Ku-ring-gai Electorate Building Developments
|About this Item||Subjects||Infrastructure; Local Government; Planning and Development; Traffic; Roads: Pacific Highway; Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council
||Speakers||O'Farrell Mr Barry
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [5.25 p.m.]: The year has started badly for Ku-ring-gai's planning prospects. We have seen confirmation that Minister Sartor, like his predecessors, has refused Ku-ring-gai an exemption from State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] 53. As a result, the area is subject to dual occupancy developments on block sizes opposed by residents and council alike. We have also seen the Minister use his new SEPP on State-significant sites to begin the process of calling in the future development of the University of Technology, Sydney, Ku-ring-gai site at Lindfield. More than 560 units are planned for a site located deep in a residential area, yet residents and council are to be denied any role in the decision-making process. Last week the State Government foreshadowed additional powers for the planning Minister to increase his capacity to call in developments when, in his term, councils are "underperforming" or, in my view, when they are simply not doing what the State Government wants.
In addition, we have a recurrence of the types of antics on Ku-ring-gai Council that resulted not only in the State Government taking six major sites out of the planning control of the local community in 2003 but that also led to the former Minister's May 2004 rezoning decision. Whether it be Turramurra, Gordon, Roseville or any other of the town centres along the rail-highway corridor, I urge councillors to put the public's interests first—and not politics. The lasting consequences for Ku-ring-gai are far too serious for egos and petty political posturing to be at the fore of the debate. As I have warned—and as is evident from the Minister's recent letter about the newly proposed changes to his powers, and as today's North Shore Times confirms—failure by council to produce workable outcomes within the timetables set out will lead to another Labor planning Minister imposing his vision on our area.
Despite the claims of some councillors, the redevelopment of the town centres was a certainty from the time of Minister Beamer's May 2004 decision. There is an enormous imbalance between the power of State government and councils in planning issues. Past decades have seen hundreds of thousands of ratepayers dollars spent on legal actions by councils across Sydney only to confirm the State Government's pre-eminence in this area. No local councillor offering residents the false hope of being able to stop development in the areas rezoned by the Minister has been able to explain how they can deliver on their promises. The imperative for all councillors is to make the best of a bad lot, make the resultant developments as acceptable as possible within the State Government imposed constraints and try to ensure the impact upon surrounding residents and facilities is minimised. I urge them to get on with the job.
I have the same message for the State Government: put the public interest, that of Ku-ring-gai and the wider Sydney community, first. Whilst successive Labor Ministers claim to be doing just this, their decisions, whether in Ku-ring-gai or elsewhere, simply do not match the rhetoric. If it did, the population increases promoted and delivered by Labor's planning policies would be matched by upgrades to infrastructure and services to meet the needs of those new populations. Rail services and roads, water, sewerage and electricity infrastructure, to name just a few of the State's services, would have been upgraded to meet the demands of Sydney's increasing population. But, as residents know from experience, and as countless reports from the Auditor-General and others confirm, Ku-ring-gai and other suburbs across this city are suffering from an under-investment in infrastructure and services—an under-investment that sees existing residents experiencing regular electricity blackouts, problems with mains water pressure and sewerage systems, an overcrowded rail system and a road system that is not only grinding to a halt but is delivering the worst air pollution results on record to Sydney's suburbs.
There can be no better example, of course, of this Government's failure over its decade in office to invest in infrastructure to ensure that services meet the needs of Sydney's existing and growing population than the uncertainty over the future of water supplies. In short, Labor's drive to increase densities has never been matched by any program to improve infrastructure and services in suburbs like those in Ku-ring-gai or in others areas where the State Government's planning powers have imposed higher populations. It is a blank cheque approach to planning that will lead communities to bankruptcy. Higher and higher populations are imposed on areas with existing infrastructure and services problems with no program to offer hope for future improvements.
Let me cite just one local example, the Pacific Highway. It is a road that is at saturation point as traffic volumes, including large truck movements, continue to increase relentlessly. Congestion and delays are experienced seven days a week. Whether at Turramurra or other shopping districts along the highway, the queues of cars grow, as do the efforts of drivers to find rat runs, residential streets that can be used to bypass highway traffic. Traffic on the Pacific Highway through Chatswood is a disgrace, as is the absence of any State Government plans to improve traffic flows in the area or even upgrade rail services to Sydney's north and the Central Coast to encourage people to leave cars at home and ride trains instead.
The delays do not affect just daily commuters on their way to work, they also affect residents and families going about their life whether to get to doctors appointments or social gatherings, or trying to get children to and from sport. I cannot tell you how much I hate travelling to sporting venues in Lane Cove and Willoughby that require me to travel the Pacific Highway, Chatswood, around lunchtime on Saturdays. While this Government dresses up its planning proposals for Ku-ring-gai and elsewhere as part of a claimed co-ordinated response to Sydney's growth, in reality the approach is as inconsistent and shortsighted as it has been in too many areas since 1995. I urge the Minister for Planning to level with the Ku-ring-gai community.
In addition to telling us how our council should lift its game and how our community should bear its fair share of Sydney's population growth, there is an obligation on the Minister for Planning to tell local residents what plans the State Government has to ensure that our suburbs can cope with the increased population densities being expected of us. I note in today's local paper the Minister for Planning is quoted as saying to council about its planning powers, "Use it or lose it." The same can be said of the Minister and his State Government. Use the full resources of government and back your planning policies with genuine, detailed and forward-focused plans for this city's infrastructure and services or be prepared to lose power at the next election. Whether Ku-ring-gai, Sutherland, Strathfield, Penrith or other places across this city, residents are tired of a top down approach to planning that fails to solve existing problems with services and infrastructure, let alone a plan to improve them to cope with our future growth. After a decade in office, 10 years characterised by a run-down in the critical services required by current and future residents in suburbs like those in Ku-ring-gai to be able to function properly, it is time Labor showed it has learned some lessons and is prepared to do what is right.