We Are Not Full: We Are Being Failed

Read our response in Parliament to the yesterday's SMH article proclaiming "We Are Full, Says Sydney". 

Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:35 :57 ): Yesterday the front page headline of the Sydney Morning Heralddecreed, "We're full, says Sydney." It reported that more than two-thirds of people believe Sydney is full and that property development should be pushed to the fringes. As the representative of the electorate of Newtown—an electorate which at the last census had the highest density of any electorate in New South Wales—I believe that we are not full; we are being failed. There is a big difference between those two things. We may have the highest density of any electorate in New South Wales, but this is far from a bad thing. The neighbourhoods that make up the electorate of Newtown—like much of Sydney—are vibrant, bustling places and that is what we love about living in our city.

To the two-thirds of people who say that Sydney is full, I say that it only feels full. It feels full because the Government is failing to address the things our community needs to make our cities work and thrive. Yes, our trains are crowded, our roads are congested, our classrooms are full, our hospital waiting lists are dismal, our green spaces are shrinking and we need more recreational places, but that does not mean that we are full. It means that Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Liberal Government and previous governments have let Sydney become a playground for property developers. Let us be real about the reason Sydney feels full. It feels full not because of the people who live in our community, but because successive State governments have failed to invest in the services and infrastructure that we need for our city to thrive.

I have been to countless community consultations since being elected and not once have I heard someone say, "We are full. Shut the doors. Put up the sign. We are closed." Instead I hear people say, "Where will those new 7,000 people send their kids to school? How will they get on the train in the morning given that we already cannot get on the train?" People say, "Where will they ride their bike or park their car? How will they enjoy a picnic in the park when the proposed green space in this urban growth design is already a block of flats?" These are the sorts of questions they ask. At that point the public relations consultant will usually say, "That is outside the scope of this project", "That is a responsibility of the Minister for Education," or, "That is something that the Department of Roads looks at." They then move on to discuss how many new dwellings they are going to put in place.

Let us seize the moment here and call out the real culprits—the Liberal Government and its failure to put our community's needs first. This is not about wanting to shut down Sydney's borders and decide who should and should not get to live here. One does not have to dig very deep to find the anti-immigration undertones that allow people to whip up fear in this debate and all of a sudden claim that refugees are causing the traffic congestion or Chinese investors are causing the housing affordability crisis. The cause of these issues is the failure of successive governments—both Liberal and Labor governments—to address the community's needs and enable us to deliver the services, infrastructure and other things that we need to make our vibrant cities thrive.

Before anyone starts to think that I have drunk the developer Kool Aid, or that I am advocating a process that would not allow sustainability in our cities, let me be clear: We need to see community-led development. We need to recognise that people who live in the city like living in densely populated areas, but they like doing this only if the Government provides the services and other things that are needed. So the Newtown community will continue to object to overdevelopment when it is about maximising development for profit or about building ugly and unsustainable developments that block out sunlight and do not provide for any new, affordable dwellings or public housing, as has been suggested in certain parts of Redfern and Waterloo.

The community of Newtown will continue to object to new developments that involve the privatisation of public lands, as we have seen at the Australian Technology Park site. The money from that sell-off was supposed to provide for a lift upgrade at Redfern station, but that still has not been realised. The community will continue to object to new developments which simply involve increased numbers of dwellings without the associated connection with services and other community needs.

There has been an announcement about the Parramatta Road corridor, which would see huge increases in residential density but no additional land for schools and parks, no transport strategy, and no new libraries or childcare places. At Taverners Hill the Government is proposing an increase in the number of residences from 700 to 3,000, but only one new, tiny pocket park and no new libraries or schools. As someone once said to me, "If you are having a party and inviting 100 people you do not wait for them to arrive at your house before you decide what you are going to feed them." The area is not full; it is just growing. We need to make sure that the infrastructure keeps up.


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