Read David’s adjournment speech on the Barangaroo Development delivered by David in the NSW Upper House on 9 August 2011.
When this Government announced the review of the processes surrounding the Barangaroo development, Minister Hazzard’s press release promised big things, thundering, “Under this Liberal and Nationals Government the iconic City of Sydney will be returned to its former glory days.” This sentiment, if not its historical reference, is laudable.
The public dissatisfaction with the previous Labor Government was galvanised by the many appalling planning decisions made in its time in power, the most prominent of which were those around the Barangaroo site. The corrupted and pro-developer planning laws in New South Wales have been the subject of a decade-long campaign by The Greens. The Greens welcomed the Coalition belatedly joining this campaign for the duration of the March State election.
While The Greens were sceptical of the Coalition’s real motives, there was some hope that it had been listening to the growing community anger with the State’s planning laws. Before the election the Coalition talked tough. Minister Hazzard was an outspoken critic of part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act in the lead-up to the election in March. In that time he lavished scorn on the Keneally Government’s management of the Barangaroo development.
Mr Hazzard spoke strongly against the part 3A process. He called for the Labor Government to adopt all 20 recommendations for change that resulted from the Independent Commission Against Corruption review of that law in December 2010. He further called part 3A “a rotten provision introduced by a rotten Labor Government in 2005”. The Greens agree.
However, since gaining office the Coalition has engaged in a headlong retreat from meaningful reform. The Premier, Mr O’Farrell, has recently come out as one of the loudest supporters of the Barangaroo development.
The $6 billion Barangaroo development is the biggest and ugliest part 3A development in New South Wales. This site represents a unique opportunity to plan for the future of Sydney. It is public land; a remarkable 22 hectares of public land on the western shores of the central business district. For that reason alone any development on the site must reflect the widest possible public interest for a dynamic and sustainable city.
The original design competition for the Barangaroo site was won by the internationally renowned architectural firm led by Philip Thalis. It was widely praised. It delivered more than 300,000 square metres of commercial and retail office space.
Yet even this was not enough for the former Government and its developer on the site, Lend Lease, who repeatedly joined together to deliver greater building bulk, less open space, the destruction of heritage and the gutting of remediation provisions on the site.
These concerns led to the forming of the Barangaroo Action Group and Australians for Sustainable Development. In addition, it resulted in a community campaign that ultimately led to two challenges to the project in the Land and Environment Court. Notoriously retrospective legislative changes were imposed by the Hon. Tony Kelly to overcome one of those challenges.
The Coalition also attacked the former Government when the then Premier, Kristina Keneally, assumed responsibility for Barangaroo from the previous Minister for Planning, the Hon. Tony Kelly.
Without even a glimmer of recognition of his former position, just this week Premier Barry O’Farrell took responsibility for Barangaroo from his Minister for Planning. It was wrong for former Premier Keneally to do it and it is equally wrong for Premier O’Farrell to do it. It is apparently a busy job being a Premier of this State. Yet Premier O’Farrell, like former Premier Keneally, has taken on the double role of overseeing the $6 billion Barangaroo project while also running a $55 billion-plus State Government budget.
No-one can do justice to both jobs. It is a recipe for continued delay and disorder of Barangaroo.
The recently released Barangaroo review suggests that Lend Lease should consider a new position for the proposed hotel in the harbour as a “significant demonstration of good will”. Premier Barry O’Farrell has requested that Lend Lease consider moving the hotel. In return, however, reports are suggesting that Lend Lease will seek Government compensation before it agrees to make any changes to the site of the hotel. The Government is withering under the pressure.
The people of New South Wales deserve more from this Government on Barangaroo than a promise of just more talk. The Greens will support retrospective legislation to remove the hotel from the harbour without guaranteeing Lend Lease compensation. The very idea that this highly profitable corporation would seek compensation from the taxpayers of New South Wales for agreeing not to build a hotel in our publicly owned harbour is simply an outrage.
It is now clear that the O’Farrell Government will do little, if anything, to address the concerns of the community about Barangaroo. The cruise ship terminal remains at White Bay. The Headland Park continues to obliterate maritime heritage on the site. The grossly excessive half million square metres of floor space remains, without any deliverable public transport to match. Even the greatest outrage—the hotel in the harbour—is only the subject of further talk from Premier O’Farrell.
On 2 December 2010 Minister Hazzard promised that not only would a Coalition repeal part 3A but the Government would also ensure that the community has an upfront say on strategic planning. The community has spoken on Barangaroo; the planning Minister and the Premier would do well to listen.
This speech can be found online on the Parliament website here.