By Emily Contador-Kelsall
UrbanGrowth NSW and the state government have been criticised by several communities and councillors affected by “New Parramatta Road” for withholding information and failing to consult with communities.
At last week’s Marrickville council meeting, Greens councillors moved a motion to withdraw from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between council and UrbanGrowth NSW. The motion was lost.
Greens councillor Max Phillips said Marrickville council should maintain its independence rather than get roped into legitimising Urban Growth NSW by signing the MOU.
“I think we are getting taken for a ride by being part of this MOU, and it’s providing UrbanGrowth NSW with legitimacy, it’s giving the good name of council as a democratic local body to this state government authority,” Clr Phillips said.
Marrickville council became a signatory to the MOU in November last year.
UrbanGrowth NSW’s “New Parramatta Rd” scheme affects ten LGAs. Of these ten councils, Leichhardt and Ashfield have not signed an MOU.
An UrbanGrowth NSW spokesperson said the MOUs are about enabling, not forcing a collaborative working relationship between councils and NSW Government.
“They represent an unprecedented opportunity for councils to collaborate with the Government on the project, including having council staff working in the project team,” the spokesperson said.
Labor councillor Chris Woods said he did not support the motion moved by Greens councillors to withdraw Marrickville from an MOU.
“Support for that motion would have stripped Residents of any voice at all in the Parramatta Renewal process. I believe that it is vital that Marrickville residents be consulted and represented in the negotiations and planning of the renewal project.”
“The MOUs are a consultation vehicle. Council staff are involved in an interchange with Urban Growth to look at the plans.”
Clr Phillips said another issue for the Greens was the potential for UrbanGrowth NSW to use the MOU as a sort of blackmail to pressure councils into giving them information.
“I really think that’s an immature way to carry on, to say we’re not going to share information with you unless you sign up to our scheme.”
“The community and council should be given all the information they need regardless of whether they sign up to an MOU or not,” Clr Phillips said.
Clr Woods said he found it interesting the two councils that opted out of the MOU were relying on those who are in the MOU to tell them what’s happening.
Resident and member of the Save Petersham Park activist group, Francesca Christie said the action group was not politically affiliated but support the Greens motion to withdraw from the MOU and would be calling on Marrickville council to withdraw.
“I can’t say UrbanGrowth have ever been helpful, partly because I don’t think they know what’s going on,” Ms Christie said.
“They are now starting to actively criticise us and say that we are misleading people in our community and it’s just not true, we are reporting the information we have… no one has any information so all we can report is on that.”