UrbanGrowth NSW hosted the Bays Precinct Sydneysiders Summit last weekend, inviting residents from all around Sydney to help “shape Sydney’s biggest transformation project since the Olympics”.
The summit was part of UrbanGrowth’s consultation efforts with the ambitious project, which will span roughly 30 years.
But many residents were sceptical of the event’s outcomes, and voiced their frustration at other major developments such as Barangaroo.
Local resident Richard Gould was handing out pages highlighting his own idea for a renewable energy hub at White Bay Power station. He was one of two residents handing out fliers at the door. Mr Gould said although he had some concerns, he was happy with how the consultation was going.
“The public exercise in consultation is good. I guess really the big concern is what history has told us in respect to other sites, and I have to say that does weigh on my mind when I talk to people, when I think about it,” he said.
“But I have to say that in the years I’ve been involved in this, I haven’t seen any department be as open and accommodating.”
The summit, held in a warehouse at the Australian Technology Park, featured complementary food and drink, including freshly squeezed juice and coffee, provided because “listening, thinking and talking can be thirsty work”, according to the handbook.
When asked by City Hub for the cost of the event, an UrbanGrowth spokesperson said it was “too early for meaningful figures”.
Independent City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas attended a briefing for councillors on the Bays Precinct last Thursday May 14 and compared the consultation to something that had been “gift wrapped…that on the surface looks absolutely magnificent until you ask the question of how it’s being paid for.”
“What is the cost of that and do the people know? If they really did want to have a true and open consultation process, they would acknowledge the significance of the project in ways that concern the community,” she said.
Members of the summit were invited to write ideas about each of the main sites of the precinct on post-it-notes and stick them on walls labelled “agree”, “disagree” or “other comments”. In certain sections, larger pieces of paper were provided for more in depth responses. The warehouse also featured a video feedback room, where attendees had the option to speak face to face with an UrbanGrowth representative, and discussion tables, where one on one time with representatives was available.
The comments written on the post-it-notes were wide reaching, ranging from longer responses to the tongue in cheek “we need more casinos! Signed James Packer”.
The contentious White Bay Cruise terminal was a site which drew many resident responses.
“Given that the EPA Inquiry declared the ship terminal at White Bay “a serious error”, the future of the terminal should be in doubt at this location,” one response read.
“Serious impacts must be dealt with immediately and solutions not subject to plans for the future.”
Other responses were more positive about the future of the terminal as a working port, but the majority at least urged UrbanGrowth and the government to apply low sulphur fuel regulations and shore to ship power at the terminal. This solution would greatly decrease pollution, but has been criticised for not addressing the noise complaints of those living nearby.
The booklet which was handed out on the day said the area had the potential to be transformed, flagging more housing as a possible addition to the site, but had no mention of removing cruise ships from the port.
“There is potential for this area to be transformed with medium density living designed to complement all that is enjoyed in the existing neighbourhoods alongside smaller scale working harbour activities connecting to the waterfront,” it read.
Another big development discussed on the day was the potential ‘Bays Market District’. The plan would see the Sydney Fish Market transformed into a “fresh food marketplace” similar to that of Paris’ ‘Marché Monge’, which provides fresh produce that changes with the seasons.
A report on Sunday by Fairfax Media suggested a bid would soon be made for the Blackwattle Bay area that would see 32-storey apartments on the foreshore surrounding the markets. UrbanGrowth CEO David Pitchford denied the claims, also taking the moment to defend the consultation process.
“The Call for Great Ideas is not a procurement process,” he told The Financial Review.
“UrbanGrowth NSW does not know who will or will not make a bid to redevelop Blackwattle Bay, but the fact is tha the time for bid of any sort is some time away, and when there is a call it will be a transparent and open public process.”
One idea brought forward in the process came from local resident Richard Gould, who has a plan for the White Bay power station to be a “global beacon for energy design”.
Mr Gould’s plan includes space for seminars, conventions and corporate research offices.
“I’m thinking globally not just locally. Around the planet, there’s no place where there is a concentrated effort in putting concepts together, communicating, testing, educating, and understanding and looking at energy for what it is,” he said.