Safer Sydney Forum

(6pm 17 July 2012, Lower Town Hall)

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 also acknowledge Thomas Kelly's family and friends who are trying to deal with the tragic circumstances of his murder.

The City has been working to get action on the serious problems in Kings Cross for a long time and I have been calling on the Government to take these problems seriously for years. It's tragic that it has taken recent events to get some serious discussion about solutions.

One of the main issues at the Cross is the concentration of licensed venues.

The City has tried to prevent the proliferation of licensed premises and imposed strong conditions on new or expanding operators.

Our biggest problem is the lack of power to say no to development applications because the area is at capacity in terms of venues and late night trading.

When we've refused an application we've been overturned by the Land and Environment Court; and last year, the former Minister for Planning blocked the changes we wanted to our planning controls to reduce extended trading hours for problem venues.

In 2009, after much lobbying, the former Government imposed a temporary liquor freeze in Kings Cross - it was recently extended by the current Government.

The City has spent the last 18 months researching what other cities do, speaking to thousands of people and working with residents, business, NSW Police, late trading venues, accommodation services, government agencies and academics to develop a late night plan for Sydney.

Six weeks ago, we hosted our own Kings Cross forum, attended by over 140 local residents and businesses, along with key state government agencies. That Forum generated nearly 500 ideas, which we are now working through.

The City of Sydney is taking action in areas where we have responsibility and we want the NSW Government to take action, including changing laws, in the areas where they are responsible such as licensing and planning law, transport, policing, environmental protection and most importantly the cumulative impact of too many venues in one area, such as in Kings Cross.

On an average Saturday, Darlinghurst Road has 21,600 people from 11pm to 3am — the same number of people at an Acer Arena event.

Yet the last train from Kings Cross leaves at 1.44am and the next is not until 5.14am. That's when numbers of people on the street are at their peak.

With crowds and alcohol and frustration getting home, it's not surprising our researchers observed 80 incidents of serious anti-social behaviour in one hour.

The key is a state co-ordinated management plan for Kings Cross on a Friday and Saturday night.

As an immediate measure, the City has proposed a trial of a late night sprint service of one-way trains out of the Cross, to Town Hall, where they connect with extra night ride buses— long term we need 24 hour transport.

It must be backed by extra police and security, particularly at railway stations.

The legislative barriers which prevent private bus operators from offering late night services in Kings Cross must be removed.

A prepay option for taxis is needed, and the operation and security of the Bayswater Road taxi rank must be improved.

Finally, we need planning and licensing laws that would enable the City to control and manage the number of licensed premises.

This includes the introduction of renewable licensing permits which other global late night cities have such as New York, Paris and Amsterdam.