There is a determined campaign to overturn my amendments to the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust Bill that passed the Legislative Assembly last year and are soon due to be debated in the Legislative Council.
The changes require all leases and licences over 10 years on public recreation parklands to undergo a public tender process and limit licences and leases to 50 years. The amendments would stop the backroom deals that see our parklands traded from one developer to another for profit.
The current leaseholders of the Entertainment Quarter section of the former showgrounds site strongly oppose this change and argue that their vision will revitalise the area. But this “vision” is being assessed through an unsolicited proposal – the same process that saw Crown build a casino on South Barangaroo’s only waterfront park – and there is little public information about the proposals see > HERE). If the proposals really do represent the best outcomes for the site, why not put them to a public tender process?
It is worth pointing out that the lease for the site is due to expire in 2036 with the original contract from 1996 stating that it could be extended for another 10 years after which the land and buildings, including any new buildings constructed on the site, must be returned to the state. Furthermore, there are existing planning rules limiting the uses of the site. Any changes should come from grassroots community processes not deals behind closed doors.
The pandemic has shown us the vital importance of public space and as populations grow with more people living in apartments, we need to expand space for recreation. My amendments do little more than add transparency and accountability to the management of what little land remains in public trust.