy reach.

The results are visible - most dramatically in a place like Redfern, once almost a no-go area and now one of the "hottest" places in town. Removing overhead wires, widening, paving and planting the main street and encouraging shop-owners to remove their roller-shutters has brought an astonishing transformation. New cafes, small bars and quirky shops have arrived in force.

The derelict Redfern Park and Oval have undergone a multi-award winning restoration, and a once unwelcoming and unsafe space is now the heart of the Redfern community.

Redfern and Surry Hills residents and workers also have Prince Alfred Park with its revitalised pool and tennis and basketball courts, lit for night-time sports, its grand avenues of trees and native grasses planted along Cleveland Street.

At Glebe, our transformation of Glebe Point Road now culminates in a fabulous foreshore park, as does Harris Street in Pirrama Park. These are places for the whole community to enjoy, for active and passive recreation, with fabulous artworks and off-leash areas for people to walk their pets.

This infrastructure will serve the present and future residents and workers of Sydney for generations, and it makes the City a more lively and attractive place, and builds its global reputation as one of the world's most liveable cities.