Kings Cross Late Trading Workshop

(6pm 5 June 2012, Rex Centre Kings Cross)

Hello, everyone, welcome to our workshop. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our city.

I'd also like to welcome:

  • Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas, NSW Police
  • Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch, NSW Police
  • Tim Reardon, Deputy Director General, Policy and Regulation, Transport for NSW
  • Susan Budd, Acting Executive Director, Corporate Governance and Policy, Dept of Planning & Infrastructure, and
  • David Birds, Manager, Urban Planning Policy, Dept of Planning & Infrastructure.

Also here with us tonight are representatives from other agencies that share a stake in Kings Cross" future, including NSW Taxi Council, Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing, UTS Design Out Crime, NSW Police, Department for Attorney General and Justice and Potts Point Partnership and Kings Cross Liquor Accord.

Kings Cross has a significant concentration of liquor, dining, retail, adult entertainment and sex-industry premises sitting alongside the highest-density resident population in Australia.

People are attracted to the area because of its diversity and its tolerant and inclusive character. But the Cross also provides a number of challenges. Most seriously, this area continues to experience disproportionate and excessive alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour, exacerbated by the heavy concentration of licensed venues.

Solutions to these challenges include managing pedestrian numbers, improving transport, introducing more diverse activities, curbing alcohol-related crime and disorder, improving safety for residents and businesses, and achieving a balance between residents and businesses.

Before we start this workshop which is about residents, business, State Government agencies and Council working together to find solutions, I want to give some context of past action that has attempted to address these problems. I think this context is especially important for people who are new to the area.

As State MP I have sought changes to the Liquor Act and raised concerns about the residential impacts of every change Governments have made to the Liquor Act. This includes:

  • In 1999, I opposed the extension of trading hours for the Olympics and Paralympics and during the debate in Parliament called for a review of 24 hour trading;
  • In 2005, I called for greater community input into liquor license applications and made a submission to review of the Liquor Act asking for powers to limit liquor licences in certain areas that are experiencing saturation;
  • Since 2007, I have repeatedly called for the Liquor Act to include cumulative impacts and identify saturation zones where no more liquor licenses would be allowed;
  • Also since 2007, I repeatedly called for a late night permit system so that operators need to reapply for the privilege to serve alcohol late at night, with poor operators able to lose that right;
  • In 2007, I introduced a small bars bill which led to the Government opening up liquor licenses to allow smaller operators which would increase diversity and choice and provide alternatives to large beer barns; and
  • In 2010, I requested improvements to the way neighbourhood complaints about noise and anti-social behaviour are dealt with under the Liquor Act to get better outcomes for residents making complaints.

I have consistently advocated for other action to address community concerns about the impact of alcohol and licensed premises, including:

  • In Parliament in 2007 requesting the Government introduce a Street Safe Taskforce to patrol and enforce licensing conditions;
  • In 2009, successfully advocating for the then Government to impose a freeze on new liquor licences while long term solutions were developed and implemented - and subsequently securing extensions of the freeze to June this year - and I am now seeking a further extension because those long term solutions are still not finalised;
  • Associated with this freeze, I advocated for research into anti-social behaviour in late night hot spots which is now underway;
  • Also In 2009 I asked for action to prevent alcohol violence, supporting an alcohol linking project targeting problem venues, and implementing safer bars education for operators;
  • In 2010, I requested the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing to improve online information about liquor licences so residents can see what is approved.

In order to address the serious crime problems during the hung parliament between 1991 and 1995, I supported the Royal Commission into the NSW Police. The resulting Wood Royal Commission focused on Kings Cross and revealed extensive corruption and serious misuse of police powers, resulting in major systemic change.

In 2001, I successfully led a community campaign opposing the planned amalgamation of inner city police stations, which would have severely impacted on Kings Cross.

I have supported local Police stations and foot patrols, which now include bicycle patrols, and have repeatedly asked successive Ministers and Police Commissioners for additional police for inner city where late night problems occur. In 2010, I sought a review of the formula for police staffing allocation so that resource allocation takes into account that there is the equivalent of a major event every weekend in Kings Cross.

In 2005 and again this year I called for action on stolen firearms, and I have pressed the government for action to deal with glassings and other alcohol-related crime and last year I asked the Police Minister to address gang violence in Kings Cross.

The City has provided and is now expanding CCTV in Kings Cross to support Police.

Noise caused by vehicles late at night is another serious problem. In 2008, I spoke in Parliament about the need for a revamp of the current system of noise control, which is caught in a web of confusion involving multiple agencies and all levels of Government.

Some national changes requiring quieter vehicles were made several years ago but were not backdated. Some of noisy vehicle behaviour is not illegal, but is a nuisance such as a large number of motor bikes passing through Kings Cross at the same time. The rules for motorbikes allow more noise and I have asked for this to be tightened.

Since 2008, I succeeded in securing some regulation of party buses to prevent anti-social behaviour, noise and intoxication in residential areas.

I have repeatedly asked NSW Government to enforce noisy vehicle regulations, with numerous letters, questions and speeches in Parliament. I have also called for:

  • Additional EPA officers to enforce noisy vehicles, higher penalties for modified vehicles and repeat offenders;
  • Onsite EPA enforcement in Kings Cross at problem times; and
  • Kings Cross Police Commander to continue regular traffic operations targeting noisy vehicles.

The City has taken action to address this within Council powers, including:

  • Closing Cowper Wharf Road during problem times, turning back visitors;
  • Installing new speed humps and pedestrian crossings in Bayswater Road and Macleay Street;
  • Installing no right turn from Bayswater into Darlinghurst Road late at night and no left turn from Macleay into Greenknowe Avenue late at night;
  • Moving and changing taxi ranks and getting security officers late at night to manage taxi queues; and
  • Training City Rangers for noisy vehicle reporting.

I have asked Council officers to review traffic measures to see what else can be done without preventing access for residents and businesses, and without displacing the problem further from the main streets.

The critical need is improved public transport to enable people to leave the area at the end of their night out, rather than creating more disturbances.

In Parliament my question to then Transport Minister resulted in the Nite Ride bus being introduced in Kings Cross in 2006. Subsequent lobbying has had the service expanded.

I have repeatedly called for other late night transport to get people home to the eastern suburbs and the city to link into NightRide buses. This includes improvements to the 311 bus service, requesting Kings Cross trains run all night on weekends, asking for Kings Cross Railway Station to be better maintained and updated, and allowing private operators to provide late night transport.

Just last month my Question Without Notice to the Minister for Transport requested that trains continue to run beyond 1.15am Friday and Saturday nights and if legislative barriers could be removed to enable private transport operators to increase services.

Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank NSW Police for the hard work they do every day in Kings Cross.

I especially want to congratulate police on their efforts to deal with issues associated with outlaw motorcycle gangs and alcohol-related violence, and the amenity problems such as noise from vehicles venues and thousands of people in the street late at night on weekends.

I would also like to acknowledge the other agencies who have come to this workshop:

  • The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing;
  • Transport for NSW;
  • The Taxi Council;
  • The Department of Attorney-General and Justice;
  • The Department of Planning and Infrastructure;
  • Potts Point Partnership;
  • Kings Cross Liquor Accord;
  • UTS Design Out Crime Research Centre; and,
  • Of course, our own City departments including people from our Economic Development Unit, Waste and Cleansing, Security and CCTV, from Planning, Late Night Compliance, Late Night Economy and Safe City of Sydney.

The presence of so many agencies here tonight demonstrates the complexity of these concerns and their commitment to making lasting improvements in Kings Cross for residents and businesses.

I also want to thank all the residents and businesses who've worked with the City, who took part in the OPEN Sydney consultation last year and earlier this year in our 2030 In Your Village consultation.

We've listened to what you've said, and in tonight's workshop, we want to present the issues as we've heard them from you, and begin work on solutions to some of the key concerns you raised.

The fact that so many of you are here this evening shows the passion that people feel for your area.

This workshop gives us the chance to move from talking about the problems to identifying and taking action on the solutions.

We want to work with you - residents and businesses - and with the other agencies represented this evening to improve Kings Cross right now, and to make lasting changes for the future.

The city is committed to developing a specialised, integrated plan to address the day to day management of Kings Cross as a late trading area as well as delivering longer term solutions to more complex night-time economy issues. This workshop is part of that work.

So now, I'll hand over to Jo Kelly, tonight's facilitator, and we can get moving. Thank you all for coming.