(12pm, Friday 24 May 2013, InterContinental Sydney)
Hello, everyone. Thank you for the invitation to join you today. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our City.
IMPORTANCE OF OUR CITY
The prosperity of our nation is dependent on the prosperity of our city - Sydney contributes around $100 billion to the national economy - it's up there with the mining industry.
Our city is the most concentrated area of economic activity in the nation and we're also one of the largest and fastest growing areas in Australia.
It's critical that we secure Sydney's liveability and prosperity by ensuring that all facets of the city - transport, the urban fabric and the city economy - are working together.
OUR RESPONSIBLE CITY GOVERNANCE
At the City we have a vision developed in consultation with the community. We did the research and now we are implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030.
We've responsibly managed our finances and next month we will adopt a record $1.9 billion infrastructure budget (endorsed by Council - out on public exhibition).
Major works budgeted include $400 million for Green Square - the largest urban development site in the country, $180 million for new footpaths and roads, $100 million to improve parks and $220 million for public domain work on George Street and associated laneways as part of the light rail project. $56 million for 6 new child care centres - needed by the local and worker communities.
Every time we ask our community for feedback, whether it's on Sydney's late night economy or our cultural and creative life, the number one issue raised is transport, so we know how important it is to ensure Sydney's transport functions for workers, residents and visitors as well as improving the city's capacity to meet growth in jobs and commerce.
The State Government's decision finally to extend the light rail network will enable us to move ahead with our project to create a lively pedestrian precinct in the heart of our city and a stunning retail and dining precinct, making it easier for residents, workers and tourists to explore Sydney.
The City is contributing $220 million because we know it will transform the city (not just George Street), replacing the many bus services that clog our streets, as well as reducing local noise and pollution.
Our contribution will deliver a high-quality public domain, support a mid-town revival and make George Street an internationally-recognised centre that will spur rejuvenation along its length and in surrounding streets.
We all know that light rail is critical to the economic viability of our city and I thank you, and the other businesses, who campaigned with us to convince the Government.
We all know that public transport is running at or near capacity and light rail can move thousands of people through the city centre quickly and quietly.
It also makes sense to encourage people to walk for short trips through the city, and to encourage people already inclined to get on a bike to ride. We want 10 per cent of all trips within the city to be by bike.
We know people want the option - independent bike counting shows a 113 per cent increase in bike numbers since counting began in March 2010. There are now around 2,000 bikes passing through some of the City's top peak-hour intersections on an average weekday.
Unfortunately while riding is growing, the development of the City's bike network has been stalled by the State Government.
The City has a fully funded plan to extend and connect our bike network but we are unable to do any work until the State gives us the green light. We've been waiting two years for action and disappointingly the Transport Committee set up by the Premier has so far only met once last year.
The irony is that we share the same target to increase bike trips with the State Government and our network is essential to meeting that target.
BUS & RAIL
Another critical issue for Sydney is the frequency of our bus and rail network.
The network's hours seem firmly rooted in the 1970s, but we know Sydney operates at high-capacity at least until 7pm most nights, and often through to 9pm. Weekend demand for access to the city is also high.
The city operates 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week, and we need our public transport networks to reflect that.
An extra million people are predicted to be living in Sydney by 2036, and all levels of government are looking at how to support that growth.
At the City, we are focusing new growth on former industrial sites like Green Square, Harold Park, Ashmore, CUB and Barangaroo.
The $8 billion dollar redevelopment of Green Square will house 40,000 new residents and provide for 22,000 new workers by 2030. This is a very important new town centre for Sydney - just 3.5 kilometres from the CBD and 4 kilometres from the airport.
The City is investing $400 million on the development for new streets, parks, affordable housing, a stunning underground library and a new recreation centre but getting the transport right will be key to its success.
In the absence of any action from the State Government, we have been purchasing a number of critical pieces of land to secure a new transport corridor. But the State should secure the whole corridor and commit to light rail to connect Green Square and the CBD.
Many of the one million people in our CBD every day are visiting Sydney as tourists or working in your businesses.
For these people, there's another side to the transport coin: once you're here, how do you get around?
We've committed to working with agencies such as Destination NSW, retailers and your organisation to develop a co-ordinated and consistent approach to way-finding using websites, digital applications, print maps and tourist guides.
Our "Action Plan for Legible Sydney" aims to iron out the inconsistencies of approach and presentation that form one of the biggest barriers to ease of access for visitors.
We are concentrating on areas around transport nodes to avoid duplication and to provide clear and consistent information. We're also conscious of using public art as important "locators" for people finding their way around.
LATE NIGHT ECONOMY
In February 2013, Council unanimously endorsed OPEN Sydney: Future directions for Sydney at night - Strategy and Action Plan 2012-2030 which has five night-time goals.
The strategy contains several priority actions which include:
- hosting a Live Music Taskforce to drive the change in Sydney's live music scene;
- promoting Sydney Asia's premiere live music and entertainment destination
- doubling of Nightride bus services and a night time shuttle bus service trial;
- an annual late night event where cultural institutions open late once a year;
- Australia's first 24 hour library;
- improving Sydney's drinking culture;
- new CCTV, more toilets and bigger bins;
- restrictions on growth in key late night precincts in Sydney;
- easier, faster and simpler processes for business; and
- clearer complaint making processes for residents
Many of these priority actions and others are now being implemented:
- The Live Music and Live Music Taskforce is underway and expected to complete its report and recommendations in July
- Trial of food trucks introduced and recently extended to March 2014
- Visitor information kiosks on George Street and in Kings Cross remaining open until 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights during summer months.
GLOBAL CITY - MEGA AMALGAMATIONS
The City is taking action strengthen Sydney's international reputation as a leading global city - renowned for its lifestyle, economy, tourism, sustainability, open space and cultural life. As I've mentioned, we're set to embark on a record $1.9 billion building and construction program over the next 10 years - the council's largest-ever capital spending program.
The result highlights our strong financial position and confirms the recent NSW Treasury Corporation assessment of our financial sustainability as strong with a positive outlook, the only council in NSW to achieve this result.
Unfortunately, the City's strong financial position and long term capital works program is at risk by proposals to manipulate the council's boundaries.
Rather than focussing on real reform, the Samson Review and the subsequent debate about the future of local government has been consumed by the idea of 'mega amalgamations'.
Evidence from other cities however, shows that the costs of mega amalgamations far outweigh any benefits - Queensland councils say the cost of their forced mergers was $185 million and reports say Auckland spent around $100 million merging seven councils together.
And compared to the City's healthy financial position, the expanded Auckland council is now struggling with a massive debt forecast to almost treble to $12.5 billion over the next decade. According to its annual report, the council had net borrowings worth about $6000 per ratepayer as of June last year.
The Samsom review proposes the establishment of local boards. When the new Auckland Council was created, 21 local boards were established. Each with around five to 12 elected members. The result is that Auckland Council now has 170 elected politicians - 149 elected Local Board members, plus the Mayor and 20 Councillors.
Is this really what we want for the future of Sydney?
At the heart of this proposal is a dangerous and incredibly reckless assumption that the rates base from Sydney's CBD can be spread to meet the needs of a massively expanded area.
The reality is that the major infrastructure projects we can currently fund and take action on are all at risk.
Investing in light rail, a new town centre at Green Square, a dynamic night time economy and thriving cultural life, more childcare, footpaths, roads and parks are all much greater priorities than the extended disruption and huge financial cost of massively expanding our council area.
Without the ability to get on with projects without State Government political interference, local councils no matter what their size will always be hamstrung.
New York Mayor Bloomberg and I both started our bike networks at the same time. His was completed years ago while we are still waiting on the State Government to let us get on with ours.
For the city to thrive, we need strong, sustainable governance and the willingness of State and Federal Governments to work cooperatively with us for the benefit of the global city.
The City of Sydney as a global city is unique: the White Paper proposes local plans developed by local councils, within sub-regional plans developed by a planning board covering 17 councils across metropolitan Sydney.
The City of Sydney should operate as a sub-region. We already have a Sub-Regional Planning Board which functions well - the Central Sydney Planning Committee - and its model of equal representation should be used across other regions.
As I have outlined we have a fully funded plan in action to create the kind of city that your visitors and staff will enjoy spending time in but we need and strongly value your support to ensure we can continue that essential work.