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Fast-track for new fish market

NSW Government announced that the development proposal for the new Sydney Fish Market will be fast-tracked through the planning assessment system. Photo: Alec Smart

By ALLISON HORE

The NSW Government announced that the development proposal for the new Sydney Fish Market will be fast-tracked through the planning assessment system, which NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian claims is part of a bid to boost the state’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The fish market proposal, by Danish architecture firm, 3XN, is one of 24 projects across the state set to have their assessments accelerated.

Ms Berejiklian believes that the 24 projects chosen to be fast-tracked could provide up to 15,000 new jobs and 3,600 new homes and will cement NSW’s place as the country’s powerhouse economy.

“NSW is streets – and roads and homes and hospitals and schools – ahead of every other State in providing new jobs, economic growth, infrastructure and services for our people,” she said in a press conference on 22 May.
“This health crisis only sharpens our focus and energy as we bring forward the NSW Government’s unprecedented infrastructure spend and create an environment where private and government investment combine to help us rebound from the pandemic together.”

Plans for the redevelopment of the Sydney Fish Market at Blackwattle Bay, which is the world’s third-largest fish market, have been in the works for a while. Despite drawing over 3.5 million visitors each year, and having an estimated economic footprint of $303 million per year, the building constructed during the 1980s is “long overdue” for a revamp.

Final approval for the project is set to be delivered within the next few weeks and, should it be given the green light, construction on the $749 million development will start in the second half of this year.

The new market complex, which is planned to open in 2024 on a new site at the head of Blackwattle Bay, will be more than double the size of the existing market, at around 15,500 square metres, compared to the current 6582 square meters. It will include space for space for fishmongers, restaurants, bars, the Sydney Seafood School, a waterfront promenade, park and outdoor plaza.

The relocation of the Fish Market to the head of the bay will mean that the prime waterfront land along the foreshore in Pyrmont will be opened up, creating a continuous waterfront promenade stretching 15 kilometers from Rozelle to Woolloomooloo.

This promenade will increase access to the harbour, said NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes. “Relocating the Fish Market to the head of Blackwattle Bay will improve pedestrian and cycling links and connect more of Glebe and Pyrmont to the water,” he explained.

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After a 6-year planning process, which included an environmental assessment and community consultation, the NSW Govt is considering three “scenarios” for the Blackwattle Bay precinct. The first scenario will have a focus on housing; the second “balanced”; and the third focusing on jobs. Infrastructure NSW say that the proposed scenarios would deliver an “inclusive and iconic waterfront destination that celebrates innovation, diversity and community” and are designed to “facilitate a conversation to inform a final precinct plan.”

The residential plan would deliver up to 1,700 new homes to Pyrmont in the form of 9 buildings ranging in height from 18 to 44-storeys with 4 to 6-storey podiums. To complement the housing, the proposal also includes community services, such as childcare and a library or a community centre as well as cafes, shops and public gathering spaces.

The third scenario would consist of predominantly warehouse-style, 10-storey commercial office buildings in a bid to bring up an estimated 7,000 jobs to the area. The buildings would be arranged in a tight grid pattern to create car-free laneways and arcades which could be used for social gatherings. This scenario would also bring more residences to the area, with towers ranging from 19 to 45-storeys, housing 1045 apartments.

The funds gained from the redevelopment of the old Sydney Fish Market site would recuperate the estimated cost to taxpayers, which ballooned from $500 million to $750 million late last year.

Despite the blow-out in costs, Ms Berejikilian said the price will be “well worth it” and that the reason the cost was much higher than estimated was that the “scope [of the project] has changed significantly”. The public response to the proposal has also been largely positive, with The Committee for Sydney saying it will “drive jobs and growth in Sydney and NSW.”

“The expanded facilities should generate hundreds of additional full-time jobs annually that will contribute positively to Sydney’s economy. The redevelopment is also expected to boost NSW’s Gross State Product (GSP) by as much as $61m per year,” a representative from the committee said in a submission to the planning commission.

Seafood and fisheries groups have also backed the proposal to overhaul the “ailing” facility. “Broadly, the development will replace an ailing structure with a new working retail and operational facility, fit for the 21st century,” said Bryan Skepper, a spokesperson for the NSW Seafood Industry Council.

“It will, in its new layout, more fully support and encourage growth in the NSW seafood industry through its improved facilities and its greater ability to promote the industry.”

While plans for the construction of the new Fish Market are rolling ahead with community backing, pending the fast-tracked government approval, the planning for the new precinct on the old fish market site is still in the early stages and no plans are yet concrete.

Infrastructure NSW is encouraging the community to provide feedback on the Blackwattle Bay precinct scenarios. They are hosting 3 community webinars for those wanting to find out more about the precinct plan scenarios and the planning process. The next webinar will be held on the 2nd of June and can be registered for on the Infrastructure NSW website. Community consultation and submissions on this phase of the planning will close at 5pm on Friday 19 June.

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