BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
The state government’s decision to extinguish the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) has been met with caution from Sydney councils.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore welcomed the news last week, and said that it could potentially mean the return of planning controls around Circular Quay to the City of Sydney.
But new Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrnes suggested that the dispensation of the authority’s responsibilities into other government departments would cause uncoordinated planning for Sydney’s iconic harbour.
Clr Byrne said places around the harbour would be essentially managed by a “glorified real estate agent”.
“Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority was created to protect public access to the world’s greatest harbour, while Government Property NSW seems to have been set up to sell it off to the highest bidder,” Clr Byrne said.
“While Callan Park is no longer controlled by Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, Ballast Point Park and White Bay Power Station still remain under its control,” he said.
“The public will be rightly concerned that handing over these public lands to a government real estate agent is the first step in redeveloping them for private profit.”
Clr Moore used her weekly email to call on the government to return development control to the City.
“It’s time responsibility for these significant public spaces was returned to the City of Sydney, which has strong track record of delivering high quality parks, public spaces and development for our city,” she said.
Clr Moore said that she had been advocating for the return of planning control to the City through submissions to IPART, and that control should be “reintegrated as a first priority to enable integrated planning and management of our local government area”.
“People expect the public areas in the city to have consistent planning and management rather than the current situation, which leaves these areas dispersed across a range of authorities and agencies, including SHFA, the Barangaroo Delivery Authority and UrbanGrowth,” Clr Moore said.
In a media statement last week from Premier Mike Baird, he said the move was motivated by duplication and inefficiency, and that the authority’s functions would be principally transferred to Government Property NSW and Destination NSW.
“The government is currently examining the most appropriate land use planning, heritage, and management framework for The Rocks precinct in consultation with the Commonwealth government,” Mr Baird said.
The statement said that “all SHFA staff have been transferred to the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.”
The original Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Act, written in 1998, said its mission was to “protect and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the foreshore area”.
The Act said SHFA would “secure the orderly and economic development” of the area.
SHFA were also charged with managing, promoting and organising “cultural, educational, commerical, tourist…and transport activites and facilities”.
Vice President of Reinvent Australia Oliver Freeman said that it was important to think about Sydney’s future in a holistic way.
“We need less councils and government agencies acting as policy silos, and a proper mega-Sydney with the authority and funds to chart a whole-of-Sydney future,” Mr Freeman told City Hub.
“So I believe that Clover Moore and Darcy Byrne have both got it wrong.”
“A first step is to restructure the post codes to redefine Sydney’s boundaries. So Mosman 2088 would become Mosman Sydney 2088. Let’s identify Sydney as being more than NSW 2000,” he said.
“Then, we need a new metropolitan take on Sydney. Having reduced the number of councils (the City of Sydney being one to stay), we create a Greater Sydney Council to sit across them all and ‘report’ to the State Government.”