News in June

Save Berry Street!

North Sydney’s Combined Precincts Committee — representing all the Precincts of the city — met on 22 June 2021. The Committee discussed the impacts of the proposed Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels on the city centre, which is experiencing a massive growth in its day time population, and at the same time is supposed to accommodate massive flows of through traffic (as documented elsewhere on this website — see next item).

Reflecting growing alarm in the community about the flawed plans for the tunnels, the Combined Precincts Committee formally resolved to support the campaign to Save Berry Street.

Bad planning of tunnels a disaster for North Sydney city centre

The Committee for North Sydney made a submission to the Legislative Council’s Inquiry into the impact of the tunnels before the closing date of 18 June 2021. Read the submission here.

For a thorough assessment of the tunnels by a highly qualified engineer who designs road and rail tunnels — including a much more strategic alternative — see Ted Nye’s submission in our collection of submissions to the Legislative Council, here.

No Berry Street on-ramps? Who is adversely affected?

John Berry (@PriorityPrecinctResidents Group) agrees that the WHT and BL tunnels are detrimental, than asks: What is the alternative to the Berry St ramps and which community would it adversely impact?

ANSWER Direct access from the arterials (already connected to the freeway) should have been an essential part of the design. NOT including this access is what adversely affects everyone.

It should be:
region => arterials => tunnels.

Without direct access, it’s:
region => arterials => streets => city centre => Berry St => tunnels.
And that means more congestion everywhere and more rat-running…

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MLC BUILDING IS LISTED — the city can build on this

Well done Minister Harwin, right call. In listing the MLC Building, at the urging of the Heritage Council and the Independent Planning Commission, the Minister delivered a win for the richness and diversity of the city centre, a win for the environment, a win for rational urban development and (implicitly) a win for the building owner.

An imaginative and high-quality development of the site, with a new Denison Street building making the most of the conserved Miller Street wing, will be an unmatched asset to the city’s sense of place, to its prestige, to its sustainability credentials, to its ability to attract creative and design professionals, and to the character of the heart of the city centre.

It just takes an ability to imagine this core of the city as it will be seen and valued in the future. This building can only grow in importance. Like a generation which was there when the building was built, many boomers want it gone. The younger and future generations will increasingly regard this building with affection and esteem. Its mid-century distinctiveness and its adaptable interiors will attract a rich mix of creative and design-oreiented enterprises that would not otherwise find a home in North Sydney, and this combination will make the space in front of the building (the whole of a humanised and greened Victoria Cross) the real heart of the city centre.

Heritage Council and the Independent Planning Commission toss out nonsense

Here’s the report of the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) (click here).

It’s formal and polite, but not subtle. Presented by Investa with inflated refurbishment costs, specious arguments about the building being the only asset of the owner — a Canadian pension fund with assetss in many countries — dire predictions of losses (financial, structural, heritage signifcance, we could go on) the IPC dismissed them. It did no credit to Investa, who were representing the ultimate owner, Oxford Properties. (The report also deals unambiguously with nonsense coming from other quarters, as a scan of the report will show.)

Since Oxford have now taken over this arm of Investa we can expect a new more community oriented attitude. Oxford Properties invests on behalf of municipal employees in Ontario. Unlike the developers who are charging thorugh our cities with the active support of the NSW Government, Oxford Properties’ core principle is to ‘to deliver financial and social returns for our people, places and partners’: translated, this means that pension holders should benefit from the investments in city property, but so should the cities and communities where they invest, and so should the neighbours, tenants, building users and the people they work with to deliver the develoments.

A major news story about transport budgets

The Premier may be correct – the ‘Transport Asset Holding Entity’ is just the kind of accounting device beloved of merchant bankers – and we believe her, surely there was no intention to make billions disappear from the state budget.

The bigger story is something else

The NSW Government has discovered that Sydney can be managed (and sold) through ‘entities’.

Creating big, powerful, hybrid agencies is now an art form. After the Transport Asset Holding Entity came the WestConnex Delivery Authority, and then the big one, Sydney Metro.

The true ramifications of Sydney Metro are explored in our 2018 piece on the Issues page, click here.

In brief, around 2017 someone in government realised that ‘metro’ could mean a type of train, or it could mean the Sydney region. A body set up to build a metro rail service could become a developer with a mandate to buy, operate, build and sell anything in the region – so that is exactly what the Transport Administration Amendment (Sydney Metro) Act 2018 did. Not only that, the whole ‘entity’ was made to be sold off, in whole or in parts.

The beauty of this new kind of ‘entity’, Sydney Metro, was that it would be a state agency when it needed all the powers to act in ways that developers cannot, and the protections of a private developer when it wanted secrecy and the shield of ‘commercial-in-confidence’. We’ve seen both in play, when Sydney Metro’s public projects are fast tracked through the ‘planning system’, yet the all-important details of those projects remain as hidden as any private developer’s.

Now it’s happening with the Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels.

The projects are now in the hands of a government ‘entity’, the WestConnex Delivery Authority. This authority is subject to (belongs to) the Minister for Transport, who takes credit for its work. It exercises state powers that developers can only dream of. When its plans and actions become controversial, it turns into a corporation making purely technical and commercial decisions that the community is simply expected to live with, regardless. And like Sydney Metro, its assets are being readied for sale.

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