NSW ELECTION 2023
BROKEN PLANNING SYSTEM MUST BE FIXED
This election is of vital importance for planning and development in the electorates of North Shore, Willoughby and Lane Cove, as well as throughout NSW. The NSW planning system has become corrupted, driven by developer interests and against community and public interest, destroying city and suburban amenity. It must be completely overhauled by any incoming government.
The system is now so broken that no Council local environment plan, no planning control or planning instrument is immune from being overridden by government, driven by development interests.
Community consultation no longer has any meaning. Community submissions are constantly ignored by the Planning Department and ‘Have Your Say’ has become a cynical box ticking exercise.
The removal of planning powers from Councils, the power of the Planning Department to approve developments, the role of regional planning panels, spot rezonings and variations to planning controls for specific sites against Council and community objection, have all combined to destroy the system.
Major infrastructure projects are commenced without advanced public scrutiny or independent assessment, and without transparency or a business case.
The Committee for North Sydney cannot recommend support for either the Coalition or the Labor Party in the 2023 NSW election as both their planning policies fail to acknowledge this disastrous state of urban and suburban planning.
The Committee can only recommend a vote for those independents and minor parties who commit to wholesale change and who commit to requiring reform of the planning system as part of any agreement to support one of the major parties to form government.
We invite independent candidates and minor parties to adopt the following commitment:
“I agree the planning system is broken and I will work collaboratively with colleagues on the crossbench to drive substantial reform of the NSW planning system and hold the government to account on this matter.”
The Committee invites independents and minor parties to publicly confirm this commitment which will then be acknowledged on our website.
Professor Geoff Hanmer
Association for the Committee of North Sydney
15 March 2023
0419 700 033
Candidate Commitments Received
Independent Candidate for North Shore Helen Conway has responded:
I agree the planning system is broken and I will work collaboratively with colleagues on the crossbench to drive substantial reform of the NSW planning system and hold the government to account on this matter.
The Sustainable Australia Party (Lachlan Commins, candidate for North Shore, William Bourke, candidate for the Legislative Council) has responded:-
We agree that the NSW planning system has become corrupted and driven by developer interests. We support returning real planning powers through the local communities through their council. We commit to wholesale change to the NSW planning system that would put communities and the environment first.
Independent Candidate for North Shore Victoria Walker has responded:-
I support your position in full. I placed reform of planning and development as the most important issue for this electorate. …I am committed to setting up a panel to draft a Bill to replace the current debased EP&A Act.
.Independent candidate for Willoughby Larissa Penn has responded:
I confirm that I agree the planning system is broken and that I will work collaboratively with colleagues on the crossbench to drive substantial reform of the NSW planning system and hold the government to account on this matter.
The Committee for North Sydney calls on minor parties and independent candidates to drive reform of the NSW planning system.
Read and download the Committee’s statement for the 2023 NSW State Election:
Commitments by candidates
Read and download the statements made by candidates for the 2023 NSW State Election:
Helen Conway, independent candidate for North Shore
Lachlan Commins, Sustainable Australia Party candidate for North Shore
William Bourke, Sustainable Australia Party candidate for the Legislative Council
Victoria Walker, independent candidate for North Shore
Larissa Penn, independent candidate for Willoughby
The Committee for North Sydney calls on all parties and candidates to stop North Sydney becoming a dysfunctional clogged traffic interchange: fix the design of the regional traffic links on the lower North Shore!
This is the North Sydney Council’s intended future for Berry Street: a people-friendly, sunny, leafy city street in the heart of the city centre, at the new Victoria Cross Metro station. This street-for-people is essential following the massive increases in office floorspace built and planned, and tens of thousands of new workers in the city centre.
This is the result of the NSW Government’s failure to provide normal access to the tunnels from arterial roads: four one-way lanes of heavy and congested traffic fighting its way onto the Warringah Freeway, to access the Western Harbour Tunnel, the Beaches Link, the Bridge, the Gore Hill Freeway and all points beyond.
Jamming North Sydney with traffic
Growing alarm for the future of the city centre and Berry Street
Legislative Council’s Inquiry
No support for the tunnels
Dodgy traffic and air quality forecasts
The future has arrived — but not in Sydney
…and much more on this page
For bike riders it’s not just about access to the Bridge
HarbourLink is a thoroughly considered proposal to give ‘active transport’ the same access across the harbour enjoyed by all other forms of transport. This has to be the long-term aim for transport, and should be factored into all current tranpsort planning. Read about HarbourLink here.
Those interested in bikes, and all forms of non-private-car mobility, and good planning, might like to read the submission of the Committee for North Sydney in response to TfNSW’s extraordinary concrete ramps onto the Bridge.
Community values matter
The Committee for North Sydney is independent and nonpartisan. More than that: within the Committee, debates on complex urban issues reflect many diverse (expert) views.
Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to interpret the results of the Council elections and the Willoughby by-election as a message about our area being over-developed with over-scaled buildings and over-whelmed by the over-provision of roads and tunnels.
The message seems to be something like this: the community expects the local council and the local member to defend their values, not ignore them.
The considered consensus on the tunnels is very clear. The Legislative Council’s Public Works Committee published the 576 submissions on the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link tunnel — almost all of them are opposed the to projects, for environmental, economic, social and technical reasons, backed up with the evidence missing from the NSW Government’s 6000 pages of documents. See the submissions here.
The Public Works Committee has published the submission of the Committee for North Sydney. Four pages of eye-opening revelations. Read it here.
OLD NEWS IS STILL TRUE
Our NEWS Page has had many items that were prescient, that raised issues that haven’t gone away, and that document the then Council’s outright opposition to NEWS and VIEWS coming from the experts on the Committee for North Sydney. A few examples:
We raised the alarm about Berry Street in August 2018
We published a detailed and constructive response to the Council’s Ward Street and Public Domain strategies in 2018 — and our analysis is still fully relevant
We showed how the Metro’s OSD could have helped (but failed) to make the city a place for people
We published a concise strategy for the city centre that was comprehensive and could be achieved over the long term.
We responded to a letter from Cr Gibson telling us to go away
We published Cr Gibson’s letter demanding UNSW censor academic research
What’s jamming North Sydney with traffic? A thoroughly bad plan!
It’s not the role of the Committee for North Sydney to confront governments or uphold standards of transparency – our mission is “to facilitate public and expert contributions to the progressive improvement of North Sydney, through strategic planning, good policy and urban design.”
However, since the North Sydney city centre is faced with crowding, pollution and gridlock as a result of the current design of the tunnels, we must talk about fatal flaws in the tunnel environmental impact statements (EISs).
The EISs appeared out of nowhere (a year apart), nearly 20,000 pages for projects that would cost between $20-30 billion (no-one is saying). Each EIS accepted submissions in just two months. After that we were told, “That’s it! We’re building them anyway.”
Many serious errors and inaccuracies were exposed by numerous submissions – all of them summarily dismissed by the NSW Government. Here are just a few of them.
- The EISs did not comply with the Planning Act (Ted Nye; see his latest submission here).
- The terms for the EIS are set by the Planning Department (in the form of the Department Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs)). The requirements had gaps, according to the North Sydney Council report referred to below, and even so “have not been adequately met in the EIS”.
- Benefit cost ratios were exaggerated or false, and have almost certainly turned negative — see page 2 of Edward Precinct Committee’s submission to the Public Works Committee.
- Based on a cost benefit analysis by a leading expert, Dr Peter Abelson, a public investment of $12 billion would generate benefits of $8 billion: another way of saying it’s a dud (viabletransportsolutions.com.au/background).
- The submission of Terry le Roux, expert in Benefit Cost Analysis, shows that the Beaches Link comes nowhere near an acceptable return on investment.
- The NSW Chief Scientist’s submission suggests that traffic forecasts and therefore levels of air pollution cannot be believed.
- Dr Bill Ryall has described the dire impacts on water quality of excavating the harbour bed, crossing Flat Rock Creek, and digging up the Gully tip site. His submission shows that the Western Harbour Tunnel EIS is not scientifically credible. Here’s the story.
- North Sydney Council (report for item 6, 23 March 2020) identified “a lack of clear problem definition and analysis, omission of benchmarking and case studies, limited non-motorway options analysis [and] use of outdated modelling inputs and growth assumptions.”
- The same report noted the failure to acknowledge that the tunnels “will either directly prevent or significantly hinder the achievement of numerous endorsed strategic directions, priorities and actions” of the Government and the Greater Sydney Commission.
- The EIS claims up to 38 minutes saved in a trip from Balgowlah to the CBD – “as locals know, this is a grossly exaggerated figure” (viabletransportsolutions.com.au/basictunnelinfo/).
- It’s clear from the North Sydney Council’s submission that claims of travel time improvements are exaggerated if not outright false: changes that reduce travel time (building the Metro, and separating lanes on the Warringah Freeway) don’t need the tunnels, while a probable increase in travel time (due to limited traffic capacity in the Sydney CBD) isn’t considered.
- North Sydney Council’s submission concluded that “any regional journey travel time benefits are short lived and come at a direct and profound impact on North Sydney in terms of local traffic and amenity. The analysis supports Council’s position that the development of mass transit is the only responsible direction that can be taken.”
- For more: viabletransportsolutions.com.au/background
What credibility does a supposedly scientific assessment have, when it is incomplete, selective, and shaped by political priorities? What are they hiding?
The North Sydney Council has now found its strong voice after a year of silence in the face of all this evidence of the bad planning of the tunnels and their extremely negative impacts on our city.
Growing alarm at forcing tunnel traffic into Berry Street
A meeting of the North Sydney Precincts on 22 June 2021 called for alternative ways to access the Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels. See our news item here.
Inquiry by the Legislative Council’s Public Works Committee into the impacts of the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link
When submissions closed on Friday 18 June 2021, many hundreds of submissions would have been made to the Inquiry. We may now learn why the two environmental impact statements had no explanation of the chosen plan, no alternatives, no options, no financial analysis, no business case, no useful traffic forecasts, and no assessment of traffic impacts on North Sydney.
Maybe we will now learn what the NSW Government has been hiding!
Read the submission of the Committee for North Sydney here.
The tunnels have no public support
Last year and earlier this year everyone had an opportunity to make a submission on the environmental impact statements for (i) the Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade (WHT & WFU) and (ii) the Beaches Link tunnel. 3003 individuals, organisations and agencies made submissions. 90% opposed the tunnels. A mere 2% supported the tunnels. The public was nearly unanimous: Don’t build them!
Polite but damning words
“The EIS does not explicitly indicate the sensitivity of the air quality impacts… nor the magnitude of the potential error in predictions of traffic.”
The NSW Chief Scientist (one of the few independent officials left) commissioned an expert review of the Beaches Link EIS. Read it here, and note the final paragraph. This is what the report is actually saying:
The traffic forecasts are dodgy and there’s no evidence that air pollution will diminish. The EIS cannot be believed.
The future has arrived
- Driverless taxis already take passengers through city streets in Beijing.
- In less than eight years, few if any car makers will make oil/gas-powered vehicles.
- The cost of driving and maintaining electric vehicles is dropping way below that of oil/gas-powered vehicles.
- All electric vehicles use the roads much more safely and efficiently.
- We should be in a very different era for metropolitan transport planning.
But the past lives on in Sydney
The Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels:
- look like projects from the 1980s, instead of projects for now
- sound like a marginal electorate strategy, instead of good regional planning
- seem like the soft option for cars, instead of a real urban transit strategy
- perpetuate bias towards the Sydney CBD and the east, instead of investing in the West
- turn even more of Sydney’s public infrastructure into private profit centres – permanently distorting all planning for greater Sydney.
And the community thinks that there is much wrong with the tunnels
- Why do both tunnels feed into the Warringah Freeway, already the biggest and busiest road of them all?
- Why not further west, as proposed by most transport planners?
- Why build in a way that consumes precious parkland and damages harbour ecosystems?
- Why highly concentrate air pollution and release it unfiltered near schools and neighbourhoods?
- Why leave out access ramps where the Lower North Shore traffic wants to go, and instead force traffic through congested streets and a gridlocked city centre?
We need answers before the bulldozers move in
The Committee for North Sydney:
- joins with the community in seeking answers to all those questions, before the projects go any further
- supports improved designs that overcome the many issues raised in responses to the EISs
- calls for the redesign of the connections between the tunnels and the Warringah Freeway
- demands that the Berry Street on-ramps be closed and replaced by on-ramps to accommodate traffic where it already is, keeping traffic off the neighbourhood streets and out of the city centre.
Complex project — simple message!
The NSW Government says it’s a $15 billion project — 17 km of road tunnels from Rozelle to Balgowlah and Seaforth. Any attempt to explain its disastrous impact on the whole of North Sydney is going to be complex.
But it’s worth reading this map (of the major roads of the lower North Shore) to understand that there is a fatal flaw in the planning. There’s no access to the tunnels from the main roads where the traffic is. Instead, heavy traffic is forced to use rat runs and local streets to get to the Berry Street on-ramps, in the gridlocked city centre.
Both the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link begin in the thick of the Warringah Freeway, and the only way to access them, for the whole of the Lower North Shore area in the map, is to fight your way though the North Sydney city centre, and get to the Berry Street on-ramps (the black arrow in the map above). As we say, Gladys Berejiklian’s new tunnels start in the heart of the city centre!
Berry Street is already a one-way on-ramp to the Warringah Freeway, north and south.
In a few years – if our popular and strenuous defence of the city centre is brushed aside by the road builders, the planners, the environmental, economic and social agencies, by the politicians and the courts – it will be the main on-ramp to the Western Harbour Tunnel, and by 2027 nearly all local traffic will be funnelled into this congested freeway on-ramp for the Beaches Link as well.
It doesn’t have to be like this!
The Committee for North Sydney has published a report showing the catastrophe that will be Berry Street. The report explains what is wrong with current transport plans for North Sydney, how it came to this, and what can be done.
In brief: Scrap the Berry Street on-ramps!
See what “integrated land use and transport planning” should look like, in our Issues article, Tale of two cities – in one CBD.
A strategy for the whole city centre
The Committee for North Sydney has completed a strategic planning document called Five Big Ideas for the Future City Centre.
The strategy presents a long-term vision for the city centre, based on five integrated ideas. The five ideas work together, to guide the city towards a transformation from ‘an office park with through traffic’ to a living ‘place for people’. Read and download the strategy here.
The Committee for North Sydney supports the North Sydney Council in planning more improvements to the city centre, and invites all those with an interest in North Sydney to work together to fight for a better future.
Save the MLC Building
Familiarity engenders neglect and forgetfulness?
The MLC was THE pioneer in so many ways. If it is swept aside (to make room for a new building (widely panned by urbanists) it takes with it markers, symbols, records and memories that form an intrinsic part of the Australian story. Besides, for many, it WORKS. It looks good. It is well behaved. It plays an important role in defining the city centre.
Geoff Hanmer, President of the Association for the Committee for North Sydney, has assessed the significance of the MLC Building.
Read and download the document here.
And read the latest news in News in February and earlier news items.
The big picture
The Committee for North Sydney is focused on the long-term public good. We think that this involves open, inclusive planning that identifies goals for the city, and sticks to them.
As Elizabeth Farrelly said at our October AGM:
The Committee for North Sydney is focused on the big issues:
- What drives the OVERdevelopment of St Leonards and Crows Nest — and how to stop it.
- Why the city centre (already bleak, windy and congested) is losing, rather than gaining, public space and civic functions — and how to do better.
- The importance of North Sydney making the transition from a business district (CBD) to a well-loved city centre — a goal supported by the community, by those who work in the city, and by business.
We’ve kept to that focus during the past few months – please take a look at our NEWS page.
It’s all about supporting good planning for North Sydney, and finding ways to work with the community and decision makers (state, local and business) towards much better outcomes.
Stay in touch
The Committee for North Sydney would like to hear from you, and to keep you informed of issues and events.
Please let us know what you think — just click on our email address:
Or subscribe to the mailing list by sending us your email here.
Better still: join us
We’re building support from the North Sydney community. The Association for the Committee for North Sydney is currently asking members to renew their annual membership, and encouraging members of the community to join the Association. Here’s the link.
Read all about it!
We’ve gathered together an informal library of documents, including links to documents produced by the Committee for North Sydney, planning documents produced by the North Sydney Council, and other relevant reports, articles and statements. You’ll find it here.
Reforming planning — we’re all for it!
The NSW planning system needs long-term reform, back towards the rule of law — less political, less litigious, less impenetrable — and towards open and expert assessment of explicit rules adopted through transparent public processes. It’s nothing like that at the moment.
The problem is… it’s not so easy, and when governments say that overnight they’ll make the planning system “quick and simple” they may be avoiding the core issues.
Historians have failed to explain to us that NSW’s only coup was when Governor Bligh was arrested because he insisted on adherence to a town plan! Ever since, the arm-wrestle between government and landowners has followed a predictable course.
The latest installment is to make approvals “quick and simple”. Despite (or because of?) the recent reforms, we are told that approvals are still slow, and nimbys still have too much influence. So, if investors still lack certainty, let’s make approvals quick and simple.
Busting congestion? Try planning
Spot rezoning, deals, fast tracking, OVERdevelopment… Is congestion and loss of urban quality inevitable? Yes, on present indications. But not if transparency, probity and expertise is restored to the planning system.
Developers wake from dreams in St Leonards
The residents said OVERdevelopment – we’re OVER it!
The Independent Planning Commission agreed!
Is this the turning point?
Read about the details of this important decision here.
Have you heard about ‘value capture’?
It must sound good — Sydney Metro and Ministers are beginning to talk about ‘value capture’ a lot — but is it good for the North Sydney city centre? The answer to that question is here.
“Nobody has ever cared much about the North Sydney CBD and it’s always been a very deficient CBD in terms of public amenities and open space, public facilities, out-of-hours activities… What you’re hearing about improving the North Sydney CBD is basically just spin, and it’s minor, fiddly little improvements to what is basically a pretty appalling CBD… “
That’s not the Committee for North Sydney!
And it wasn’t said yesterday.
Jeremy Bingham, lawyer and one-time Lord Mayor of Sydney, made that statement in 2000, in an interview for the Council’s published history of North Sydney planning, marking 35 years after the adoption of the 1963 planning scheme. He went on:
“It has no heart. It has no central point. It has no civic spaces. It has no style. It’s a mish-mash. It’s a conglomerate of all sorts of things… You’ve got a whole series of half-baked things. And the flow of morning and evening peak hour traffic through there makes it a very difficult area… It just hasn’t had anything remotely like the level of planning and care and attention over the decades that it should have had…
“I don’t see the concern for the proper growth of a city, commercially, as being contrary to a concern for the residents as well. I think they go hand in hand.”
The full interview – ‘Jeremy Bingham’ in Margaret Park (Editor). Voices of a landscape: planning North Sydney. North Sydney Council, 2001, pages 14-17 – is available here (and in the North Sydney Council’s Stanton Library).
The Sydney Morning Herald covered the launch of the Committee for North Sydney
His insightful article was published online on Thursday 12 July 2018, and on pages 1 and 4 of the next day’s edition of the paper.
Here’s the link to the online story.
North Sydney Council called for alternative design options and community engagement
In a major move, the North Sydney Council has written to the Minister for Transport, calling for alternative design options for the over station development at Victoria Cross station, and further community engagement. The resolution adopted all-but-unanimously by the Council can be seen here.
How the Committee for North Sydney sees the future city centre
Thanks, Greg Hyde
The image on the Committee page — also used in various forms on our publications — is a modified detail from ‘Sydney’, a large work by onetime-North-Sydney artist Greg Hyde. Thanks Greg for your support.
Ralf Alpert, Waverton Precinct member and Founder and MD of Waverton’s well-named Friendlyware, has been instrumental in getting us online. Friendlyware is a top-rated IT support company for Sydney’s small and medium businesses. Thanks Ralf!
The North Sydney Council published an excellent summary of what is known about the North Sydney area as it was in 1788, about the people whose land it was (and ‘always will be’), and about the First Nations story since.
The monograph is Aboriginal North Sydney, by Dr Ian Hoskins, North Sydney Council Historian. It was first published in 2006, and updated in 2019. We make it available here.
The Committee for North Sydney recognises the land as that of Cammeray and his people (the meaning of Cammeraygal) and pays respect to descendants and First Nations people of the region.