Late on Thursday night, the Minister for Planning recklessly ordered the City to halt community consultation about our plan to strengthen planning controls for licensed venues with a record of violence and poor management. To do this he changed the law, giving him the power to block consultation.
He has directed the City to revoke the recent improvements to our Late Night Trading Development Control Plan by 3 March, one day before the government switches into caretaker mode. If Council does not comply, the Minister can act himself, under the sudden changes he made to the Environment and Planning Assessment Regulation.
Our improvements were small and simple and included allowing police research and data to be used when deciding whether or not to approve extended trading hours. They were strongly supported by the Police Association, Nurses Association and the Australian Medical Association.
This latest action proves the Government's continuing contempt for the people of Sydney and the amenity of inner city residents who live near late night venues. The Minister is only listening to those involved in the liquor industry and is turning a blind eye to violent and antisocial behaviour.
Allowing irresponsible venues which breed anti-social behaviour is the opposite of what you would expect to see in a global city.
We deserve more than a violent, alcohol-fuelled late night culture. We should have a diverse range of night time options and not just beer barns that serve alcohol and provide gambling, offering little else.
Sydney should be a city where you can shop, see an art exhibition, browse in a bookstore, pop into a bar to listen to live music and round it off with supper and a late night movie or show.
Late night culture in Sydney is slowly changing and our reputation is growing as a city with quirky small bars, contemporary dining and vibrant culture. Since I introduced legislation which led to new licensing laws to encourage small bars, more than 35 have opened in the City, with many more in wider Sydney. I have recently given interviews about Sydney's changing night life to the New York's Financial Times and the cult magazine Monocole.
On Monday evening Council supported my call to accelerate work on a coordinated approach to the City's Late Night Economy. We aim to attract a wider range of people into the city centre, not just people who want to drink excessively and provoke violence. Our new approach will cover everything from better transport options and late night shopping and cultural activities, to safer streets, pubs and clubs.
People need to have choices when they head out at night. Having more options - that do not involve alcohol - will create a safer and more balanced late night economy.
Recently, I joined many others at the Art Gallery of NSW which opened until midnight for Chinese New Year celebrations and showed just how successful night trading can be. This summer, the Australian Museum is opening its doors every Tuesday evening for after-hour sessions featuring art, live music, drinks and dancing.
We're also continuing to improve safety for people out late at night with initiatives including hiring late night "Precinct Ambassadors" on George Street, trialling new signs to help people find transport and public toilets and improving the Bayswater Road secure taxi rank in Kings Cross.
We'll continue to work with the Government, venue operators, police, residents, and patrons to balance vibrant night life with residential amenity and safety.
I encourage you to write to the Minister for Planning to tell him what you think about his move to block community consultation on violent and antisocial behaviour on our city streets.
- Contact the Minister for Planning by sending an email ATTN: MINISTER FOR PLANNING TONY KELLY to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling his office on (02) 9228 3999.
- City action on the late night economy: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Business/CityEconomy/LateNightTrading.asp