Development: Meeting with the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro

Last week, I met with the Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, to explain why our residents are so concerned with the scale of development planned for our inner west, and specifically, the lack of open and green space we’re seeing in these proposals.

The meeting came about after the Deputy Premier addressed a Local Government NSW conference for councillors across the state in December 2017, in which he acknowledged that there’d probably been some “overdevelopment” due to his government’s policies, and that delivering new open space to cope with the extra density was therefore a priority.

During the Q&A that followed, I took the opportunity to tell him that our Council was seeing a lot of planning proposals coming through from his government and private developers that will deliver huge increases in density, but little to no new open space for our residents. He offered to meet with me to discuss that further. So on 17 January 2018, I did exactly that, and was joined by Cr John Stamolis, the independent councillor for the Balmain ward.

We were given 30 minutes with the Deputy Premier. Here’s the summary of the key points we raised:

1. The scale of development in the Inner West vs the lack of planning for new open space

  • We don’t have enough open space in the Inner West to meet needs of current population, let alone increases, and most proposals include very little tangible detail about how new open space will be delivered.
  • More plans/promises need to be locked in upfront, preferably through legislation/making it mandatory for developers to deliver genuine open space. This is the approach followed by other world cities doing it well, such as Vancouver in Canada.
  • Urgent intervention needed on proposals already with Council, e.g. Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Project, Greater Sydney Commission Eastern City Plan – to make sure open space requirement is locked in now.
  • Bays Precinct an example of one of the few areas in the Inner West where substantial opportunity exists to create new open space. Former Leichhardt Council resolved that a minimum of 30% of land here be given over to active and passive open space use; we need this commitment locked in at start of planning process.

2. Even if plans exist, there are a lack of delivery mechanisms to help Councils make them happen

  • Funding is part of this – issues with the state government cap on Section 94 contributions, unwillingness of Sydney developers to enter voluntary planning agreements, regional focus of state infrastructure contributions that may mean local projects aren’t delivered, etc.
  • However, so too is the lack of people within the NSW government who are responsible for working with Council staff to deliver plans and promises – current project examples given were the Greenway Missing Links Project and the Callan Park Masterplan.
  • Greater Sydney Commission District Plans and Greener Places policy are examples of where the plans/policies/ideas for increasing open space exist, but no real detail has been given to Councils about how NSW government will work with us to deliver them.

3. Where to from here

  • Deputy Premier advised that delivering open space is a priority for the NSW Government; this should be reflected in the upcoming Budget.
  • Need for ongoing engagement between IWC and relevant staff and/or Ministers to resolve above issues.

As a result of the meeting, we're expecting to receive updates on the following areas from the Deputy Premier’s office over the next few weeks:

  • How the Greener Places policy will be implemented – funding, powers etc.
  • Office for Open Spaces and Parkland – What powers will it have? How will it work with councils to deliver local improvements (as opposed to regional)?
  • What the Dept of Education has done/is doing to secure public access to recreational space within schools, any further information about how/when this will occur.
  • Greenway Missing Links Project – Contact/s who can help co-ordinate this on the state government side when Council runs into difficulties.
  • Callan Park Masterplan – Update on where this is up to within NSW government, and when we can expect progress.
  • WestConnex – information on when and how open space promised in St Peters, Rozelle, Haberfield etc will be delivered.

I'll post again when we receive further info about any of these areas.

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Inner West Council map showing land zoning. The few green areas are zoned for recreational use - parks, open space, sporting fields etc. The Inner West has one of the lowest ratios of open space per capita in Sydney. Download map (PDF)

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