Tag Archive | housing density

CLOSING NIGHT FOR THE KOGARAH MECCA

On Wednesday night, 27 February 2013, a small group of dedicated locals and heritage activists gathered by candlelight opposite the old Mecca theatre site at Kogarah. We shared Fantales and choc tops, listened to tones of the original Christie 2/7 Victory theatre organ “broadcasting from the wilds of Kogarah” and showed poster billboards of The […]

REMEMBERING THE MECCA

mecca_flyer

mecca_flyer

So sad to see The once mighty Kogarah Mecca in this state. Please come along on Wednesday night and help bid farewell to a local icon.
Opened 1920 as the Victory Theatre. Demolished February 2013. R.I.P.

For further details on the theatre, click here.

For a blog with beautiful images of what still lies within the walls of the Mecca, click here.

The final curtain...

The final curtain…

Last glimpses of an icon.

Last glimpses of an icon.

mecca_banner

The sign says it all. They will pass the blame to NSW Planning but they did tick the DA approval box. It’s a combined failure.

Another day, another icon lost... Images Inheritance.

Another day, another icon lost… All images Inheritance.

72 years of history disappearing before our very eyes.

93 years of history disappearing before our very eyes.

NSW, YOU’RE STILL BEING “O’FARRELLED” IN 2013!

2012 was a big year for Barry O’Farrell. He and his state government were busy wielding the axe through various tiers of public services and government agencies causing grief and carnage wherever they struck, from education to health to emergency services. He also had big development plans for the state on the agenda that many of us didn’t see coming, as he swept into office on the promise of ‘giving planning powers back to the people.’ What a lie that has turned out to be. On this point alone he has failed miserably, as 2013 looks to become a year of even more broken promises, even more bloodshed, even more breakdown of our state’s core functioning values as this greedy, dangerous, thick sculled premier leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes… Watch out NSW – You’re still being O’FARRELLED!

Yes Barry would like to wish us all a happy new year. But a word of advice… Just be careful if you intend spending part of your summer walking through some of our beautiful National Parks… you may just get shot at by some of the many shooters that Barry has allowed into our wilderness areas as they mistake your silhouette for that of a stray animal. He passed legislation in a deal with the Shooters and Fishers party allowing him to sell off our electricity infrastructure in exchange for access to the parks. Since then its been revealed that ”this decision would annihilate current rules around wildlife management in NSW and significantly curtail the ability for [National Parks and Wildlife Service] to manage lands reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974,” according to leaked advisory notes drafted within the former Environment department.

One Sally Barnes, the former head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who is linked to the notes, is now the chief executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage overseeing the move to allow hunting in parks. The notes also asked ”We are trying to open up parks to visitors – how can this be compatible?… NSW has a balanced approach with hunting allowed in state forests and on private land. If NSW wishes to be the Green State why would NSW be the first state to move to allowing hunting in national parks?” It has also been revealed that two key officials involved with the move, the Game Council’s chief executive Greg McFarland and Andrew Mallen are themselves under investigation for illegal hunting practices, trespassing, and the inhumane killing of a feral goat last month. Now that is a great example for other hunters to follow.

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And if the shooters don’t cause enough damage to our ever increasingly fragile ‘protected’ ecosystems, then the grazers just might, as Barry and co have allowed trial grazing to go ahead within National Parks too. And ducks are under fire, those dreaded webbed toed vermin that they are. They have to be eradicated, so Barry has reintroduced duck hunting to appease his political comrades the Shooters.

Even our underwater friends won’t be safe, especially if you’re a critically endangered grey nurse shark. You’ve been O’FARRELLED! too, your habitat protection sites have been revoked at Bass Point and reduced elsewhere at Green Island and Magic point, in a deal that opens up these areas to more recreational fishing at a time when most countries around the world are trying to add to maritime protection zones, not take them away.

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Of course sharks aren’t the only ones in trouble down on the waterfront. The closure of a world class fisheries research centre at Cronulla sees no reprieve despite extensive political and scientific lobbying on many fronts including that of Fred Nile. It’s been well and truly O’FARRELLED! It will be closed, and now there is talk that the heritage listed adjoining pool may be lost too, as its purpose is now diminished, according to a heritage advisor enlisted by, you guessed it, Barry O’Farrell.

It’s quite clear he doesn’t really give a toss for the environment, our Barry. Late last year he axed nine green schemes including Green Business Grants, Renewable Energy Development Grants, Schools Energy Efficiency Grants, Hybrid bus trials and the Fleetwise program aimed at reducing emissions from company vehicles. These cuts were claimed by Barry to reduce household power bills, however according to Greens MP John Kaye “the Green schemes have only driven up power prices by about $76 over the last five years, compared to the almost $700 added by wires and poles investments.” This comes after the governments scrapping of solar panel rebates not long after they came to power. But on another front, O’Farrell was quick to point the finger at the federal govt after the PM walked away from a deal that would hand environmental decision making to the states, claiming ”It’s clear the Prime Minister caved in. She blinked to pressure from the green groups who wrongly characterised this as a watering down of environmental standards.” Watching Barry’s view on ‘environmental standards’ unfold now its clearly better he was given as little environmental power as possible.

COAL SEAM GAS PROTEST SYDNEY

Image AAP

But if you think he’s just a mean spirited and heartless political hard case, well that’s just not true. Our man Barry shows absolutely no hostility to the gas and coal mining industry, as we have recently seen. He has basically allowed coal seam gas exploration and drilling to go ahead practically anywhere in the state, and many gas drillers are already taking advantage of his generosity. Directly after passing CSG legislation across NSW, 22 licenses were renewed, now that’s a lot of mining money riding on that one decision, is it any wonder it was rushed through? A ban on the controversial ‘fracking’ technique of extraction was also lifted. It’s just an afterthought that residents of Camden and South Western Sydney are a little angry having recently bought land and not being told any news that AGL would be drilling 66 gas wells right under their new neighbourhoods. Or the fact that the environmental effects of coal seam gas drilling are widely documented to cause irreversible damage to water aquifers and extensive ground contamination, not to mention surface methane leaks or cracking of surface stone such as the sandstone plateaus in western NSW which are now showing cracks throughout as a result of nearby gas seam exploration, or the countless irreplaceable millennia-old Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings throughout the state which are now at serious risk.

“The O’Farrell government has recklessly given these coal seam gas companies the green light to renew their exploration licences despite a record in NSW of toxic coal seam gas water spills, community opposition and regulatory failures,” said Prue Bodsworth of the Wilderness Society. “By offering these licence renewals, 21.3% of the State will be covered by coal seam gas exploration, which is far too high considering the massive risks to our food-producing land, water catchments and health. O’Farrell has now actively opened up over five million hectares for coal seam gas mining, putting a dark cloud of gas drilling over millions of NSW residents and our most special natural areas and waterways.”

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Image AAP

And its not just the mining industry Barry is cosily happy with. The developer lobby has a special place in Barry’s heart too, he has bent over backwards to make sure our state makes them feel at home. This is the year Barry’s magical planning white paper comes to fruition, basically turning all planning rules and residential zoning on its head. Barry’s rebadged planning body, Urbangrowth NSW, headed by former party leader John Brogden, has been given universal power to determine future growth areas of development with the input of developers, and has already carved up large chunks of Sydney and surrounds for high growth development. Urbangrowth will have the powers of compulsory acquisition, removal of regulatory barriers (‘red tape’) to speed up development, as well as access to surplus government land. Councils are to be bypassed, in fact, residents won’t have a say against these multi-story high density developments sweeping across their neighbourhoods provided they pass the certain ‘criteria’. You won’t even know that a development is going up next door until the concrete starts drying.

And with Urbangrowth NSW now running the show in cohorts with developer groups, don’t expect the suburbs you live in to look anything like they do now in another couple of years. “Take note of the name of the Housing Supply Sub Committee of Cabinet” said Brogden. It was called “not housing sustainability, not housing affordability – but housing supply”.

And its not just about fast tracking of developments in predetermined growth zones either, don’t think old inner city terrace suburbs such as Paddington or Woollahra will be spared. Legislation has just been passed allowing owners to now bypass local Development Control Plans, effectively taking away any protection of how these suburbs will remain, and allowing developers to bulldoze or alter heritage homes if they prove to be increasing housing supply. ”DCPs are the fine-grained controls that protect local communities from inappropriate development,” says David Shoebridge, Greens MP. ”This government intends to gut them.”

Heritage consultant David Logan, who worked on DCPs in eastern Sydney is also critical. ”Someone only has to say: ‘look, I’m providing more housing than you currently get in existing terraces in Paddington’ and the consent authority would be really hard pressed to keep those existing buildings [under the proposed changes],”he said. So I guess, landowners and ratepayers, and anyone else who likes to live in or even look at genuine heritage neighbourhoods, you too have been O’FARRELLED!

UrbanGrowth

But it gets worse. Under new strata laws proposed, if you live in an apartment, for example a nice art deco unit block with a garden, and you are quite happy to stay there, so long as 75 percent of the owners agree to sell to a developer (remember that’s only three out of four owners), you won’t have a say, you will be forced to sell, removed from the equation. Can you just imagine developers eyeing off all of those ‘underutilised’ brick apartments across Sydney, and starting to put pressure on owners to sell so they can increase the heights and densities returning the favour to our man Barry. Now it’s beginning to sound a bit like communist China.

Speaking of China, Barry is trying to attract cashed up investors from that part of the world by offering fast tracked visas for big investors under his new 188 and 888 Significant Investor Visa program, allowing anyone who invests $A5 million into the NSW economy not only to gain a visa for themselves, but allow their family to ether via the express lane. ‘Investment’ includes such forms as real estate, bonds, even cash. So in other words, someone from China says, “Hey Barry, I’ve got 5 million to put in your bank, or I’ve got 5 million to build a highrise here in Sydney,” that will do the trick. No language requirements, just show them the money and you get your family ticket. Now that is democracy at work. (for the rich).

But as private investment is ramped up and the coal seam gas and land grab continues at breakneck speed, funding from his own departments seem to have mysteriously dried up. Planned art gallery expansions in both Newcastle and Albury have both had the plug pulled by Barry O’Farrell, leaving the councils of those cities to bridge the gaping holes in financing themselves. The proposed expansion at Albury is now at risk as council weighs up the costs of funding it alone. TAFE and university course funding has been cut to regional centres as well, forcing courses to close and pushing students in those centres to go online in order to complete their studies.

The interesting thing with Barry is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to grow the state with private investment and high-rise development, while at the same time cutting back on all the basic governmental services that a growing community needs – health, education, policing etc. We are heading towards a Chinese style direction of high density urbanisation, and in return we are losing our own standards of living, our heritage, our way of life, the right to determine our own planning controls and standards.

Image Lee Besford

Image Lee Besford

2013 will be another big year for the growing list of epic failures for Barry O’Farrell. I have no doubt the voters will punish him the next time an election comes around, the question is, how much damage can he do during his term in office, and how will our cities and our state look by then. Heritage is not something that can be replaced with a change of government. What we are talking about here is a dangerous and reckless premier and government. Even if they serve only one term in office they have unconditional potential to cause irreversible damage to the environment, our heritage, our levels of public service and amenity, and our standard of living in general. Never before has NSW seen such a dictatorship government so intent on working together with developer and mining groups to the unvoiced detriment of everyone else.

It’s not too late, there is a lot we can all do to stop this absurdity. The planning white paper is at being released in February, so write a letter or email to the office telling them you disagree with the powers being proposed, the complete lack of community input to determine how our suburbs will look, the lack of heritage controls, and the scale of overdevelopment being proposed for many growth areas. Now is the time. Look into groups such as the Better Planning Network and get involved.

Title image The Australian.

Watch out NSW, You’ve been “O’Farrelled!” – Part 1 post here.

WITH MAYORS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS DEVELOPERS…

Sometimes there can be little wonder that planning and heritage protection within our suburbs is in a state of ruin, when you just take a look at some of the people in council who are actually running the show. We’ve recently learned of Parramatta Council’s ill-conceived approval to bastardise the convict-built heritage of Lennox Bridge. Back in August we lifted the lid on the former Mayor of Auburn and councillor, Mr Ronny Oueik, and his enduring attempts to demolish his own heritage-listed Federation mansion known as Camden Lodge. Now the case of his right hand man, the deputy mayor of Auburn, one Salim Mehajer, a young 26 year old property developer with expensive tastes in cars and some very questionable driving skills.

In October it was reported that this upstanding member of society took his $250,000 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti out for a drive in Lidcombe, lost control of the vehicle and veered onto the footpath striking two pedestrians, Nhu Hua, 68, and Teyet La, 40, who suffered serious injuries requiring surgery at Westmead hospital. The deputy mayor was convicted of negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm in Burwood Court, but parts of the story were changed after he revealed having to swerve away from another car, a fact he didn’t tell police earlier, saying rather he was distracted by the flash of a bystander’s camera. Despite the possibilities of severe punishment including stiff fines and jail time, Mehajir walked away with a relatively minor 12 month suspension for negligent driving and 150 hours of community service. No doubt his cause was helped by several personal references by dignitaries including councillors and state members, and being represented by former judge and Royal Commissioner, Greg James QC. He was actually commended by the Judge for his outstanding contributions to society.

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Image The Area News

This poses the question, does he deserve a place on council after all this? Is he a worthy representative of our community? And in a broader sense, do we want or need high flying property developers running our councils? Surely there are pecuniary interests at stake here, or at least a massive conflict of interest. On one hand, the council are supposed to assess DA’s and govern planning decisions based on community needs and unbiased procedure. Being the director of a property developing company while being sworn in as deputy mayor or councillor for that matter is not going to give unbiased decision making, because they have a stake in the building and development industry, they are in fact making money out of pro-development decisions, and that is not in the best interest of our communities. There is no way a developer should be on the council just as a convicted felon shouldn’t be in the police force.

jflowersFormer Mayor of Rockdale John Flowers who is now a state MP is another pro-development politician. During his time at Rockdale Council he was involved in the so-called ‘Destinations’ failure which set Rockdale up as a new Gold Coast style tourism centre complete with marinas and parking over the beach dunes. Residents breathed sighs of relief when that was finally deemed dead and buried, but not content with merely harassing Rockdale residents alone, as a state government MP he is at it again, spruiking the merits of high rise in areas such as Botany Bay, where he believes buildings such as the gaudy Novotel are the way forward, and that the number of 60’s and 70’s blocks of 2 and 3 storey units in the area are a result of ‘‘planning paralysis’’ and ‘‘urban decay’’ (what he really means is they are not overdeveloped). Many of us find them more attractive and certainly more appropriate in scale and size to the modern day alternatives.

In his inaugral parliament speech he supported measures by his Liberal government to assist developers state-wide, allowing them to appeal to a Joint Regional Planning Panel if their DA was initially denied. This panel would consist of independent analysts including, you guessed it, developers. NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sang the praises of the pro-development stance. ‘This means rezoning proposals which have merit — for instance those which are well-located, planned and will assist housing supply — may be supported after an independent review.’’ We see it another way… that even though a development has been knocked back due to being inappropriate, over-sized or unwanted by the community, it will still get through via this back door. Meanwhile, under Hazzard’s  white paper reforms, we as residents won’t even get the right to know when a development is going up next door to our own homes.

Community members need to stand up against these self-interested developer-councils, pro-developer state government, and their developer lobby group buddies such as Urban Taskforce. They are taking us all for a ride. With the O’Farrell government’s white paper on planning undergoing public consultation as we speak, we need to oppose the ridiculous planning laws now being proposed and enforced upon us.  There are many community groups around the Sydney area who are fighting long and hard battles against the various waves of this tide of bad planning. As a direct result of the green and white papers, a conglomerate known as the Better Planning Network (BPN) has recently been formed with the aim to combine us all in our fight at a state level. Here is an email link that contains a letter opposing the planning reforms. Please look and fill it out, it only takes a minute, and we will only win with many voices.

Go to: http://betterplanningnetwork.good.do/nsw/email-the-premier-2/

http://www.facebook.com/BetterPlanningNetwork

Main title image. Deputy mayor of Auburn Salim Mehajer, SMH.

‘RAMSGATE BEACH SMALL VILLAGE’ ALL OF A SUDDEN VERY LARGE

In what can only be described as a planning joke, residents of picturesque Ramsgate Beach are to be marooned with a six storey block of units on an already busy intersection directly across from a shopping centre that struggles with vehicular traffic on a daily basis. The 21.5 million dollar Helm Developments proposal at 158-162 Ramsgate Road has just been unanimously approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel comprising three state government nominated professionals as well as two local council representatives.

The funny thing here is how a six storey block of units gets the green light so easily on this site. This has occurred after both Rockdale council and the NSW state government have admitted there was a ‘bungle’ on the revised height limits for the so-called ‘Ramsgate Beach small shopping village’ (which is not so small after this). After council upgraded the limit to 16 metres in December last year, somehow it was passed by the Planning Department at 20.5 metres, and apparently now is locked in, pending what Rockdale council terms ‘community consultation’ over maintaining the new, higher limit. Helm Developments saw their window of opportunity and quickly upgraded their development to take full advantage of the height increase. In the context of the area, this apartment block is clearly over sized and would dominate the beachfront dramatically. In fact where the building would sit is currently occupied by two single storey cottages and a double storey dwelling. So increasing that to 39 units plus six commercial shops over six stories totaling 20 metres would be, to say the least, a dramatic change.

The aesthetics of the area would be altered from a small beachside suburb to a high-rise high-density inner city style hub in one fowl swoop should this development proceed. The increased traffic, increased congestion during and after building completion, lack of public transport options (where is the nearest railway station?), the fact this is situated smack-bang on one of the main city-south motor carriageways, overshadowing, loss of views, destruction of the character of Ramsgate beach, precedent for further developments in and around Ramsgate and along the foreshores of historic Botany Bay – was any of this considered by the so-called expert panel and if so how did it pass?

The fact that the zoning height limits are basically on hold and only in place due to a planning error means that any development application should be put on hold until the zoning issues are resolved, and actually both council and the Planning Department should be investigated in a legal sense for breaching the trust of their ratepayers. New mayor Shane O’Brien on one hand claims to oppose the development while on the other wants to investigate retaining the 20.5 m limit because this Helm DA has already been lodged and the Rockdale council is still playing blame games with the Planning Department over the cause of the issue… I mean, C’mon Shane, this is not cricket. You are a newly elected Mayor, this is not a good first public impression for you. A bureaucratic bungle in zoning that we as residents are supposed to just sit back and cop sweet, and even now you want the error in zoning to stand? You must think your ratepayers are a bunch of small brained idiots. Let’s get this right, let’s go back to the drawing board and come up with something worthy of the area. This isn’t the inner city after all.

Title development image courtesy The Leader.

ELSEWHERE…
Rockdale Council area is being besieged by over-development at the moment, with little regard for heritage values or appropriate sizing. Just down the road from Ramsgate beach lies Dolls Point. After a recent development of units replaced a service station, a neighbouring house has just been sold as a development site, showing how one block of units leads to another, and the scourge spreads. See image below.

Five minutes the other way along the Grand Parade, Brighton Le Sands is undergoing massive highrise changes. Small seaside blocks of Art deco buildings don’t stand a chance, particularly with the O’Farrell government’s plans to allow developers to buy-out whole blocks of units with only 75 percent consent of owners compared with 100 percent previously. This gem below known as Romax Court is being sold as a development site.

Windows like this are set to disappear from our suburbs.

In another part of the Rockdale council, at 1 Caledonian St  Bexley stands a charming deceased estate Federation house on 1278 square metres of land. This home occupies a quiet area just around the corner from the heritage precinct of Dunmore Street, but that hasn’t stopped it being listed as a development site for 7 townhouses. “Developers came from everywhere” said Real estate agent Doug Turnbull but the house was passed in at $1.175M. It is only a short reprieve before another magnificent Federation is lost and replaced by ever more townhouses.

On Bay Street Rockdale new blocks of units are rising where single storey dwellings were. There is a seismic shift happening as seen below, where a couple of rather forlone looking cottages cling on to their small patch. Now they too are for sale by the ironically named Good View Property, seeing as the owners enjoyed the good view of development next door so much they just had to sell.

A ‘good view’ property.

HOW TO DESTROY THE AMBIENCE OF AVOCA BEACH

Anyone who has been to Avoca Beach on NSW’s central coast will know what a quaint and picturesque seaside village it is. Lovely beaches, rock pools, surf club, sleepy seaside atmosphere, even a historic picture theatre to complete the scene. I personally happened to be there last weekend and was quietly amazed that such a peaceful and lovely hamlet can still exist so close to our major city Sydney in this day and age. Now all that is about to be ripped apart as Avoca Beach Picture Theatre owners Norman and Beth Hunter plan to launch their 1951 single screen theatre into the 21st century, with a 5-screen 615-seat multiplex monster along with cafe, gallery and apartment block containing 5 units over 3 stories. A big sea change from the existing old time theatre; residents say too big, and vow to fight the Development Application. Rightfully so, as this will dramatically reshape their little village into a modern metropolis, a change that many who live here don’t want to see.

Charming seaside theatre, for now

Several years ago Owners Norman and Beth Hunter bought an adjoining block of land and managed to get it along with the Theatre rezoned to allow mixed use commercial and residential. “Lodging this development application has been a 10 year journey,” Mrs Hunter said. “Now the time is right to get the DA through.” The proposed floor space ratio of the DA however exceeds council zoning regulations by 14 percent and the height exceeds regulations by 1.52m. They have sweetened the deal with Gosford Council by offering to pave the carpark opposite, as well as upgrade the adjoining park and footpath.

Aerial view showing size of the proposal

At a public meeting in the Surf Club on Monday 17th September around 230 residents turned up to voice their concerns against the proposed bulk and scale and of the plan (and that is a huge number in a community of this size). Avoca Beach Residents Group President Steve Fortey cited some of the residents concerns. “There is one road in and one road out of Avoca,” he said.”We are at capacity already and have managed to keep the high rises at bay so far…” Parking and gridlock would be an obvious concern especially on weekends when nippers, holiday makers, beach goers and now increased cinema traffic all drive around in circles competing for the limited amount of car spaces that simply won’t cope with what is being proposed here. “Most of the parking projection was based on a 2003 study, but traffic has increased substantially since then,” said Mr Fortey.

It’s a picture that is being played out up and down the coast… how to maintain the quiet serenity of a beachside locality that attracts people in the first place, while allowing for future development and increased population growth… Well, the answer is, at least in this case, fairly simple – Don’t.

  • Don’t build a 5 screen multiplex in a tiny beach village that clearly doesn’t want or need it. There are many, many places not far away that would be a far more suitable choice for this kind of development – Gosford, Erina, Wyong are all short drives away, and they don’t share the same traffic snarl and parking problems that Avoca Beach clearly would have to deal with.
  • Don’t ruin the charming character of a 1950’s heritage theatre, one that is obviously loved as it is, as shown by the loyal patronage and multitude of awards over the years including best Independent Regional Cinema three years running (that was obviously not won by being a multiplex!)
  • And quite simply don’t crush the irreplaceable ambience of this seaside village by trying to build a Westfield-like structure in the centre of it; a spectacularly oversized, gruesome looking structure so clearly out of place that nobody particularly wants to infect their lovely village. Make no mistake, once here, Avoca Beach will be changed forever. If a place like this is to change then it should be with community input and acceptance, and it must be a benefit to the townscape, not a brutal nondescript effigy beaten over the heads of unsuspecting locals, one that looks more like a public library than a cinema at that…

Heritage trashed, replaced by concrete box

Residents have until October 5 to comment on the ludicrous proposal, which coincides with busy school holiday period (funny that) so get busy writing.

Follow the link to a very informative Facebook Supporters page here.

A nice short film outlining the heritage of the theatre and movie-going on the Central Coast here.

Avoca Theatre DA details here

SHARKS CRY POOR, TURN DEVELOPER

In a deal described as “like winning the grand final” by Triple M’s Grill Team, the NSW Government has approved a $330 million development on the site of NRL club The Cronulla Sharks home ground and current leagues club in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. This is a big win for the struggling club, who have cried poor for some time citing $13m debts linked to developer Bluestone Capital Ventures, which they will now be able to pay off almost wholly thanks to the massive redevelopment. In a deal slated for quite some time, Bluestone Capital Ventures offered to kill off the club’s debt to St George Bank in a land grab that would see them ultimately take 100 percent of the revenue from the sale of the first 300 units in the 600 unit complex. Without this cash injection the club argued they may not be able to survive into the future, but the question must be asked, should their own financial mismanagement over many years be considered a plus in gaining consent for property development, and now, if any club or association cries poor, can they too build highrise on their own plots as well?

The plan which was granted state significant status (read ‘developer green lights’) includes eight towers up to 16 storeys containing 600 apartments as well as a new shopping centre, combining with the club facilities to form a so-called new ‘town centre’. Nearby Caringbah and Miranda Fair deal quite well with the need for local retail supply in a time when more people tend to be buying online and venturing less into multistorey shopping complexes.  The football ground itself would lose much carparking under the plan, but its not a problem, because according to the development consortium ”an extensive network of park-and-ride centres” in nearby suburbs would be created along with ”significant improvements to current public transport”. So the Sharkies can do what successive NSW state governments haven’t yet been able to – these directors (who have run their own club into the ground to the point where only a massive overdevelopment will bail them out) should be running our state!

Image courtesy SMH

Over 2000 objections were raised to the plan, many by concerned residents who fear a massive overdevelopment in the already congested Shire (try driving around Cronulla on a summer Sunday), waterfront eyesore, traffic gridlock at peak hours, and lack of public transport options, not to mention development infringement on the neighbouring Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands and mangroves. A minimum buffer of 40m was recommended by council and various government agencies including Dept of Primary Industries – Fisheries, Office of Environment and Heritage and Office of Water, however, the project was approved with only 35m setback along the 70m length of the loading dock. Stormwater and flooding are also major issues on a development of this magnitude so close to important sensitive wetlands – so far these are yet to be properly addressed.

In an area already coming to terms with new housing estates such as Green Hills and Breen developments, Sutherland Council also rejected the plans as being too dense for the site as well as raising concerns with traffic and parking, but that didn’t stop the NSW Planning Department from giving it the final tick of approval. Local Member for Cronulla Mark Speakman SC MP voiced his disagreement with the project arguing against the scale and bulk as well as unsuitability of the location as a potential ‘town centre’.

At a time when the Caltex refinery at nearby Kurnell has signalled its imminent closure, with the loss of around 630 jobs, does it really make sense to be building massive residential blocks just down the road? Sure, in the short term there will be building jobs to fill, but building jobs are temporary, and after that there will be alot more people housed in these developments than actually working in them, meaning they all have to travel outside for their working lives, meaning more traffic, more conjestion, perhaps more unemployment for the area long-term. Cronulla will really struggle with this influx of people and cars.

On the same day the Sharks development was approved, so too was a $238 million development of the nearby Kirrawee Brick Pits envisioning another 432 units. Two towers of 14 and 11 storeys and seven smaller buildings will take form on the Brick Pits site in a decision that bypassed Sutherland Council altogether under Part 3A. “We put all our concerns on the table and they just didn’t listen to us…Once again the state government has not taken into account the concerns of the community. They are just walking all over us” said mayor Carol Provan, whose council spent $500,000 fighting the development in court. “We certainly need more development but we don’t need it in a place that is so gridlocked” she said. Earlier proposals for 250 units up to six storeys were knocked back in August 2009 by the Land and Environment Court – now we are double that size, and its all systems go, so work that out.

A new Shark Park. Watch those wetlands…

So when is a rugby league club not a rugby league club? When they turn developer and choose to chase millions of dollars in financial gain putting their own interests and that of their developer backers before any concerns of the community they apparently ‘represent’… Well done Sharkies, multi-million cash windfall for you, nice new shiny amenities and the toast of the NRL club stratosphere. Bad luck if you live nearby and are used to the pleasant laid back beach atmosphere of Cronulla – your club has just turned all that on its head and done its best to try and destroy it completely.

EPILOGUE
Perhaps after the recent elections the Sharks would have found a more sympathetic Sutherland council, with a landslide swing towards the Liberals across the suburbs, particularly in Sutherland. Whether this is linked to voters’ inability to determine between local and state matters remains to be seen, but having councils stacked with Liberal brands would only service Barry O’Farrell’s pro-development push on the state. We are aware of at least one Sutherland Liberal councillor voted in recently is a property developer, which beggars belief to some – do we really want property developers running our councils? The fact that one in seven votes at the local election was invalid shows that many people either don’t know or don’t care who they are voting for, and so developer friendly councilors are being allowed to creep in under the radar en masse.

Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands fringe the waters around the Cronulla Sharks site, and have been described as ‘the last substantial habitat in the Sydney region for migratory birds and the myriad of species which depend on the Towra Point ecosystem.’ What impacts will this development have on Towra Point? Follow the link here.

Kirrawee Brick Pit development presentation here.

Sharks PAC Determination Report here

RYDE CIVIC CENTRE, CENTRE OF DISPUTE

Is this an ugly, unloved building? The SMH thinks so in its article of late last year after plans were outlined to redevelop the 1964 built Ryde Civic Centre with twin towers more than three times the height of the existing structure. I personally have driven past this building on many occasions, and always marveled through my foggy car window (foggy from the haze of constant traffic along Lane Cove Rd.) at its retro form, simple yet elegant lines and concave glass filled facade, reminiscent of the AMP Buildings at Circular Quay, the first skyscrapers of Sydney. Perhaps its the 1960s modernity of the design I admire, or the sheer smart municipal feel of it all. Perhaps part of what I find easy on the eye is the seemingly appropriate and sympathetic scale of the building to the surrounding streetscape, which is more than can be said for its planned replacements, two World Trade Centre-like monstrous tower blocks of 24 storeys each, accompanied by smaller podium buildings, for a total of 500 units, 600 car spaces, and a whole lot of extra congestion added to this already choking stretch of main arterial road.

What makes the plan even more shadowy is that motor transport will be the only mode of transport available to the inhabitants of these new skyscrapers, as there is no railway station nearby at all, a factor that would normally veto such a densely packed development in the first place. And as for open space, good luck trying to find that in the area. The road it fronts is the second busiest in the city of Sydney.

So who is the culprit, trying to rezone this parcel of public land and the raise the level of building heights up to the sky and pack in ever more rate-paying residents to this overcrowded precinct? It’s Ryde Council… Well, not all of Ryde Council to be fair, they have been deadlocked 6 votes to 6 in an intriguing and divisive battle between the anti-redevelopment faction, who seem to be representing the views of 99 percent of the constituents, and the pro-redevelopment, who are more interested in blocking the views. The Mayor, Artin Etmekdjian has used his casting vote on more than one occasion, quite controversially, to pass the motion of redevelopment, when he should in fact, in a matter of deadlock, use his casting vote to maintain the status quo.

From an outsider’s perspective, the deal is a crafty one. Ryde council hands over 60 percent of the land to Lend Lease at ‘market rate’ together with a loan of a reported 35 million dollars to help finance the development. In return, council changes the zoning of the land and throws the height controls out the window thereby increasing its assets from $18 million to $79 million. So, I guess the only real losers are the residents of Ryde and people of greater Sydney. Indeed, why wouldn’t any council go ahead and follow suite knocking down their own council chambers to build highly lucrative residential skyscrapers in their place?

And it gets uglier… The council appears to be on the verge of collapse, with members walking out of meetings, tensions boiling over, erupting in the extraordinary motion to sack the general manager of Ryde Council John Neish by the anti-redevelopment camp, in a move to hold over negotiations until after September’s local elections, when they feel they would have the numbers to scrap the land deal with Lend Lease, and pursue other more community-acceptable avenues. And so it should be; the elections are now so close and this is a very big issue for Ryde residents and anyone who uses Lane Cove Road/Devlin St. for commuting.

The dreaded Twin Towers. Image Ryde Community Alliance

Residents are clearly not happy, as this can be seen to be a massive overdevelopment which lacks the rail transport infrastructure needed. More than 2000 letters of objection were written regarding the proposal. Labor Cr Jeff Salvestro-Martin said “The community is a very important stake holder in this whole process, and until now they’ve effectively being ignored. When you think that this is actually a civic centre… you would think the community is a very important stakeholder in that. We need strong leadership, someone to stand up and say, you know what, we actually haven’t got this right. We need to go back to the drawing board, re-examine this proposal right from the start.” Recently the anti-redevelopment faction have put forward a motion to establish a community advisory committee consisting of four sitting councilors and members of the public.

Hats off to the six councilors who haven’t bowed down. We can only hope that come election time things will change for the better in Ryde. People have had a gut full of this, seeing their suburbs turned into high density concrete blocks for the profits of multinational developers and self indulgent councilors. Developments like this change our city forever, and they are becoming far too commonplace in cities like Sydney in this day and age. This is one instance where acting with your vote may produce a more favorable outcome for the community. Unfortunately the fate of the wonderfully modernist Civic Centre is probably to become rubble no matter which way it goes at the election, as the anti-Lend Lease development camp haven’t pursued an Interim Heritage Order option even at this desperate stage. So Ryde will end up losing its landmark Civic Centre and gaining new towers either way, its just a question of size.

I for one don’t think its an ugly building at all, and would love to see the Ryde Civic Centre retained as a piece of 1960s urban engineering – from a time when our city was young, and what was important was how people lived, and how they interacted within their city, not how many you could fit into small concrete boxes rising unrealistically over the gentle surrounding suburban landscape. We need to conserve outstanding examples of this era of municipal building as much as any; together with other styles and genres of great architecture they knit together to form a rich tapestry of the building of our city over many generations, of the civic pride we once felt as a community, of what Australia really stands for. And that, stone by stone, is slowly being eroded from our common view.

Modernist marvel, image courtesy onthewaterphotography

Follow the links to supporter groups:

http://rydecommunityalliance.org

http://residentsforryde.org

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stand-Against-Ryde-Civic-Centre-Redevelopment/227464363969320

http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Towers-at-Ryde/148092021959124

Main image , a beautiful shot of the Leslie J. Buckland and Druce designed Ryde Civic Centre by Peter Miller, onthewaterphotography.

WATCH OUT NSW, YOU’VE BEEN “O’FARRELLED!”

There’s a new phenomenom sweeping the state of NSW, Australia. It all started March 26 2011 after the election with a statement by the incoming premier Barry O’Farrell “We’ll govern for all.” Since then the O’Farrell government certainly has left its mark on the state, and many members of the public have felt the effects of Barry’s ‘governing for all.’ With job cuts and scale backs as well as back room deals with gun lobbyists and developers on the agenda, the public are reeling, wondering who or what could be next on the chopping block. So get ready for it NSW, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”

Yes, it’s been a trying year for the state, some would even argue on our Australian way of life, as big bad Barry and his Liberal government, who swept to power in a landslide, have gone about their methodical prescription to change the face of NSW in so many ways. Before he’s through will we even recognise our great state and its constitutional form of democracy? Who knows…

Recently, the regional town of Grafton felt it, they’ve certainly been “O’FARRELLED!” as their historic jail has now been scaled back in service from a 250 bed centre to housing just 60 remand prisoners with the loss of over 100 jobs for the tight-knit community. Many townsfolk bravely stood night and day to form a road block outside the 119-year old fortress in order to stop the trucks coming to take the prisoners away to newer, ‘cheaper to run’ prisons such as Cessnock. As realisation crept in that they had finally lost their battle and the police lines moved in to break up the picket, protestors simply turned their backs, a potent symbol of how the O’Farrell government had turned their backs on the town’s own plight.

While finances are at the top of Barry’s agenda, not much consideration was given to the employment the jail achieves in a regional town like Grafton, which has, by this event, experienced ‘it’s darkest hour’. What will those 108 prison guards do now in times of rising unemployment, we all wonder. When he said back in 2011 “We’ll govern for all” he obviously didn’t mean them.

Grafton jail protestors, image SMH

But Grafton is not the only one to be “O’FARRELLED!” in recent times, that much is clear. Public servants, you are running scared. Nurses, teachers, emergency services, researchers, you’ve all been “O’FARRELLED!” along the line with pay freezes and lay-offs en masse under the government’s wage reforms. Public sector wages would be capped at 2.5 percent per annum, despite the CPI rising by 3.6 percent, leaving a shortfall of 1.1 percent. Over 35,000 public sector workers rallied in the Sydney Domain on September 8 2011 to protest against the attacks on public sector jobs, wages and conditions announced by Barry O’Farrell, which included a decision to axe several thousand public sector jobs. 67,000 teachers carried out a 24 hour strike on the same day.

Earlier this month it was announced that Community services workers will be cut by 968 positions over the next four years and the health department could lose more than 3600 over the same period, in a move that NSW Public Service Association Assistant Secretary Steve Turner said was “clear the Government doesn’t care about our most vulnerable children and their families, regarding their proper care as just another number to be slashed on the budget sheet.” Opposition Leader John Robertson was scathing of the cutbacks. “Sacking nearly 1,000 community services workers at the same time one in five reports of children at risk are not being followed up is nothing short of a disgrace” he said. “Cutting 968 staff from the department responsible for protecting the most vulnerable children in NSW will only see more children falling through the cracks… The latest job cut figures confirm that almost 8,000 jobs will be lost from hospitals, schools, fire stations, road safety and community services under Barry O’Farrell.”

Domain protestors. image directaction.org.au

Retail workers, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!” with the premier de-regulating trading on Boxing Day, meaning your hard earned holidays are being eroded and trading continues during this festive and traditional public holiday period.

Workers compensation laws too, have been “O’FARRELLED!” in a big way. Items such as weekly benefits beyond 2.5 years, medical expenses beyond 12 months, journey claims, claims to spouses killed at work, and legal costs are all in the target of Barry’s cuts, in effect altering worker’s rights immeasurably. The Workers Compensation Amendment Bill was rushed through the NSW Parliament in under 72 hours and was reported just 11 days after it was established. Any genuine inquiry would have taken at least 6 months, says MP David Shoebridge’s office. The committee received 353 submissions and held public hearings over just three days. Unions and workers of NSW were rightfully outraged.

Barry the butcher. image The Greens

Privatisation has been a big spinner for Barry too. Sydney Ferries, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!” Soon you’ll be run by a foreign company Veolia Transport and let’s wait to see what that entails. No doubt job losses, route changes and ticket price hikes for the iconic ferries in a bid to bring down running costs.

And state electricity, why you’ve been truly “O’FARRELLED!”. Barry did a deal with the Shooters and Hunters party to gain their support to sell off the state’s power generators, passing that bill through and at the same time “O’FARRELLING!” our state’s National Parks, many of which will now be open to hunters blasting their guns in wilderness areas – great job Barry. 40 percent of National Parks land coverage including those with World Heritage Listing such as Barrington Tops and Dorrigo will be open up to hunters. “Barry O’Farrell’s shown today that he’s prepared to break every promise that he’s made to get a deal up to get this through,” opposition leader John Robertson told reporters. “A premier who promises not to allow hunting in national parks is about to allow a shooting spree to open up in some of the most pristine parts of the state,” he said.
Inheritance
believes this is political wheeling and dealing on a whole new level, trading one totally unrelated law to get another one through parliament. Where is the consultation, where is the study? And regarding the power sell-off, expect electricity prices to soar even further. A similar sell-off in South Australia skyrocketed bills up to 30 percent.

Now the NSW Govt has become a joint sponsor of “Shot Expo”, a weapons show, along with gun makers Winchester and Beretta. The Greens MP David Shoebridge said ”It’s just astounding the Game Council is using taxpayers dollars to co-sponsor a pro-hunting event with weapons manufacturers. This state government has no limits on how far it will go in promoting a pro-gun culture, including joining with death merchants to plug guns and hunting. NSW has run down hospitals, broken public transport and thousands of public servants being sacked, but the O’Farrell government still has the cash to promote gun ownership and hunting.”
Great way to spend our tax dollars Barry.

NationalParks protestors. image davidshoebridge.org.au

The State Records office, you’ve been “O’FARRELLED!”. In a little publicised event, the public Reading Room, Formally located in the Rocks, central to the public need to conduct research within its premises, has now been shut down and moved to the outer west suburb of Kingswood. So if you live anywhere near the centre of the city, you will now have to travel 40km away to gain access to the State Records, to a site with no public transport. It’s a real slap in the face for the history of our state.

NSW Fisheries, you’ve had the “O’FARRELL!” treatment too. The Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre is being forced to close against its will and broken up with up to 150 local job redundancies following. This is a world class facility with experienced researchers. Protests were held outside parliament after reports that bureaucrats tried sneakily to reclassify it to avoid the need for presenting a business case, and petitions of 18,600 names couldn’t even warrant a meeting with Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson. Now THAT is arrogance. Sutherland Shire councillor Phil Blight made his statement to the protest “It’s a centre of excellence, perfect for the research and management of fish stocks and shark monitoring. It has the facilities, the tanks, the laboratories, the storage areas, the freezers, an extensive marine library – all the things that will have to be built again at Port Stephens or Mosman or wherever the staff are to be sent. It makes no sense.”
View this web link http://www.savecronullafisheries.net/
Debate rages within the department and public as to the benefits of breaking up such an institute but in the end O’Farrell won out, as he always seems to do. Why oh why Barry?

Fisheries protestors.image SMH

And now, planning laws in the state of NSW, you are being completely “O’FARRELLED!”. This could be the most dangerous and damaging “O’FARRELLING!” to the people of NSW yet. Barry and his planning minister Brad Hazzard have released their green paper aimed at ‘cutting red tape and de-politicising’ planning and speeding up the system, when in fact it would be taking powers away from local councils and removing the rights of residents to have their voices heard when it comes to opposing DA’s. This instead would go to a panel of non-elected representatives including independent certifiers, and so long as the DA passed basic criteria, public consultation and the right for individuals to make submissions would be void. The possibilities for corruption are rife, allowing developments through without public input and moving the process out of local hands, as has been demonstrated with private certifiers in the past, where developments have been built that did not comply. While we certainly have had issues regarding council’s attitude to heritage preservation in the past (and continue to do so), at least in theory they are meant to represent local constituents and should try to do so – tell us Barry, who are these new panels there to represent?

The opposition and the Greens call this a developer free for all, whereby the O’Farrell government is effectively creating a ‘tick and flick’ system of planning. With housing affordibility and population growth key drivers in this debate, pressures are immense from Canberra and indeed developer lobbyists who are trying to maximise their opportunities to build as big and as high as they can in the midst of this population boom. With land running out on the urban fringes and public transport not keeping pace with the growth of the city (yes, Barry), so-called ‘infill’ development within existing areas is on the agenda, as it can be cheaper and larger scale than greenfield sites. We, the residents, who are mostly AGAINST over-development, and the councils who, as stated, are meant to represent us, are in their way. So taking us out of the equation is good for the economy, good for the state, and most of all, good for Barry, and the developers who will run riot once these laws are passed.

image The Age

Make no mistake, this is about boosting housing densities and giving developer groups free reign. The Sydney Morning Herald broke a story in January 2012, which outlined government strategy to ask developers where they would like new greenfield sites to open for them, earning praise from developer lobby groups such as Urban Taskforce and the Property Council of Australia. “While supporting the positive moves for greenfield sites, the Urban Taskforce believes a similar leadership role is required for the even harder supply problem of urban infill sites,” the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, said. ”The government could call for expressions of interest for infill sites and then set up a special approval approach.”

“You’d like to see a similarly efficient process for urban renewal opportunities – there is still overwhelming demand within the existing footprint,” said the Property Council of Australia CEO, Glenn Byres. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sent an ominous warning to councils. ”The desirable course is to work with councils, but at the end of the day the state government and I, as Planning Minister, have the capacity to rezone without their concurrence,” he said.

With the heritage office of state government already reduced to a shadow of its former self in the name of the “Heritage Branch”, lumped in as an offshoot of the planning department, this doesn’t bode well for us in the game of heritage preservation. Rather than expanding to keep pace with the extent of new planning laws, the heritage branch is shrinking and becoming virtually toothless in its powers. We could effectively see whole areas of Sydney changed radically to accommodate more and more high rise, high density development, and the increasing traffic, pollution, and congestion that entails. Not to mention the continued disappearance of gardens and backyards within our cities and suburbs. But what should be lamented most here is the loss of community input, the trampling down and cheapening of public view, of what we, the people want for OUR planning future. To deny us that right, is not what you were voted in to do, Mr. O’Farrell, the man who claimed “to govern for all” and “put planning back in the hands of the people.”

Domain protest. image ABC

Americans made a big issue of getting angry over having their Olympic uniforms made in China, it made for lively debate in congress and became world news headlines (ours are also made in China but no-one seems to care). So how will we, Australians, now react when our very public planning rules are being turned on their heads by a dictator-like short term Premier and his developer-friendly goals suited only to appease the big end of town. We as citizens are being systematically stripped of our democratic rights, we should be up in arms over this.

Democracy, NSW, 2012, you too have been “O’FARRELLED!”.
Be concerned, be very very concerned…