BY SORAYA PEREZ MOHAMMED
Neighbors, architects, urban planners, and engineers gathered in Waterloo last week to plan the future of their village. The Waterloo Public Housing Action Group (WPHAG) hosted an open day to encourage ideas and discussion around the imminet redevelopment plans for the area.
The NSW government announced plans last year to demolish and restore the huge towers and dozens of surrounding public housing buildings in Waterloo, which outraged residents have been lobbying against. Around 5000 elderly, disabled and low-income people will be displaced as a result of the development, with locals fearing that gentrification will forever change the close-knit community.
In a small win for the group, the government relented recently and invited members of the community to partake in consultations to finalise details of the works.
Genevieve Murray, an architect and Future Method Studio who is working on the project, said it was crucial for Waterloo residents to attend the event because it provided them the chance to effect real change on the developments.
“It’s important people have their say now. The time is right for people to get the most input in the process. Once they’ve already gone and started their plans it’s too late. We need to let them know what we want now and this is their opportunity to do it,” she said.
Clare Lewis, leader of the group “We live here 2017”, a community action group who are creating a large-scale artwork and making a documentary to raise awareness about the plans, said many residents of Redfern and Waterloo that value the community aspect of the area very highly. She said public housing was key to the dynamism of that community.
“Our project celebrates the people of this place, shares information relevant to local residents and we hope to get public housing recognised as vital to a healthy and diverse city,” she said.
“Many residents here are featured in our film and are part of the team that will realise an ambitious community light sculpture, emitting from within Matavai and Turanga towers later in 2017. By sharing the characters and stories of a place, we hope to open the door to a significant inner city community, one that will be radically altered as the new masterplan for this 40-acre site is designed,” said Ms. Lewis.
Waterloo residents present on the day said they were pleased about the initiative and having a chance to take part in deciding on the future of their home.
“As a community we need to let the government knows what we want, and we must keep fighting for our homes, our community and our local small businesses,” Chris Turner said.
The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore and Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong also attended the event to support the locals.