News

Council Amalgamation Process Unfair

The NSW Government has now appointed the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review Council proposals on "Fit for the Future".The Government is seeking to overhaul local councils, but it is changing the rules less than two months before the deadline for us to submit a proposal.Councils must now demonstrate to IPART that their proposal is "superior" to the amalgamation recommended in the 2013 Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) report - a different task to that which councils have spent months preparing.The new process is not transparent, accountable or equitable because communities will not know how their local councils have been assessed and will have no right of reply.IPART is the body that determines the maximum prices of water, electricity and transport services, as well as council rates. It does not have the expertise to judge the performance of local governments.IPART intends to assess submissions from 152 councils within three months, a short and unrealistic timeframe given the issues involved. IPART may also choose to include a minimum geographic or population size which will lead to an arbitrary 'one size fits all' approach.The current City of Sydney was created through a forced amalgamation in 2004 and our experience confirms that amalgamations are highly disruptive. Any forced amalgamation presents a serious risk to our capacity to deliver major projects and development currently in the pipeline.By any reasonable measure the City of Sydney is "Fit for the Future", and our submission to IPART and the NSW Government will confirm this.Read the City's submission to IPART in full by clicking here.

Sydney Writers' Festival

Sydney Writers' Festival officially kicks off tonight with an opening address by author Mohsin Hamid titled, "Life in the Time of Permawar". SWF may be held over just one week, but this annual festival gives us food for thought and matters to debate for months to come.This year's festival features some of our most revered writers from around Australia and from overseas speaking on aspects of life and literature.There is a program of talks on "curiosity", a program for children and young people and discussions on subjects such as the changing nature of publishing and how it affects what and how we read.Last year we launched our Creative City policy and action plan, aimed at strengthening and enriching a uniquely "Sydney" culture. Sydney Writers Festival embodies many of the qualities we seek for our Creative City. In the excitement it creates, in the quality of its offerings and in its inclusive and accessible atmosphere.That's why we are proud to be a long-term supporter of the festival. The City is flying Festival banners in Pitt Street Mall and has erected a giant billboard quoting Matt Haigh's wonderful words from "Reasons to Stay Alive". It's a great collaboration between the City, developers and the Festival and it's getting people talking.I hope you'll head out to Walsh Bay, or one of the other festival venues around town - including Sydney Town Hall, City Recital Hall and our libraries - to delve into the happiness, surprise, grief and humour that great writing offers.Click here for the full program: http://www.swf.org.au/

Reopening St James Park

On the weekend I opened the upgraded St James Park in Glebe. St James Park is the latest example of the City's work to build high-quality community spaces and attractive places to relax. At the reopening, 16 May. The $2.1 million revamp came after a full public consultation process which included several public meetings and your feedback through a dedicated website. Later this year, work will also begin on the adjoining John Street Reserve which will include new plantings and a habitat for blue wrens.A beautiful new timber and brick pavilion overlooks the resurfaced tennis courts and a new adventure playground for children. The 3,600 square metre space now has larger and healthier grass areas and pathways.A hundred years ago, a homestead called Inverness stood on the site. In acknowledgement of that history, the new plantings are faithful to the original gardens of Inverness.Other features include etching of drawings made by local children in the tree-house deck, a sandpit for toddlers that has been built with sandstone from the old Pyrmont Bridge, a timber balancing boardwalk and an informal stage.Well-designed parks and open spaces are vital for people with small backyards or none at all. St James is just the latest in a city-wide drive to upgrade our parks, large and small, to maximise green space and the pleasure and health benefits that people get from it. 

Public Benefit for Barangaroo

This week there has been much discussion of the City's concerns about modifications to the Barangaroo development.The State Government has placed proposed changes, "Modification 8", on public exhibition and invited public comment. The plans aren't a 'modification' to the original design but rather a massive rewriting of the plans for this public land.Modification 8 proposes to cut back public open space along our harbour foreshore to make way for a bigger casino. If accepted, the changes would prioritise gambling, a high-roller hotel and luxury apartments over a park on the harbour that would be free for everyone to enjoy. There is no social or economic justification that a gaming facility, high roller hotel and luxury apartments are preferred land uses to public foreshore parkland.Building heights have soared from 170 to 275m and floorspace has increased from 399,800sqm to 605,911sqm. Despite these vast changes, there is no new community benefit. The plans propose a 54% increase in residential floorspace; an 18% increase in retail floorspace; a 79% in hospitality floorspace; and no new community floorspace.There have also been changes the location of parkland, a reduction in the depth of the Southern Cove and increased car parking.Far from trying to derail the development, the City of Sydney is spending more than $30 million to connect Barangaroo and the CBD. We want the area to be a success that all of Sydney can be proud of.That's why I am calling for these sweeping changes to be given proper scrutiny and independent assessment to make sure they are right for our city. The modification should be measured against the original Concept Plan approval and not the many incremental modifications.The development must maximise public benefit, not private profit. To that end, the City would like to see the casino moved back from the prime public harbourside land and in among the commercial development. And the building heights should be lowered to avoid overshadowing the Harbour and blocking the view of the Observatory.We also need to leverage the development to include more affordable housing. If Barangaroo and the rest of the city are going to work properly we need to make sure that we have a mix of residents, not just the super-wealthy who can afford to buy a luxury apartment in Crown's proposed development.In London, almost 30 per cent of all new residential development is affordable or social housing. At Barangaroo, that figure only needs to be "up to 2.3 per cent". That City believes that figure is too low and anyone who genuinely cares about the future of Sydney would agree.An entirely new application should be submitted with new community consultation.The new submission should be externally and independently assessed and determined by the Planning Assessment Commission - the state government already has a private agreement with Crown for the development so it cannot be objective

Government refusing to rule out forced amalgamations

During debate in state Parliament today, Alex Greenwich proposed a motion calling on the Government to rule out forcing local councils to amalgamate.Despite unanimous opposition from the Greens, Labor and the independents, the Baird Government rejected the motion. The State Government has clearly opened the door to the possibility of forced amalgamations.The State Government has given local councils until the end of June to respond to proposals to amalgamate and create 'mega-councils'. The City will make a submission that demonstrates it is already, "Fit for the Future". That's the Government's way of saying financially sustainable, efficient and able to provide effective services and infrastructure now and into the future.A majority of local residents and businesses in the City of Sydney are strongly opposed to local government amalgamations, particularly if they are forced.The Government's preferred outcome - a mega-council the size of Tasmania, made up of the City, Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra and Botany - would be a shockingly wasteful and disruptive exercise. The City has a 10-year, $1.95 billion plan to invest in new infrastructure. This includes $220 million for light rail and $440 for Green Square. This work would be put at risk by an amalgamation.During the recent election, Premier Mike Baird refused to say that he wanted to change the Government's longstanding policy of no forced amalgamations.Now re-elected, he has no mandate to change the policy. With public opinion clearly opposed to forced amalgamations, changing it would be a significant breach of trust with the NSW community.Alex's motion sought to protect Sydney and other financially stable local councils that have community support for standing alone. It is disappointing the Government rejected that opportunity and took a step closer to breaching our trust.

Innovation is the future of Sydney's economy

Our economy continues to go through big changes. One thing is clear: Australia's future lies in innovation, not digging up and exporting minerals.This week I visited Fishburners in Ultimo. Since my last visit the incubator space for tech start-ups has gone from strength the strength. There are now more nearly 200 members in the four-level Harris Street space working on 124 companies.Whether it's GoFar's new technology to improve the efficiency of cars on our roads or Mad Paws' plan to help people find someone to mind their pet, the ideas being worked on at Fishburners and other start-up hubs in Sydney have enormous potential.Over 64 per cent of Australia's tech start-up companies and almost 15 per cent of Australian workers employed in the ICT sector are located in the City of Sydney.The digital businesses are clustered chiefly around the fringe of the city centre in areas like Ultimo-Pyrmont, Surry Hills, Redfern and Chippendale. In Ultimo-Pyrmont alone, employment in ICT businesses more than doubled in the five years to 2012.Sydney's future economic growth and prosperity will depend on how well we support and promote this high-potential and highly innovative sector.I'm proud to be an Honorary Member at Fishburners, and I will continue to work with the innovators and entrepreneurs who are building Sydney's reputation as a centre for start-ups.

A New Farm for the City

At Council's Environment Committee meeting yesterday, we unanimously approved the City's plan to build a community farm at Sydney Park. We will now start work on the farm's produce areas, orchard, composting and waste management facilities.Many of our inner-city dwellers don't have a backyard to call their own and this open space will allow visitors to grow fruit and vegetables, volunteer to help others, take part in farmers' markets and, with hands-on lessons, help children learn where food comes from.There will also be a kitchen for preparing and cooking the fresh, tasty produce grown and picked on site.The City has been working closely with the community to develop the look and feel of the farm. When we ran a trial in Sydney Park in 2013 thousands of people took part. It was the same in March this year when over 200 people turned up at a City Farm open day. And we have 650 volunteers signed up to get involved in the next stage of the project. City Farm community consultation day in March. This support is widespread - the farm is endorsed by every City of Sydney Councillor, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and the University of Sydney's faculty of agriculture and environment.We join the ranks of cities across the world including Melbourne, London and New York which have set up small farms in urban neighbourhoods because of the enjoyment and huge educational benefits they bring.The farm will include: A weekly farmers' market; Up to 300 training and educational workshops a year; 100 fruit trees and crops producing over three tonnes fresh fruit and vegetables a year; and Animal husbandry programs with chickens, native bees and visiting farm animals. Creating a farm in the heart of Sydney will provide a hands-on experience for visitors, businesses and local school children to learn all about food production and sustainable living in an urban environment.The farm will be located in the south-west corner of Sydney Park, which receives plenty of sun, shelter, good drainage and access to the wetlands stormwater harvesting network.Click here for more information: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/participation/city-farm

Tele gets it wrong on cycleways

Construction of light rail will be the biggest change to the Sydney CBD for decades. It is an enormous, complex job and everyone involved will have to work together to keep Sydney moving.An article in today's Daily Telegraph 'Sydney's Cycle of Carnage' gives a misleading picture of what will be happening in our CBD.It shows light rail routes that don't exist. It includes cycleway projects like Bourke Street that have been finished for years. And it shows other projects in places like Redfern, Chippendale and Green Square that have no impact on the CBD.It is the NSW Government, not the City, which is designing and building the new links to connect the CBD bike network. The Government is coordinating the construction on Castlereagh, Park and Liverpool Streets around their plans for light rail. The City has done everything possible to speed up the process and minimise disruption.The Government is building these cycleways to help reach their goal of doubling cycling trips by 2016. We strongly support this goal, which is why we are funding the work.Business groups, transport planners, health experts and thousands of people who ride to work each day want a network of safe, separated cycleways through the CBD as soon as possible. That would help reduce disruption and congestion once work on George Street begins.Sydney needs to be a city that functions for people - whether they use public transport, walk, drive or ride. A network of safe, separated cycleways is a vital part of making this a reality.

Sydney Film Festival 2015

This morning I was delighted to speak at the launch the 2015 Sydney Film Festival. In all its richness and diversity, Sydney Film Festival reflects our city and our world - and the City is a proud supporter of it.For more than 60 years, from its amateur beginnings at the University of Sydney, the Festival has brought the world to our city, opening us to other cultures, different ways of life, different ideas while also casting a revealing eye at our own. With Festival Director Nashen Moodley at the Festival launch. This year's Festival of more than 200 films more than lives up to its predecessors. Among the highlights: the Australian-Irish thriller, Strangerland, with Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving; the retrospective of 10 Ingmar Bergman films, curated by David Stratton; and an expanded program for families that includes the Oscar-nominated animated feature, Song of the Sea, and a charming offering from India, The Crow's Egg.Other films will be shown in venues across the city, from the State Theatre to Dendy Opera Quays, Events Cinemas, the Art Gallery of NSW, Dendy Newtown and the Cremorne Orpheum. The TV big screen will also show spectacular light installations in the Martin Place Amphitheatre during VIVID Sydney.The City and the Festival will also jointly present The Bluffers' Guide to Cinema, as part of our Library Talks program.Sydney and NSW are Australia's film and television capital, home to the Australian Film & Television School, to state-of-the-art studio facilities and to a host of talented film makers and actors. In 2010, Sydney was nominated as the second UNESCO City of Film. The nomination noted that the strength of Sydney's film industry "lies in its openness towards cinema of all cultures" - and there is no better exemplar of that than the Sydney Film Festival itself.To see the full program and buy tickets, go to the SFF website: http://www.sff.org.au/

The facts about WestConnex

This morning I received a letter from the federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Jamie Briggs, encouraging me to support the NSW Government's WestConnex project.The letter was reported on today by the Daily Telegraph. Sadly neither is able to support their arguments with evidence.The NSW Government is yet to release a business case, traffic modelling, or Environmental Impact Statements for the $15 billion project. If WestConnex is as good as its supporters claim, then the State Government should release the research with shows how this multi-billion dollar project will reduce congestion and commuting times.The documents that do exist are clearly inadequate and out of date.The WestConnex Business Case Executive Summary was prepared in 2013; since then there have been significant changes to the project alignment and its cost has risen by $4 billion. This document also predates significant changes in Government policy, in particular the decision to build a 24 hour international airport at Badgerys Creek. No update has been released.Independent bodies have also raised concerns.Infrastructure Australia's six-page assessment of WestConnex identifies deficiencies in both the modelling and costing methodologies used by the NSW Government.The NSW Auditor General's report found a number of shortcomings with the governance of the WestConnex project and the processes applied to WestConnex to provide independent assurance to Government did not meet best practice standards.There have been plenty of misleading claims about WestConnex. Here are the facts:Claim #1. WestConnex will lead to the revitalisation of Parramatta RoadThe independent research commissioned by the City of Sydney from SGS contradicts the claims in the Minster Brigg's letter and the Daily Telegraph's article. Far from freeing up Parramatta Road, congestion will increase by over 20 per cent when tolls are reintroduced on the M4. The environmental assessment of the widening of the M4 prepared for the WestConnex Delivery Authority in late 2014 came to a similar conclusion. That is a disaster for Sydney, particularly western Sydney.Claim #2. WestConnex will improve work commute times for Western Sydney residentsWestConnex will divert funding from public transport which is used by most Western Sydney residents who travel to the east for work. WestConnex is also inconsistent with the Government's own Metropolitan Strategy which plans for a decentralised city which creates jobs and transport links in Sydney's west.Claim #3. Without WestConnex NSW will be denied $20 billion in economic benefits and 10,000 construction jobsQuite clearly this level of Government investment could be redirected to achieve similar - or greater - levels of economic return. Diverting WestConnex funding to public transport, rail freight improvements and the development of Badgerys Creek airport would also bring jobs and support Sydney's long term economic future.The public deserves a detailed explanation about why this massive project is needed and how the costs can be justified. With the only publicly-available information warning that WestConnex will be ineffective and waste money that could be spent on real transport solutions, it is no wonder that opposition to it is growing. 

Another greedy attack on Moore Park

The latest revelation of plans to develop a new stadium in public parkland at Moore Park is nothing more than a greedy land grab. UPDATE 08/05/2015: Earlier this week plans to build a third stadium at Moore Park were published in the Daily Telegraph.Thanks to a swift reaction from the local community, the Centennial and Moore Park Trust, local MPs and others, the greedy and underhanded attempt to take over public parkland looks set to fail. The $900 million-proposal to demolish and rebuild Allianz Stadium and build an additional stadium at the corner of Anzac Parade and Moore Park Road would destroy parkland and rob the local community of the essential sports playing fields they need to remain healthy and active.At a time when parkland is more important than ever, this land grab would lock the community out of public open space.Demand for parks and sporting facilities is growing as our population swells. By 2031 there could be enough demand for 28 additional sporting fields in our area to keep the community active.What we desperately need is more space to play sport, not more places to watch sport.By 2030, Green Square, which sits on the edge of Moore Park, will be home to 54,000 residents.The overwhelming majority of them will be living in apartments and they will need to use Moore Park's open space and sports facilities.Moore Park is managed by the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, whose role is to protect and maintain public open space. In contrast, the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust's role is to promote commercial sporting events.This is nothing more than another greedy land grab by the SCG Trust. Along with the $38 million-bridge over Anzac Parade, it reeks of 'empire building'.There is a long history of the SCG Trust attempting to seize more park land. In 2006 part of Moore Park was rezoned by the Government after the SCG Trust decided it wanted to use the public land for commercial purposes.Five years ago it was revealed the Government was considering transferring additional control of Moore Park to the SCG. Only a strong community campaign stopped Moore Park being used as a car park and promoted light rail as an alternative way for match-day crowds to get to the stadia.The State Government has already made it clear that the focus should be on new stadia and sporting facilities for Western Sydney.The Government's Metropolitan Strategy, released less than six months ago, clearly says the top priority for new sporting stadia should be Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park and outer Western Sydney.I urge the Government to think about the needs of the people of Sydney, not the private and corporate interests who want to take over Moore Park.

Top Five Feet Launch

(6pm, Paddington Reservoir Gardens)Thank you, Stephen, and good evening everyone. Welcome to the wonderful Paddington Reservoir Gardens and the launch of Top5Feet.To call Dale only an "artist" is of course to underplay his achievements in design, architecture, furniture making, publishing - it's a long list which includes twice representing Australia at the Venice Biennale.The Axolotl team are also wide-ranging and innovative in their work, pioneering processes for applying creative surfaces to metal, concrete, glass and timber, using 100 per cent recycled materials.Like Dale, they have won many awards, and have worked with some of Australia's leading artists in creating sculptures and public art.And so they are a great team to create the City's first Art & About Sydney project produced outside our traditional festival.Art & About has a long history of bringing art works from all disciplines into places where they might least be expected, giving locals and visitors alike a new way of seeing and experiencing the city, and a new sense of the dimensions art can take.It brings such energy and delight to the city that we have decided to expand it beyond the usual festival dates, and with the advice of our Advisory Panels, Top 5 Feet has become the first in a series of works that will be unveiled.It refers to the history of this reservoir - or once reservoir! Its limited elevation here in Paddington meant that when it was in operation, only the top five feet of water could be pumped out to service the houses. When it was completed in 1866, it held two million gallons.After it was decommissioned in 1899, the Water Board used it for storage before selling it to Paddington Council who leased it as a service station.When the roof suffered a second collapse in 1993, however, a new use had to be found. When my Independent Team was elected in 2004, we were determined to restore the heritage-listed reservoir as public space, and we worked with architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, it has now become the fantastic, multi-award winning park, gardens and cultural facility.It preserves a slice of Sydney history in a unique and intriguing way, providing park space for people to sit in and a magnificent relic to explore. Dale's artwork adds a new layer to the experience of this space.Dale's concept, worked through with Axolotl, involves layers of formed glass with encased LEG lights. When the glass is backlit, the light refracts through the panels and creates a sense of unmeasurable depth, of all the water that lay beyond that first five feet.It's a beautiful concept, and a lovely image which I hope will attract even more people to this very special place.Once again, I thank everyone involved in the expansion of Art & About, and in the creation and presentation of this significant work.I'm very proud to formally launch it here this evening.

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