Paddington, Woollahra & Edgecliff Community Meeting

(7pm 22 September 2011, St George's Church Hall Five Ways, Paddington)

Hello and welcome. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and thank you all for coming to our meeting tonight.

I welcome especially:

  • Paddington Ward Councillor Peter Cavanagh representing the new Mayor Susan Wynne;
  • Superintendent James Joyce, Rose Bay Police Commander; and
  • John Mant of the Paddington Society.

I also acknowledge Paddington Ward Clr Susan Jarnason. Clr Greg Medcraft sends his apologies.

Before inviting the other speakers, I will give a brief report on my work in Parliament and local issues that I've been working on.

The new Parliament has a very different make-up. NSW lost an independent speaker, but gained the first female speaker. The Coalition holds a huge majority 69 of 93-seat lower House. There are three independents, one Green and 20 Labor.

I have spoken in the House 37 times in the current Parliament on:

  • loss of marine park protections;
  • new police powers to deal with drunken violence;
  • the creation of new infrastructure and transport planning bodies;
  • matters important to constituents such as refunds for beverage containers for recycling;
  • dental health;
  • youth services;
  • climate change; and
  • animal welfare.

I am working on a number of Private Members Bills - one to manage backpacker vehicles on Victoria Street, a bill to improve protections for strata residents and owners, and a bill to protect boarding house residents.

Planning Review
The new Government has started a review of the entire planning system, following a decade of changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act that removed heritage and environment protections and your say in shaping neighbourhood, and allowed decisions by unelected people who don't live locally. Part 3A gave extraordinary Ministerial discretion to override councils, fast track development, and make decisions behind closed doors.

I opposed these changes every step of the way.

The new Government has repealed Part 3A, and returned some development to Councils. The Minister keeps contorl over major development (mines, hospitals, urban renewal sites) and State significant infrastructure (roads, rail, pipelines). Call in powers are retained for some State significant development.

The assessment had begun on proposal for 82 independent living units and 100 aged care beds on Scottish Hospital site before the changes to planning laws, so this site remains with Planning NSW. The project remains "under assessment". I know the community has concerns about overdevelopment, loss of non-heritage trees and vegetation, loss of views, design, and traffic impacts.

White City
I continue to support the ongoing campaign to preserve White City as open space with public access. Under the new planning laws, the DA for the site will go to Council. Staff from my Electorate Office recently met with representatives of Hakoah, the not-for-profit club that plans to build and run a new recreation facility. They said that any DA would comply with the DCP, and they want to have a club that services the community as well as their members. I understand unfortunately Hakoah's partners have pulled out, so the proposal is currently unfunded.

Ausgrid (the former EnergyAustralia) is replacing electricity cables under Oxford Street Paddington to meet rising demand for electricty and update old cables. This is causing major disruptions to parking and traffic, and impacting on businesses. In response to my letter and questions in parliament and a community campaign, the Minister says work will cease over the busy peak summer period when businesses rely on sales to maintain viability for the rest of the year.

The work involves installation of ugly pillars and kiosks which create clutter and reduce pedestrian space. A large one has recently been placed on the corner of Ormond and Oxford streets. The cables haven't been replaced for over 50 years and Ausgrid is doing similar works along Lang Road between Cook Road and Mitchell Street.

State legislation allows utilities to override councils, residents and businesses; however we have been able to negotiate to move some of these facilities to better sites and add landscaping where it is possible.

Also on Oxford Street is the clearway, which lasts between 3pm and 7pm. Clearways encourage fast moving traffic, make crossing the road difficult for pedestrians and remove limited parking. This makes it difficult for the retail precinct to compete with major shopping centres. I lobbied previous Government and Ministers, and am again doing so with this Government. I will lodge another petition calling for removal of clearway and imposition of a 40kph speed limit. I submitted a Question in Parliament about reducing the hours the clearway applies.

Three Saints
Three years ago the intersection of Oxford Street, South Dowling Street, Victoria Street and Barcom Avenue was renamed Three Saints Square by businesses and residents. Businesses and residents worked on a proposal and this year the City of Sydney installed public art, seats, and greenery which links to Barcom Avenue Park down the hill. The work has made a very busy traffic-dominated area more attractive and less hostile.

The College of Fine Arts (COFA) campus is doing substantial redevelopment work - including a new entry foyer and café on the northern side of the building, facing Napier Street. There will be a new café and gallery adding to the growing cultural precinct which also includes the National Art School, Object Gallery, and Tabernacle Theatre. The City will use this opportunity to create a public space and the City is seeking community comment on a concept plan for the eastern end of Napier Street, between Rosebud Lane and the intersection of Greens Road and Oxford Street.

Centennial Parklands
I recently met with the new Director of the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust about the Trust's proposal for an off-road bike lane along Oxford Street adjacent to Centennial Park to link Bondi Junction and Paddington. Many cyclists using Oxford Street feel threatened from fast moving traffic and the proposal would provide separated lanes from traffic while upgrading the parklands area along Oxford Street, which is also needed for pedestrians. The proposal needs approval and funding from a number of bodies. I have given in-principle support and the City of Sydney will help with technical development.

Cascade Street/Glenmore Road/Hampden Street
There is a long history to the Cascade Street/ Glenmore Road/ Hampden Street intersection. I have worked over many years with Council and residents to keep regional through-traffic out of residential Paddington.

The previous roundabout at the intersection of Cascade Street, Glenmore Road and Hamden Street was removed to prevent rat-running from the Cross City Tunnel. I understand that some residents are concerned about safety and have asked for the roundabout to be reinstated. The Woollahra Traffic Committee has repeatedly declined to support the roundabout being reinstated, however I understand that Council is reconsidering options.I have supported the proposals for a pedestrian crossing on the Hampden Street leg of the intersection, and a speed hump on the southern side of the intersection in Cascade Street that would make drivers stop properly.

Police say that there have been very few reported traffic accidents with the current stop sign arrangements. Roundabouts encourage traffic and are safety risks for pedestrians and cyclists.

New Housing
All councils have State Government imposed targets for new housing. Last year Woollahra Council identified 24 "Opportunity Sites" within the local government area that could provide additional housing. Many were proposed in the already densely populated western edge of the local government area. My submission aimed to get the best outcome from any increase to density, recommending ground floor activation, pedestrian access through larger sites, setbacks for human scale, and requiring green landscaping.

In July NSW Planning and Infrastructure gave Woollahra Council an extended time to consider these sites, and I understand Council has deferred the process and is considering each site individually, and will consult on options.

I understand that the sites identified for consideration in Paddington, Woollahra and Edgecliff have not been determined yet. The controversial proposal for increased density at the Edgecliff Centre was withdrawn last year due to potential construction difficulties and impact on rail services.

Solar Bonus Scheme
The previous Government introduced solar feed-in tariffs to reimburse households with solar panels for the renewable energy they produce at 60 cents per Kilowatt Hour. It then cut the rate for new customers to 20 cents per Kilowatt Hour. Then the new Government tried to reduce reimbursement of anyone receiving 60 cents to 40 cents.

I called on the Government to honour its contracts with people who put up the money to install solar panels, and continue paying the agreed amount. While the Government back-flipped and will continue paying existing customers the contracted tariff, it closed the scheme to new households.

Solar panels provide clean renewable energy while removing demand from the ageing coal dependent network, reducing the need to upgrade infrastructure. The Government estimates the scheme will cost $1.9 billion over seven years - this amount has been criticised as an overestimate - meanwhile State coal industry subsidies are $1 billion a year and Federal fossil fuel subsidies are $9 billion a year.

The energy companies that benefit from green power from those who have installed panels should be paying for this, not the Government.