By Elliott Brennan
Premier Mike Baird came good on two of his longest standing promises last year. In 2011 as Treasurer of NSW he announced that the state was ‘open for business’, and whilst Barangaroo was certainly symptomatic of this Liberal drive, 2014 was the year that the effort went into hyper drive. How did Barry O’Farrell, Mr Baird and their government open the state for business? By opening the city of Sydney to a redevelopment frenzy, thus almost fulfilling his second promise to make Syndey “a city under construction.”
The wheels have been set into motion for a raft of massive development projects that will have huge implications for Sydney. The Bays Precinct will potentially house 16,000 new dwellings, putting Leichhardt’s housing density quite literally through the roof.
Parramatta Road is set to receive 60,000 new dwellings, or a potential 156,000 new residents. It is prophesied WestConnex will ease the congestion that the housing development would cause, but budget holes suggest that the exorbitant tolls needed to pay for the project will drive people by the masses back to the toll-free Parramatta Road.
Harold Park in Glebe will bring another 2,500 people to the inner west. The Central to Eveleigh developments will create a population boom along a narrow corridor of the inner city, adjacent to that Green Square will bring 53,000 new residents of its own.
All of these developments in combination may prove to be pie in the sky. But bearing in mind the harrowing prediction that Sydney will need 600,000 new homes for 1.6 million extra people in the next two decades, all of these new residents look set to rely on Sydney’s antiquated and failing amenities.
It took the State Government and the City of Sydney a full year to negotiate the relocation of Ultimo Public School, which is already bursting at the seams. Bickering between two levels of government has pushed the whole project back a year and edged the inner city closer to exceeding the complete capacity of its education institutions. The stage is now set for the development of a new inner city high school with predictions that the higher education will reach capacity in the inner city by 2018 if nothing is done.
Demand for social housing is already well over capacity with a waiting list of over 55,000 people that will only grow as the price of property increases. In response to this overflow, the State Government has slashed support for the sector in a harsh White Paper released at the end of last year. Under the new proposal, individuals with prior drug convictions will be banned from certain estates. And most controversially, the State Government has begun selling off the social housing at Millers Point.
A world class city needs to provide shelter, healthcare, education, and transport for its citizenry. When Sydney grows beyond its capacity, none of these will be adequately provided. As the Government works quickly to sell off every last parcel of free land remaining in the city to those who will pay top dollar, the pockets of developers are lined and profits are maximised. But Sydney’s standing as a global city, or even humanitarian city is diminishing rapidly.
In 2014 we set about developing a city. In 2015 we need to set about building the foundation for a city.