First elected to the now-defunct South Sydney Council in 1980, Clover Moore – then a mother lobbying for improved playgrounds and reduced through-traffic in her Redfern community – is now the longest-standing Sydney Lord Mayor, and the first woman popularly elected in the City’s 179-year history.
And ahead of the December elections, Clover is still hungry (excuse the pun) for Moore.
“I want our transforming, progressive agenda to continue,” she tells City Hub. “I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities, I don’t want the City to go back to the major parties or the inexperienced, and it’s really being very motivated about the work.”
Moore first won the Mayoralty and control of council in 2004, after she was encouraged to run a team in the City after the State Government’s forced amalgamation of South Sydney, the City of Sydney and parts of Leichhardt Council. Backed by a team of Independents and her local community, Moore was elected to the posting which she will hold up to next month’s elections, when the city casts their vote for Lord Mayor.
“Elections are always exciting and challenging I have to say, being out there, meeting people and getting feedback,” Moore says.
“But as Lord Mayor, my work doesn’t stop either, and COVID-19 has added a whole other layer of work – it’s a very demanding time.”
Standing against Moore for the mayoralty will be an all-female cast eyeing a new chapter of governance in the City. Among the candidates will be longtime Labor councillor Linda Scott, Independent Yvonne Weldon, the first Aboriginal candidate vying for Lord Mayor, and Sydney lawyer Shauna Jarrett, who will head the Liberal Party’s ticket in the City.
“Moore has been mayor for 17 years,” Jarrett told City Hub in July. “[This election] is an opportunity for change, and Liberals at both the state and federal levels have brought proper fiscal management and real change. It’s the City of Sydney’s turn.”
After multiple close calls with bankruptcy during the late 20th century, Moore prioritised responsible financial management within council, with planning, property investments and infrastructure funding flagged atop the agenda. Three years later, a new focus within the inner-city grabbed Moore’s attention.
“We had a conversation in 2007, when a majority of people across the city said that they wanted to address climate change,” she says.
“We did the research, we did the master plan, we’ve made the commitments and we’ve honoured them.”
This year, the City reached their 70 per cent emissions reduction target nine years earlier than anticipated. Among the measures to improve sustainable practices are the installation of LED lights in Sydney streets, an increased array of solar panels in homes and businesses, and the use of 100 per cent renewable electricity in council operations.
Despite the environmental strategy put in place, Moore’s administration has come under fire for its increased energy consumption in the last 15 years. Since its baseline recordings in 2006, natural gas usage had quadrupled up to June 2021, prompting rivalling candidates to question the measures implemented in council.
Yvonne Weldon has promised to “aggressively electrify” the City and “power a genuinely green recovery” from COVID-19, while Greens candidate Sylvie Ellsmore has prioritised “urgent action to address the climate crisis” should she be elected.
The City’s gas usage has largely stemmed from pool heating and gas-fired co and trigeneration, which harnesses excess heat, steam or other gases that would otherwise be lost to increase the overall efficiency of power generation. Moore said that renewable energy will replace trigeneration once it “comes to the end of its natural life”, but could not identify a timeline specifying when that would occur.
With fully vaccinated Sydneysiders having enjoyed returning freedoms from October 11, the successful reopening of the city and 24-hour economy remains pressing business for Moore.
To facilitate greater social distancing and ventilation, council and the NSW Government have worked to create a “city for the people” through the increased pedestrianised section on George Street, introducing new al fresco and outdoor dining options for hospitality venues, and forming pop-up cycleways – the latter two initiatives are now set to become permanent following a meeting this week between Moore and NSW Treasurer Matt Kean.
“It’s been very strong policy for us for a very long time, and COVID-19 has really got the state government to join us in doing those things,” Moore says.
“It was very hard in the past to get the state government to separate cycleways on state roads really, they wouldn’t even have considered … taking away car spaces and putting in outdoor dining, and now they’re partnering with us.”
The last phase of the NSW Government’s reopening roadmap will occur at 95 per cent vaccination, or by 15 December (whichever happens first), whereby unvaccinated people will be able to enjoy the same freedoms as those who have had the jab.
When Sydney reaches the final leg of the roadmap, Moore’s mayoralty may have reached its end. But if that is the case, it won’t be from a want of trying.
“I can’t see into the future,” Moore says. “[But] I think while I have the energy, while I’m so excited by the possibilities, I have a great councillor team and we have great staffing … I’m very motivated to do that.
“When the time comes, I’ll make sure there are plans in place.”