December elections

The Committee for North Sydney congratulates the ten candidates who were elected to the North Sydney Council.

The Committee celebrates the public spirit of those who stand for office to govern our city on behalf of us all, and wishes them a rewarding term wrestling with often difficult and complex issues that have no simple answers, and certainly no solutions that everyone agrees on! The Committee senses that the time is right to begin to recover some of the civic and community qualities of the old North Sydney — and of course to chart a new direction for the future.

We celebrate the election of the following Councillors.
Cammeraygal Ward
Maryann Beregi
Jilly Gibson
Georgia Lamb
Ian Mutton
Shannon Welch
 St Leonards Ward
Zoë Baker
William Bourke  
Alanya Drummond
Godfrey Santer  
James Spenceley

Challenges ahead

North Sydney has emerged as the place most affected by many of the NSW Government’s cherished policies: building out Transurban’s toll network, letting the builders of apartment towers go for broke, building a Metro-for-sale while dumping Sydney-bound bus passengers into the streets of North Sydney, and making Sydney Metro over-exploit their sites with the false justification of ‘value capture’.

It’s seems to be the result of short-termism, as if the speed of urban development, or the speed of capital turnover, were all that matters. (Maybe that is all that matters to merchant bankers.)

The Committee for North Sydney welcomes the often-unanimous actions of the new Council to stand up for this community. It will take sustained debate, constructive alternatives, new ideas and determined local support before the policies of the NSW Government begin to work in North Sydney’s interests.

How do you feel about ‘Have Your Say’?
The NSW Government is often keen for you to Have Your Say.
The North Sydney Council wants your ‘Say’ on many things.
Often there’s not enough hard information for a real ‘Say’.
Often it has a take-it-or-leave-it feeling.
Often it feels as if the project is being finalised and the ‘Say’ comes at the end.
Does it sound just a little like ‘Have your say, it’s happening anyway’?
Or even ‘Have your say and go away’?

Most people might like to respond: ‘I don’t want to Have My Say and go away. I want to know what and why. I want to know what the options are. I want to be involved in deciding what should be done. I want the community to do some of the planning.’

Great opportunities

North Sydney has always had fantastic qualities and advantages. (The views are great, but some of those advantages have been mixed blessings in a city centre sloping away from the sun towards the south-easterly winds, for instance — something that now needs to be acknowledged and positively addressed as a planning and design issue.)

North Sydney has in the past been the HQ for industries that magnify information, communication, design and innovation.

And it’s happening again!

It’s time to think big!

The Committee for North Sydney was formed — in June 2018 — with a positive mission: to build a sense of excitement around the potential of Australia’s sixth largest CBD as a place for people — building on the great social capital and fabulous environment of the whole of North Sydney.

All of the Committee’s contributions have been made in this spirit. Here are just two of them.

Five Big Ideas A simple and achievable set of ideas that work together, over time, to transform the city centre into the kind of urban environment that people want to go to, want to work in, and simply want to be in.

The MLC Building in 2040 Nothing is more certain. An imaginative adaptive re-use of the MLC site will define the city, bring prestige, attract many small enterprises in the creative economy, be the address of choice for civic functions, and culturally enrich the very heart of the city centre.

Roads: Public goods or private profit centres?

Last year’s front-page news was the ‘Transport Asset Holding Entity’, even though it had been evolving for years. We were assured by the then Premier that there was no intention to make billions disappear from the state budget. It had another more important purpose.

At the time, we now know, Transurban was negotiating for toll increases to pay for two tunnels that could never possibly pay their way: the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link.

At that time, also, it was obvious that Transurban would own and operate all of Sydney’s motorways, including the as-yet-to-be-built tunnels. The Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link, if paid for by the state and by road users (through excessive tolls on other roads) were trophies for Transurban, since they were planned to feed traffic from the Warringah peninsula and the lower North Shore directly into their network south of the harbour.

This is much worse than just another case of crony capitalism. Transport, or ‘accessibility’ in urban planning terms, is the driver of urbanisation, determining land values, where jobs and industry locate, which centres grow, and thus determining fundamental questions of efficiency, fairness and equity across the Sydney region.

Elsewhere, it is now possible to shape the region, distribute jobs, promote prosperity in areas like Western Sydney, improve equity and reduce the use of fossil fuels through road pricing, whereby everyone pays for the use of roads according to distance, time of day, and policy objectives. Road pricing uses market signals to nudge travel behaviour in the best directions: it only takes a few cents to change behaviour.

We have known for decades that this is where regional transport has to go. The NSW Government has wilfully gone in the opposite direction, privatising roads and allowing them to operate as private profit centres, and in the process losing control of metropolitan planning as a force for community wellbeing and fairness.

Transurban collects around $30-40 for a trip across Sydney, three times as much for commercial vehicles. That’s $60-80 (and maybe $200) for the return trip. And the rest of the road system is operated to allow them to do so.

The present revelations about Transurban’s toll negotiations prove the point conclusively. It’s going to be a long journey back, and along the way Transurban’s owners will extract maximum ‘compensation’ from all of us.

And there is an even bigger story

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.

It has been happening with the Western Harbour and Beaches Link tunnels.

The WestConnex Delivery Authority was progressively sold. It is now owned by a consortium led by Transurban. It exercises state powers that developers can only dream of, while having the powers of a private corporation that makes ‘purely technical and commercial decisions’ that the community is simply expected to live with. Watch this space: Transurban is likely to be running the tunnels project, with blank cheques from the NSW Government, until it ultimately acquires the tunnels at, say, half the cost of their construction.

Here’s what we were doing back in December 2019

After the launch of the Committee for North Sydney in June 2018, we had a year and a half of meetings, workshops, exchanges with key people in Lendlease and Investa, meetins with Councillors and staff at the the North Sydney Council and meetings with NSW Planning. We were actively planning a public workshop around the Committee’s strategy for the dithy centre. Then Covid 19 arrived, and face-to-face activities stopped.

This was the final event:

Successful roundtable on big planning issues

“Members of the Committee for North Sydney spent the afternoon of Saturday 7 December 2019 focusing intently on two questions: What makes North Sydney North Sydney? and What are the attributes of a good city centre?

“What emerged from the session were some real insights into the key issues, some great ideas, and some radical but practical proposals.

“A report of the roundtable was discussed — and acted on — at the December meeting of the Committee for North Sydney. Watch for announcements in the new year.”

A Minister for Public Spaces

Decision time

The Association President and Committee Convenor had a second meeting with the Planning Minister’s senior policy staff on 26 November 2019, to explain how a high quality civic space can be achieved in front of the Victoria Cross metro station (under construction).

In a subsequent letter to Planning Minister Stokes – also Minister for Public Spaces – the Committee said the choice is between a commercial office tower with overcrowded private space outside and no public purpose inside, or a significant contribution to the emerging heart of the North Sydney city centre.

We proposed to the Minister that ‘representatives of DPE Public Spaces, Sydney Metro, RMS, North Sydney Council, Lendlease and the Committee for North Sydney confer and report back to you on options for creating the best possible legacy for the Metro in North Sydney.’

Another round of ‘reform’

On 27 November 2019 the NSW Government announced new reforms for planning. Despite recent and recurrent efforts by both sides of politics to simplify the planning and approval process, it seems that approvals are still too slow, and nimbys still have too much influence.

Jeremy Dawkins wrote a brief paper on what this is all about. And here is the short version, published in the SMH on 29 November 2019.

AGM in October 2019

From strength to strength

The Association for the Committee for North Sydney held an open AGM on Wednesday night 31 October 2019 in the Crows Nest Centre, attended by 92 members and friends, and characterised by lively discussions supporting the role of the Committee. We thank all those who made donations at the door, amounting to $650.

Denis Moore demonstrated how the Pacific Highway in Crows Nest can be progressively transformed into a grander, much denser boulevard consistent with the great urban qualities of Crows Nest — before we lose the lot from unplanned spot-zoned skyscrapers.

Elizabeth Farrelly gave an insightful, witty and thought-provoking address on ‘the value of city planning’. Quote: ‘So what is planning actually for?…It seems to me that planning has one job: to defend the public interest (and so to value and create the public spaces).’

A new Board

Geoff Hanmer

Our foundation President, Ian Grey, did a fantastic job in establishing the Association as a permanent, positive, grass-roots player in shaping the future of North Sydney, but explained to the AGM that he now needed to pass on the baton. Elected to the Board were:
President: Geoff Hanmer
Vice President: Margaret Petrykowski
Secretary: Bernard Smith
Treasurer: John Hancox
Board members: Jeremy Dawkins, Genia McCaffery and Jan McCredie.

Joining is easy

It is easy to renew your membership of the Association, and just as easy to become a fully paid-up and active member. Simply click the ‘Pay with Card’ button at the bottom of the Join page.

Unregulated residential construction

In the face of widespread construction failures, Committee member Geoff Hanmer, in an op-ed in the SMH, explains how to ensure that residential buildings are well built, from the outset.

What does intelligent mobility add to sustainablilty?

Committee member Professor David Hensher hosts an important meeting exploring how to ensure that travel in the city region – urban mobility – is intelligent, user-focused, integrated, efficient and sustainable.

We finally know what Lendlease wants to build for their $200M site

Lendlease’s planning application for the Victoria Cross metro station site takes the form of an environmental impact statement. The document, prepared by Urbis consultants, has 159 pages and 35 appendices. The EIS is on exhibition during November and the Committee for North Sydney will be examining it closely during that time.

Plan with the community

Will the tsunami of massive buildings in Crows Nest and St Leonards facilitated through spot rezonings — and accelerated by the exploitation of metro station sites by Sydney Metro — inevitably lead to our familiar streets becoming windy, overshadowed, congested canyons?

In a recent article, Elizabeth Farrelly disagrees that height, density and population are the key problems in our congested cities, pointing out that there are much bigger, denser and more populous cities than ours that are exhilarating places to be.

To many members of the Committee for North Sydney this means that, if decision makers are not blinded by private wealth and seduced by monstrous structures, big populations, high densities and tall buildings can generate exciting, attractive urban environments – but only under conditions of openness, involvement, continuous debate about long term options, integrity in the planning system, and a highly skilled and respected bureaucracy (these are what the Committee was formed to support).

Equally, high densities and tall buildings – over-development – will surely destroy valued places under conditions of deregulation, secrecy, deal-making, fast-tracking, and expertise-denialism.

Elizabeth Farrelly nails it with her usual precision: ‘[C]ongestion isn’t about too many people, or even too little infrastructure. It’s about near-total absence of planning’ (‘There’s a con in congestion: it’s not caused by what you think it is’, SMH 17 August 2019).

There has been plenty of planning around St Leonards. So why does development still happen through spot rezoning and the obscure semantics of planning instruments?

Why do the North Sydney Council’s efforts to guide development seem so fragmented and one-off?

How can the community — and the Committee for North Sydney — overcome the systemic barriers to participation and engagement with planning?

Saved from overdevelopment: the full story

The local website In the Cove (ITC) has a highly readable account of how massive overdevelopment was stopped in St Leonards South by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) — the planning manoeuvres, the Council’s acquiescence, and the sustained and well-informed resistance organised by a number of local groups.

We now know that without the community action, the rules, standards and ‘visions’ of the planning system would have counted for nothing, simply because the developers had unconstrained ambitions.

Read the excellent ITC article here.

Overdevelopment rejected in ‘St Leonards South’

Resident groups campaigning on ‘OVERdevelopment – we’re OVER it!’ had a big victory when the Independent Planning Commission — which spent a day (20 May 2019) listening to well prepared submissions by residents — actually compared the official planning ‘Vision’ with the reality of developers’ dreams.

It has been a long campaign against the expectations of developers that planning ‘visions’ are just words when it comes to proposals for massive residential development. Some of that campaign can be seen lower on this page (or click here). Developers’ dreams seem to be encouraged by planners and politicians at the state and local levels — but they don’t necessarily come true.

The IPC’s role is to give advice to the Minister for Planning and Places. Its full report is here. The IPC’s advice is clear and direct, as these three extracts show.

  • 36 …The Commission is therefore not satisfied that the planning proposal would deliver enough public open space to provide “sunny tree-lined public spaces” and “lively and active streets”, which
    are elements of the Vision.
  • 150 …the Commission considers the scale of residential development in Council’s planning proposal would represent an overdevelopment of the site.
  • 155 The Commission considers that no rezoning of the site is required to meet the GSC’s current housing targets under its North District Plan as the housing targets are currently likely to be exceeded without the proposed delivery of a further 2,400 dwellings.

The report in the Sydney Morning Herald is here.

Is the Council trying to silence discussion of the city’s future?

Unhappy about an article in UNSW’s Master of Urban Development and Design Yearbook, the North Sydney Council has written to the Dean of Built Environment, seeming to ask for such contributions to be censored in future.

The Council’s letter can be read and downloaded here.

Of course, urban development issues are always complex and contested. But in this case the Yearbook article is a scholarly contribution to the literature on value capture, which compares the impacts of Sydney Metro in Canterbury — the subject of Yearbook reports — and North Sydney.

Focused on North Sydney, the Yearbook article compares two value capture models — used by the Council’s consultants and by Sydney Metro — to a model based on a form of grounded theory. Read it here.

Unfortunately, the Council seems immune to these important considerations for effective urban management. The letter ignores the science of value capture, the actual content of the article. Instead, the letter takes up a number of minor, peripheral and contestable observations and technicalities, and defends the capacity and good intentions of the staff — which are not at issue.

The letter shows that the Council continues to ignore core issues for the future of the city centre, refuses to engage in dialogue, and rejects criticism.

The letter presents the Council as remarkably sensitive to any suggestions that its consultants’ reports are less than perfect — and incurious about best practice in planning.

The Council’s case looks particularly tenuous when it asserts that the closure of Miller Street between Berry Street and the Pacific Highway will “create a new, centrally located, sundrenched public space.”

An earlier article posted here (and an article in the Sydney Morning Herald available here) pointed out that neither of the Council’s two recent public domain studies examined sunlight and shade, slope or exposure to wind — the overriding considerations for good public spaces.

Responding to this extraordinary deficiency, the Committee for North Sydney has undertaken its own sunlight and shade studies, and has shown that Miller Street scores poorly.*

The “sundrenched” claim for Miller Street — which seems to be spin, not based on evidence — comes in a letter complaining about inaccuracies.

So who should decide what is correct and what can be said?

Should the Dean of Built Environment at UNSW accede to the Council’s request to censor any further analysis of this kind?

Isn’t independent investigation and analysis what universities teach, and practice, and publish?

Or does the North Sydney Council think that universities should consult them before scholarly articles are published?

Is it relevant that the author of a Yearbook article on the theory of value capture has standing: publishing widely, writing some of Australia’s most successful and long-lived planning instruments, designing and directing a well-regarded postgraduate planning program at UTS, occupying key leadership roles in planning at the Central Sydney Planning Committee, the WA Planning Commission and the International Society of City and Regional Planners?

Doesn’t the North Sydney community depend on independent analysis and opinion, if it is to engage effectively in shaping the city’s future?

* Miller Street is increasingly in shadow from 1 pm, particularly at the time of the year when sunlight really matters. Compare this with the Sydney Metro site, which includes what was once the best people place in North Sydney, Tower Square: the site is essentially fully sunlit between 12 and 2 pm every day of the year.

So nothing has changed

In February the Mayor wrote to the Committee for North Sydney. To ask us to contribute to important discussions? To invite us to meet with the planners or Councillors? No. The letter accused the Committee of ‘constant negative dialogue and distribution of misinformation’ and, in effect, demanded that we prove we are not a ‘political activist group’. In short, ‘Go away!’ The Committee issued a statement in response: see the next item.

     It is time for the Mayor to genuinely welcome informed and considered contributions to the long term planning and development of the city centre.

The Committee for North Sydney responds to recent comments by the Mayor of North Sydney.
Read the Committee’s STATEMENT of 20 February 2019

The Committee for North Sydney has written
to the Premier
and to the Sydney Morning Herald

The Committee for North Sydney has analysed two planning reports from the North Sydney Council.
They had clear objectives — and proved exactly the opposite.
They avoided key topics — only to draw attention to them.
Read our analysis here.

On behalf of the “OVERdevelopment — we’re OVER it!” organisers:

On 10 November 2018
800 people told the NSW Government:

OVERdevelopment- we’re OVER it!

SAY IT AGAIN! – ON 23 FebruaryDownload the flyer here

WARNING:  Tsunami headed for North Sydney and Crows Nest!

Download the flyer here

What is behind the tsunami?  Sydney Metro!

Read the truth about this seemingly benign rail agency.

Download the Sydney Metro information sheet here.

The North Sydney city centre is at a turning point

The North Sydney city centre is  growing rapidly – but at what cost?

It’s a convenient location for accommodating regional jobs and denser housing – but is this at the expense of being a good local city centre?

All of the challenges facing the city centre – leading to windy, sunless, congested streets and footpaths – are becoming greater.

All of the recognised deficiencies – lack of public spaces, lack of civic functions, lack of things to do and places to be in – seem to be more pronounced.

The Committee for North Sydney has produced a summary of the challenges and possibilities:

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre.

The Committee for North Sydney’s most recent submission to Sydney Metro exposes drastic flaws in planning and consultation for the Metro stations at North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest:

The agencies of Transport for NSW, including Sydney Metro, have responsibilities to create value, not just to capture value.

Jeremy Bingham said it’s a mish-mash

“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… “

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).

Premier, your choice

Shortly before Christmas, the Committee for North Sydney wrote to the Premier warning that a rushed decision on the Victoria Cross metro site would have profound implications for the future of the city centre.

Two North Sydney Council studies have tacitly confirmed that this is the only site where a “wide, level, sheltered, sunny civic space is even possible.”

The choice is between launching the transformation of the North Sydney city centre into something worthy of “global Sydney”, or permanently blocking it.

The choice is between “value extraction” and “value creation”.

Read the letter here.

Postscript: That same day, Sydney Metro announced that they had sold the site to Lendlease for $200 million for a forty-storey commercial tower — that’s the price for choosing a seriously impaired business district over an improving city centre.

Is this the future?

The North Sydney Council has released two planning studies concerned with civic spaces and functions in the city centre.

It’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Actually, more of the latter.

The studies were carried out by expert consultancies, apparently under severe constraints.

How else can we explain why these two glossy reports — to improve the pedestrian experience in the North Sydney city centre — don’t mention sunlight, or wind, or slope, or the impacts (and opportunities) of the metro, or the dire effects of traffic generated by the proposed road tunnels?

You can read our analysis, and access the reports, here.

Who said that?

“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.

For the NSW Government, the North Sydney city centre is just highways

1   Giant buildings in city centres generate a lot of movement. If Sydney Metro’s massive tower were to be built (it won’t be), together with very big buildings almost adjacent in Denison and Mount Streets, there will be a lot more traffic, and maybe ten thousand extra pedestrians with nil additional space for them.

But worse is planned.

2   If the western harbour tunnel is built (it shouldn’t be) it delivers traffic from the other side of the harbour onto Falcon Street, which appears to be the only off ramp in this area. But it also attracts a lot of new traffic into the centre of the North Sydney city centre! To head south under the harbour, or north to the M2 or the Beaches Link, you have to use Berry Street. Already a traffic sewer, Berry Street is the new tunnel’s only on ramp for cars, trucks and buses heading north and south. Write off that part of the city centre.

3   None of this is explained in the RMS’s thick glossy brochures on the tunnel and the link. Berry Street is studiously not mentioned. All we have to go on is a small map.

4   And all that traffic travelling south from the peninsula to North Sydney? No mention of that either. In the road sign on the map above, it is apparent that peninsular traffic can exit into North Sydney – but there’s  no indication how this happens, and whether that traffic also finds its way into the city centre, already just an ‘office park with through traffic’.

We need help to understand (and resist) what is coming to the city centre with the western harbour tunnel.

Transport planners, insiders, researchers – please help the Committee for North Sydney analyse and publicise what the RMS has in mind for us, and what we can do about it.

Write to us at

Sydney Metro: high-handed high rise!

On 1 July 2018 a unique NSW agency was born.

Sydney Metro, previously a project management office in Transport for NSW, acquired extraordinary powers by amendment of the Transport Administration Act.

(Creating a big, powerful urban corporation is transport administration?)

Sydney Metro is Jekyll and Hyde:

  • public transport engineer – and profit driven entrepreneur
  • place maker – yet it’s a PR machine loose with the facts
  • custodian of civic spaces – and terminator of them
  • builder of public works on public land – a and fast-tracked commercial developer
  • builder of state significant development – and promoter of private towers claiming the same privileges
  • a state agency that ‘helps create vibrant places and communities’ – yet its deals are secret, they’re ‘commercial in confidence’.

That explains why ‘over station development’ is really ‘over development’.

Sydney Metro: time to create value, not just capture value!

Read about the government’s big plans for Sydney Metro.

Read about what’s happening to Crows Nest.

Get involved!

Local paper has minister ‘shutting down’ the council

At its last meeting the North Sydney Council unanimously resolved to ask the Minister for Planning for a moratorium on residential rezoning – but before the Council could do so the Mosman Daily let them know that the Minister says it’s not on!

The direct intervention of the ‘creative news’ local paper risks confusing the simple and urgent issue of a ‘pause’ in Sydney Metro’s premature and secret deals with developers.

The full story is told here.

And the article in the Mosman Daily is here.

It comes down to this:

When the Mayor meets with the Minister to tell him that more residential rezoning ‘will be become a hot issue at the upcoming state election’, we have to hope that she finds the time to convince him that Sydney Metro’s high-handed high-rise will be an even hotter issue at the election.

What’s behind Sydney Metro’s impact on North Sydney and Crows Nest?

Sydney Metro is a new kind of quango, combining the private developer’s single-minded pursuit of maximum development with the privileges, protections and short cuts available to state agencies.

A recent paper explains why Sydney Metro’s cavalier approach in North Sydney and Crows Nest will be increasingly condemned, and why it must be — and will be — strenuously resisted by the North Sydney community.

Read the paper here.

Download a pdf file of the paper here.

Let the politicians know what you think of these things, by sending a short email to the people on this contact list.

Mayor talks to Premier—about what?

Following the Council’s unanimous decision to write urgently to the Premier and Ministers for Planning and Transport, calling for a pause in Sydney Metro’s rush to lock in towers above its stations, Mayor Jilly Gibson was to have an outdoor meeting with the Premier on her Friday visit to the area.

The Council’s 30 July decision, supported by the Mayor, is reported in the most recent post, below.

According to an article in the Mosman Daily of 9 August, the Mayor’s agenda included, rightly, filtering the road tunnel stacks, compensation for tunnel disruptions, more open space, the closure of central Miller Street, and the undergrounding of the Berry ramp to the road tunnel. The Mayor told the Mosman Daily that she wants a ‘skypark’ on the roof of the 42-storey tower over the Victoria Cross station (notwithstanding the Council’s unanimous decision not to support Sydney Metro’s tower).

Surprisingly, there was no mention of asking the Premier for a pause in Sydney Metro’s fast-track process avoiding consultation and planning assessment.  Jeremy Dawkins, convenor of the Committee for Sydney, emailed Jilly, saying that the community would expect her to make a big issue of the Council’s unanimous resolutions at the last two meetings.

See the recent post, below, and the Mosman Daily article.

Council again unanimously calls for rethink

The North Sydney Council has again called for a halt in Sydney Metro’s unconstrained rush to lock in high-rise towers over its stations in North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest.

At its meeting on 30 July, the Council considered a staff report on Sydney Metro’s proposals for towers above the Crows Nest metro station. The report pointed out many concerns with the proposal.

The Council strengthened the conclusions of the report, and unanimously resolved:

THAT Council urgently write to the Ministers for Transport and Planning and the Premier seeking an urgent pause to this process and that Sydney Metro be directed to prepare a Masterplan for the site in collaboration with Council and the community in order to guide future development above the Metro station and to ensure the provision of community benefits on the site.

The Council’s full resolution can be read here.

The Mosman Daily reported on the Council’s decision on 9 August 2018. The article by Matt Taylor is here.

Please send your own message to the Premier, the Ministers and Sydney Metro using this contact list.

And you can commend the councillors that voted for the resolution — that’s all of those present on the night — using the same contact list.

Major statement on CROWS NEST by the Committee for North Sydney

In response to Sydney Metro’s efforts at ‘Early Community Engagement’ — after they have decided on the fate of Crows Nest — the Committee for North Sydney delivered to Sydney Metro, local members of Parliament, the Mayor and Councillors a clear statement about obvious conflicts of interest and other serious flaws in planning, transparency and governance in Sydney Metro’s attempts to lock in massive commercial development over both stations in the North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest, by avoiding normal, independent planning assessments.

The Committee for North Sydney condemned Sydney Metro’s truncated consultation and approval processes, warning that this approach ‘will generate anger, not agreement.’

Pointing out that the Government has just established an investigation into the corruption of planning approval processes and ‘decision-making governance’, the Committee for North Sydney said, ‘It is inevitable that the community will ask similar questions about Sydney Metro’s use of confidentiality and premature tenders to circumvent independent assessment.’

Read the statement here.

Reply to the Mosman Daily

On 18 July 2018 the Mosman Daily covered the launch of the Committee for North Sydney, interviewing Ian Grey at length. The story is here, as it appeared on the Daily Telegraph online (subscription).

They also took the opportunity to let Sydney Metro ‘explain’ what they had in mind for the city centre and Crows Nest. Their renderings were intentionally out of date – there’s no indication of the building cantilevering out to the property line in Miller Street, and there’s the deliberate omission of outside walls at ground-level, to suggest a public space. As a result, the paper said that one of the images showed ‘outdoor dining’ when there is no such thing. The paper also seemed to think it nice of Sydney Metro (a government agency) to release images of 27-storey buildings in Crows Nest, calling it a ‘sneak preview’!!

Margaret Petrykowski put them straight in a letter in the following week’s issue (26 July 2018, page 26). Thanks, Margaret!

Crows Nest ‘over-station-development’ — Residents say it’s over-development

There was standing room only when 90 residents met to consider the Sydney Metro Over Station Development at Crows Nest.

Sydney Metro is seeking feedback on its chosen development — it somehow thinks of this as ‘Early Community Engagement’.

Residents voted unanimously against the inclusion of two 27 storey apartment blocks and against the exclusion of public amenity on the site above the station.

Wollstonecraft Precinct Chair John Hancox advised the meeting that feedback will be lodged by the closing date of 29 July, and urged those present to write to Sydney Metro. He said, ‘The community is expecting that Sydney Metro will take note and modify its proposal before lodging an EIS.’

Catch up with the latest on the Crows Nest page.

It’s a similar story in the North Sydney city centre —

Committee for North Sydney LAUNCHED!

Committee members and supporters gathered on the grassed area in front of the MLC Building in Miller Street, North Sydney, for the public launch of the Committee on 11 July 2018.

It’s quite a symbolic area: in front of the locally-listed MLC Building (1957, 14 storeys), on the 13 m forecourt, now possibly the best public open space in the city centre — which shows how little there is — and next to the metro site, where the popular and successful low-rise Tower Square was recently demolished by Sydney Metro.

Margaret Petrykowski addresses the gathering at the launch.

Ian Grey, President of the Association for the Committee for North Sydney, Jeremy Dawkins, Convenor of the Committee for North Sydney, Bruce Donald and Genia McCaffery also spoke.

The gathering was informed that the Committee for North Sydney had signed off on its initial documents (see the menu under Actions above), and that meetings had been held with Felicity Wilson, Tim Parker, Project Director for Sydney Metro, and Jilly Gibson. Meetings are being sought with other key stakeholders.

Media statement by the Committee for North Sydney

11 July 2018

‘Failed planning risks turning great civic opportunities into urban blight.’

So said leading city and regional planner, Jeremy Dawkins, at the launch of a new expert group, the Committee for North Sydney, today.

‘The North Sydney city centre has been getting steadily more bleak and congested. The building of a Metro station is the latest opportunity to kick-start its transformation into a great place. Instead, everything that’s been going wrong has been accelerated.’

Jeremy Dawkins, the Convenor of the Committee, said that many of Australia’s leading urban designers, architects, engineers and urban planners live in North Sydney, and together with community leaders they have formed the Committee for North Sydney to draw attention to a stark choice facing the North Sydney city centre.

‘The decision that the NSW Government must make is this – whether North Sydney remains an underperforming “office park with through traffic” or, over time, North Sydney becomes a great cultural, business and community asset for the state,’ he said.

The Committee for North Sydney strongly supports the call by the North Sydney Council for a pause in the rush to approve a massive private commercial building over the Victoria Cross station.

Last month the Council wrote to the Minister for Transport seeking further community consultation in relation to revised design options for development at the station site.

Former long-time North Sydney Mayor Genia McCaffery said, ‘Everyone welcomes a Metro station in the North Sydney city centre. But instead of this leading to much-needed public space and civic functions, the Government wants a commercial building occupying nearly the entire site.’

Prominent senior environment lawyer Bruce Donald AM of Waverton called on the NSW Government ‘to capture public value from this public transport project in a once in history chance to create a civic space for what has been a blighted North Sydney.’

The aims of the Committee for North Sydney are to facilitate public and expert contributions to the progressive improvement of North Sydney, through visionary strategic planning, good public policy and imaginative urban design.

It is supported by an Association that anyone can join. The Association and the Committee can be found at 
and contacted at

The Committee for North Sydney prepares for public launch on 11 July 2018

The Committee for North Sydney held its second meeting on 9 July 2018. All members attended the meeting, with the exception only or those ill or out of town.

The Committee finalised and adopted its submission to the Department of Planning and Environment on the over station development at the Victoria Cross metro station in North Sydney. The submission is available here.

The Committee also adopted a strong statement on the principles that should guide future development in North Sydney. The statement contrasts the ‘fantastic potential’ of the city with the ‘sad reality’. The statement is available here.

The record of the this, the second meeting of the Committee, is available here.

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre

The Committee for North Sydney recognised the urgent need to state clear strategic principles that should help investors, landowners, businesses, people who work in and visit North Sydney, residents and governments — and their planners — make choices about the future of the city centre.

It’s easy to come up with motherhood statements that might be wishful goals for all city centres — attractive, vibrant, sustainable — but much harder to translate these into specific choices and policies for actual places. Committee members worked on a ‘principles’ document to express aspirations for the North Sydney city centre that are based on its particular qualities (good and bad) and target concrete changes that might be feasible.

We were able to condense this into a single summary page that:

  • identifies the city’s potential strengths
  • lists its well-recognised weaknesses
  • proposes a set of principles to guide all development into the future (this is the section headed YET in the attached statement)
  • presents a vision of the city centre after transformative development over some decades
  • And ends with a ‘call to action‘ — it takes an engaged community AND a determined local government AND a responsible state government to achieve sustained positive change.

At its meeting on 9 July 2018, the Committee for North Sydney discussed the document in detail, refined it, and endorsed its publication to coincide with the launch of the Committee.

Here it is:

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre

INAUGURAL MEETING of the Committee for North Sydney on 29 June 2018

Reflecting the high level of concern in professional and academic circles and in the community, most members of the newly-appointed Committee for North Sydney were on hand for their inaugural meeting on 29 June 2018.

After introductions and a briefing on the Association and the Committee for North Sydney, the members entered into a lively discussion of the issues facing North Sydney and the critical decisions that are about to be made. There was agreement on the analysis of North Sydney’s deficiencies as  a city centre, and agreement on the direction that planning and development needed to follow over the next decades if the North Sydney city centre is to reach anything like its potential to serve the community and the state.

It was agreed to meet again on 9 July 2018, and to publicly launch the Committee on 11 July 2018.

The record of the meeting is here.

North Sydney Council calls for a halt in station development, and for new design options

At its meeting on 25 June 2018, the Council received a report from staff concerning the rush to approve the over station development at the Victoria Cross metro station.

Five members of the Committee for North Sydney addressed the Council, pointing out that this was a critical moment: the massive private commercial building proposed for the site would greatly worsen the congested and bleak nature of North Sydney’s streets, and permanently close off options for good public spaces.

The Council’s subsequent decision, supported by the Mayor and all Councillors other than Cr Keen (absent: conflict of interest) and Cr Gunning, was as follows.

1   THAT Council make a submission to the concept State Significant Development Application for the Victoria Cross Metro Over Station Development.

2   THAT the submission advocate design excellence and design options that promote a public plaza providing a heart for the North Sydney CBD including:

  • Consideration of no building above the station;
  • The alignment of the setback of any built form with the MLC building; and
  • Full or partial closure of Miller Street between Berry Street and Pacific Highway.

3   THAT Transport for NSW and the Roads and Maritime Services acknowledge the role of Metro in this location as a basis to achieve enormous mode shift benefits, high levels of pedestrian amenity and an attractive and inviting precinct post Metro and that the current through-traffic function of both Miller and Berry Streets is at odds with this objective.

4   THAT the submission be informed by submissions received from all Precincts.

5   THAT Council write to the Minister responsible seeking further community consultation in relation to revised design options.

The Committee for North Sydney strongly supports the call by the Council for revised design options, and for further community consultation.


At the General Meeting of the Association for the Committee for North Sydney held on 25 June 2018, the Board appointed the foundation members of the Committee for Sydney.

Convenor of the Committee for North Sydney: Jeremy Dawkins

Members of the Committee for North Sydney: Kevin Alker, Iain Bartholomew, Terry Byrnes, Darrel Conybeare [withdrew July 2019], Jeremy Dawkins, Bruce Donald, Geoff Driscoll, Angus Finney, Dr Sid French, John Hancox, Ian Grey, Geoff Hanmer, Professor David Hensher , Professor Jon Lang, Genia McCaffery, Jan McCredie, Warren Marsh, Margaret Petrykowski, Robert Stitt, Bernard Smith, Professor Peter Webber [withdrew July 2019], Professor James Weirick and John Wyndham.

The record of the meeting is here.

North Sydney association general meeting

Maintaining the sense of urgency that had caused the western Precinct Committees to establish the Association for the Committee for North Sydney, the members held a general meeting to elect the Board, on 25 June 2018.

The Board of seven members is as follows.

President: Ian Grey

Vice President: Margaret Petrykowski

Secretary: Bernard Smith

Treasurer: John Hancox

Board members: Ian Bartholomew, Jeremy Dawkins, Genia McCaffery

The record of the meeting is here.


North Sydney association formed

The inaugural meeting of the an association to campaign for the long term improvement of North Sydney — formally known as the Association for the Committee for North Sydney Incorporated — was held on 9 May 2018.

This was the culmination of many meetings of Precinct Committees and of joint meetings of the leaders of the Edward, Lavender, Union, Waverton and Wollstonecraft Precinct Committees.

With a sense of urgency, given the pace of development in North Sydney and the impending planning determination of the office building on top of the Victoria Cross metro station, a small group was asked to get things moving.

The first step. after registering the association with the template constitution,  was to amend the constitution to reflect the precise purposes and structure intended for the Association and its Committee for North Sydney.  The decisions made at the meeting are here.

The Constitution of the Association for the Committee for North Sydney Incorporated is incorporated in the record of the meeting. The constitution may be seen here.