Tuesday 1 December 2015

Further development in Green Square must stop

I am becoming seriously concerned with the continued massive population expansion and the massive proposed increase in density in the area known as Green Square. The largest urban revitalisation project, I would venture, ever undertaken in this country is occurring several precincts, including Victoria Park, North Rosebery, Zetland and Green Square. This was subject to a speech to parliament recently, the video of which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBXkE6FflTU&feature=youtu.be

The sum of these developments is anticipated, upon completion, to house some 60,000 residents. That is 60,000 new residents. I am talking about an average density of 20,000 people per square kilometre. To put that in perspective, a square kilometre in the City of Melbourne houses around 8,000 people. 

I accept that an increasing number of people want to move into the city. Who can blame them? Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Increasing the housing density is an obvious and logical solution. While I do not oppose development, I do oppose carelessness, and that is exactly how I would characterise the haphazard, piecemeal planning policies of successive NSW governments. These policies have not only caused unbelievable traffic gridlock but failed to address the infrastructure needs of new and existing residents.

One cannot plan for and build increased housing density without planning for the associated infrastructure. Green Square is an example of planning failure. The largest urban revitalisation project in this country is an example of planning failure. The increased housing density has been created without infrastructure, and huge increases are still to come. Apart from gridlocked streets, the schools and hospitals are full, ambulances cannot get through the streets, people cannot get on buses at peak periods and buses cannot move in the streets. It is an example of how planning has not worked.

Planning for future population density must include planning for infrastructure to support that population. Roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, water and sewerage, social services and associated infrastructure must also be planned and paid for. In Green Square the population density has increased without a corresponding increase in infrastructure. There is no funding for that infrastructure. There are no plans or solutions. It is not a solution to suggest that a light rail network could be built in the never-never. The solution is to plan and to fund. Funding can be partly by developer contributions. There must be an understanding of the infrastructure that is needed. 

Every school in my electorate is full, including Catholic and independent schools. The primary schools and all but one high school are at capacity. There is increasing demand for the Minister for Education to fund inner-city schools. People are crying out for places for their children as families move into areas where there is high population density. A moratorium on any further population density increases is needed right now. That will give the Government time to catch up. Without that, the current intolerable situation will become worse.

If you look at the skyline from the Eastern Distributor you will see the cranes in the air, that is fine, but what is happening on the ground is not fine. The million dollar apartments sold in Zetland without car parking will be the ghettos of tomorrow unless infrastructure is constructed and supported. There is nothing wrong with increasing population density, but this is an example of planning failure by successive governments that have stupidly handed the decision to developers.

Exhibition period of 'New M5 WestConnex' EIS must be extended

After the NSW Government waited for Parliament to rise before releasing the ‘New M5 WestConnex’ Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), I have written to the Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes MP, who under part 5.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has carriage of the EIS consultation phase, to request an extension.

I have for months been requesting detailed studies about the impact of flow on traffic from the Minister for Roads Duncan Gay[1] and I now demand that the Government allocates sufficient time for local Councils to do the work that questionable engineering firm AECOM[2] and the Government failed to do in the EIS.

The EIS released by the Government on Friday does not contain any detailed long term traffic studies of the flow on impact of traffic emerging from the St Peters interchange into the suburbs of Mascot, Eastlakes, Kensington, Kingsford, Erskineville and Alexandria, not to mention other areas, such as to the inner city or to the east.

The EIS for instance mentions the widening of Euston Road to six lanes, but does not study the impact that those six lanes worth of additional traffic will have on suburban roads. It doesn’t consider the impact of traffic from the 60,000 new residences in the Green Square Precinct, the University of NSW traffic or even airport traffic.

They’re attempting to bury the EIS under a pile of Christmas wrap and fireworks.

The timing of this report makes the Government’s desire to avoid scrutiny plain as day. Apart from confirming our worst suspicions of this project, the EIS has raised serious questions about the viability of this project.

The Government must extend the exhibition period to allow for detailed analysis by Councils, town planners, traffic engineers and residents. Ultimately the least the Government could do is give people in our Councils, with meaningful qualifications and experience the time necessary to submit a substantive response.

This is what happens when a Government outsources its responsibilities to investment bankers. The WestConnex will be a catastrophe for our local roads. You can download a copy of my letter to the Minister here.