By Joe Bourke
An election panel for the seat of Coogee was held last Wednesday featuring all three candidates for the electorate.
150 people attended the panel held at Easts Leagues Club in Bondi to hear the candidates discuss key election issues such as development, traffic congestion, amalgamations and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs).
The first major topic to be discussed was the development of the Waverley bus depot.
Bruce Notley-Smith, the Liberal member for Coogee, said there are currently no plans to develop the site, and residents of the area can “rest easy”.
“When I was approached about this, I went and met with the Minister for Finance and I went and met with the Minister for Transport and I said ‘no way, it’s not going to happen,’ and the Minister for Transport said he has no plans to do it anyway,” Mr Notley-Smith said.
“I’ve given my word that for as long as I’m the member for Coogee there’s no way that will be built on and I’ve got the letter here from Gladys Berejiklian reiterating there are no plans to move out of the Waverley bus depot.”
Greens candidate Lindsay Shurey said the depot couldn’t be developed as there is nowhere for the buses to go, also voicing her concerns any development would have on Centennial Park.
“These precious public spaces are becoming more and more necessary as we are becoming more and more developed. Hands off anything that changes Centennial park.” Ms Shurey said.
Paul Pearce, Labor candidate for the seat, said the reason why it is still a bus depot is because he “fought it to the nail” and believes it should remain a depot.
Mr Pearce also questioned Mr Notley-Smith after he presented a letter from the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian which said that there would be no development, saying the matter is in the Finance Minister’s hands, not Ms Berejiklian.
“The reality is that the Department of Finance has had several options, one from the private sector and one from the state agency, to develop the airspace above by building a rather large cavernous structure with access to buses from Oxford Street,” he said.
“…It’s the Department of Finance who makes the decision on this, and we have not got a firm commitment from them that they will not seek to do it.”
Another hot topic discussed in the forum was traffic congestion in the electorate, with all three candidates agreeing that action needs to be taken.
Ms Shurey said there needs to be more dedicated bicycle lanes, and that if she was to be elected she would work to create a stronger bicycle network.
Mr Notley-Smith said the Liberal Government has an Inner city strategy and that he is fighting to keep the College Street cycleway that is set for removal.
He also said the Liberal party is “committed to light rail”, which Mr Pearce said would compromise not only the cycle routes but also the area’s public transport.
“We’ve got a good bus system that runs across the area, so you can access most of Bondi Junction from the Eastern suburbs by virtue of the bus service we have,” Mr Pearce said.
“That’s got to be built upon and not compromised by such ideas as light rail coming up here and then closing down various through routes.”
Ms Shurey said a significant way to reduce congestion is to remove cars from the road, saying that such things as driving children to school has a major impact on congestion.
“Children being driven to school just exacerbates the actual traffic in the area,” Ms Shurey said.
“We have to ask our schools to make a shift here. They should do the leadership on teaching children how to walk to school… We need to get the cars off the road for taking our children to and from school. I really believe this.”
Mr Notley-Smith said car-share is an important initiative to ease congestion.
“We must remember that we hate traffic congestion but every time we jump into a car we’re part of the problem.”
“In areas like Bondi or the inner city you don’t need to own a car because you have access to great public transport,” he said.
All candidates are opposed to VPAs, and maintained opposition to forced amalgamations, although Mr Notley-Smith said it’s “not a bad thing” to be discussed with the community.
The Wentworth Courier, who hosted the evening, conducted an exit poll which found that 55 percent of the audience would vote for ALP candidate Paul Pearce. Current member, Bruce Notley-Smith polled 27 percent and Greens candidate Lindsay Shurey received 13 percent with the rest undecided.
The Wentworth Courier also reported that 43 percent of respondents said their 2015 vote would be different from 2011.