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Speech: Our cities: sustainable development and managing the way forward

Speech:    Our cities:  sustainable development and managing the way forward

 Sydney Build Expo

Australian Technology Park, Locomotive St. Eveleigh NSW 2015

11 March 2016

 Good morning,

I’m Councillor Angela Vithoulkas, an Independent Councillor for the City of Sydney.

Before I speak this morning I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

As well as being an elected Councillor of this amazing city, I’m also a small business owner who has operated cafes across the city for over 30 years.  Throughout that time I have seen the face of Sydney change.  Not only in the CBD, but on the fringes in suburbs like Glebe, Pyrmont and Surry Hills.

But, I believe one of the most amazing transformations that will take place is the $13 billion transformation of the southern precinct of our local area – THE redevelopment of the Green Square Urban Renewal Area.

Over the next 14 years this 278 hectare area will be transformed into Australia’s densest precinct eventually housing 61,000 residents and 21,000 workers – truly amazing.

The City of Sydney has already committed $936 million of a needed $1.3 billion towards the local infrastructure to service the development over the next ten years.  Green Square will house a plaza, library, parks, aquatic centre, communal squares, a community creative hub, health and recreation centre and a green infrastructure centre.  It will sit conveniently 4 kilometres from the CBD and 3.5 kms from Sydney Airport.

The popularity of the area is reflected in buyer interest that saw more than $170 million worth of apartments sold within two hours when just one development was launched last year.

But the success to date and the ongoing strength of this development will continue to rely heavily on co-operation between the various levels of Government, private stakeholders and the input of the community.

I say that the input of the community is important because as an elected Councillor I work hard towards representing that community – both residents and business owners – and it’s crucial that the community also feels empowered and heard as we make our way forward with this development.

So, before I tell you more about Green Square’s future let’s take a look at its past.

Green Square is named after Frederick Green who was an alderman of Alexandria Council.  He served as Mayor 3 times and then as the Member for Redfern in NSW Parliament during the 1950’s and 60’s.

The southern area was once the site of swamps and dams with tanneries, breweries and woolwashes, and later workers housing, factories, the Victoria Park Racecourse, Sydney Hospital and during the 1960’s it was thought as a convenient place to incinerate Sydney’s rubbish.

Like many areas close to the City’s centre it has been transformed and changed through the years.  But, I believe that the coming development will alter the face of the area and surrounding suburbs in way’s we are yet to imagine.

So let’s take a look at what is to come:

The City of Sydney has been working with private partners and developers in shaping the Green Square Town Centre.  In fact prior to the start of the project the land where the Town Centre will sit was divided between 18 government and private owners.

Located primarily in the suburb of Zetland – The Town Centre covers an area of 13.74 hectares with, as I’ve previously mentioned – many of the sites owned by various state and local public entities:  which include the former Waterloo Incinerator, Waverley Council’s Works Depot, the former NSW Police Service Centre, and the former Royal South Sydney Hospital site, a Works Depot owned by the City of Sydney, Green Square Railway station and other privately owned sites.  Even though it’s a pretty complex scenario the drawn out ability of the various groups to work together has resulted in a positive outcome to date.

Part of the development of the Green Square Town Centre also involves other construction elements like soil remediation, the construction of new streets and retaining walls, the demolition of Waverley depot, construction of affordable housing, and the refurbishment of the Green Infrastructure Centre.

The City has also formed an alliance with Sydney Water to build the 2.4 km underground stormwater drain from Link Road, Zetland to the existing stormwater system at Alexandra Canal, – the alliance also involves a number of private partners.

That alliance continues with the development of the Green Square water harvesting program, Australia’s biggest residential stormwater harvesting scheme.  I believe this is a scheme that acknowledges sustainability in development.

So how will it work?

The water will be pumped out of the Green Square stormwater drain, purified in a water recycling plant and then distributed to buildings in the new town centre.  Developers will install dual plumbing for the harvested water in bathrooms, laundries and gardens.

Plans and developments ultimately rely on meeting the amenity of the people.  Community consultation is so important in making sure that we get things right.  Throughout the project the City of Sydney has undertaken a number of community relations initiatives which include:

  • Putting in place a community co-ordinator who works with locals and community groups in developing events and programs.
  • Setting up The Tote – a former centre for betting at the local racecourse is now home to Green Square’s Neighbourhood Service Centre.
  • On the first Saturday of the month the City’s infohub is a place where local business owners, developers and community groups get together to answer questions and provide information about Green Square.
  • There are also a number of community groups including Green Square Professional Networking Group, Friends of Victoria Park and the Green Square Community choir.

Community involvement is a crucial element of the new development.  But, as a local government we need to continue to ensure that the community has a voice.  After all, we are elected to represent that community.

And that’s where I think local government really shines.  For example, most people know that as well as being an elected representative I also own a café on George Street – any given day people can contact me via multiple ways –  They phone me, email me, come to Town Hall or come into the shop.  I love the fact that the community can voice their concerns to me – as a person, business owner and elected representative.

Let’s move on to another very important issue – that of Housing Affordability:

There’s no doubt that Sydney is a highly desirable and therefore expensive city to live.  UK real estate company Savills recently ranked Sydney in the top 10 of the most expensive cities that also include London, New York and Hong Kong.

Housing affordability is also a crucial element of the Green Square development which aims to provide housing for a mix of income groups.

The way this operates is that a developer can choose to provide affordable housing on-site or pay an equivalent monetary contribution to enable housing units to be built elsewhere in Green Square.  The on-site contributions are calculated as a percentage of total floor area of the development and monetary contributions are indexed each year.

This policy aims to provide 330 rental units for very low to moderate income households over the next 15 to 20 years.  Families will be able to pay between 25 and 30 percent of their income on rent which will be indexed according to household income.

And what about employment?

By 2030, Green Square is expected to provide 22,000 jobs across the educational, creative and healthcare sectors.  But, it’s not only employment in Green Square, it is the areas such as the southern employment lands in Alexandria in close proximity to the city that remains extremely relevant.

Business near the Green Square area:

While the development itself will provide jobs we must also keep in mind the type of industries that operate in the area and how they will be supported and accommodated.  For example:  transport and logistics is the largest employer accounting for 21.9% of the total workforce.  Manufacturing and ICT are also significant sectors.  While there has been a decline in recent years in these sectors their place has been taken by a rise in retail and personal services as well as professional and business services.

Any planning, whether local or State government, must take into consideration the impact on business owners in the area.  If there is to be a change before of the development then measures must be put in place to ensure that business owners are supported to adapt to that change and not just left behind to pick up the pieces.

The continued success of the area and the development will also rely heavily on transport options to get people in and out of the area, and that is where the NSW State Government needs to step up to the plate.

For more than 15 years there has been liaison between the City of Sydney and NSW Government agencies focusing on transport logistics for the area.  City of Sydney staff have highlighted that because of the long lead time to deliver rapid transit solutions to the Green Square area it is likely to be substantially complete before new rail infrastructure is available.  They have emphasised that passenger demand will require at least 20 trains per hour, but residents and those travelling to and from the area will only be serviced by 12 to 14 trains.

The lack of rail options will place added pressure on the bus network leading to congestion.  This is where co-operation between local and State government will be crucial.

The City of Sydney has dedicated $40 million worth of land to secure most of the transport corridor. Successfully working with Transport for NSW will be crucial in actioning the best transport options for the area –  we can’t just sit back and wait.

I was pleased to recently read in the media that Infrastructure Australia had called on State and Federal Government’s to put the need for transport links between the CBD and Green Square as one of the country’s top infrastructure priorities.

A report from Infrastructure Australia has highlighted something that we all know – that is – due to road congestion, bus transport to the Sydney CBD is slow and unreliable and the potential growth in bus transport to meet the needs of Green Square would only add to the congestion.

Let’s hope that the issue of transportation continues to be a priority for all levels of Government.

I am aware that we are at a conference focused on construction.  But, I strongly believe that construction without co-operation and consultation does not work.

Green Square provides an example where government, the community and private enterprise, despite a long gestation, have been involved throughout the process.  As we move forward with the development co-operation amongst these groups will continue to become increasingly relevant.

We must continue to work towards strategies that encourage people to buy into what is happening for them and around them, but with Green Square I definitely think we are on the right track.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the conference.







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