20 September 2018
(Private Members Statement, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Glebe Island is part of The Bays Precinct, located under the Anzac Bridge within White Bay, Johnston's Bay and Rozelle Bay. It is largely undeveloped, retains a small active port and fronts thousands of homes only 200 metres across the water in Pyrmont. The future of Glebe Island has been the subject of more than a decade of extensive work with stakeholders and residents. Successive governments have promised a holistic vision for the precinct that sets the future direction of development and land use while protecting existing residential amenity.
The most recent publication for The Bays Precinct—"Transformation Plan: The Bays Precinct, Sydney" published in 2015—identifies Glebe Island as one of eight precinct destinations and one that provides opportunities for both port and innovation industries. More specific details have not been developed and no strategic vision has been set. However, major development projects are now being planned for this important foreshore location that would lock up the site with heavy industrial activities at a scale that has not existed in the region for decades and that is now inconsistent with Glebe Island's residential surrounds.
The NSW Ports Authority plans to build a multiuser storage and distribution facility for bulk construction materials delivered by ship at Glebe Island. Similarly, Hanson has proposed an aggregate handling and concrete batching plant with a shipping terminal. Both facilities would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no restrictions on the number of ships or truck movements, no bans on ships running generators and leaving lights on at night, and no provisions to ensure respite for residents. Glebe Island and White Bay have also been earmarked as construction sites for the Western Harbour Tunnel and the beaches link. Concrete and steel tubes will be assembled onsite and heavily contaminated spoil dredged from the harbour will be stored and dried before being trucked off for disposal.
If these developments go ahead, massive cargo ships will be berthed over long periods adjacent to homes in Pyrmont. The sleep of local residents will be impacted by humming generators and noise from unloading, their air will be polluted by toxic emissions and contaminants, including sulphur and aggregate dust, and their darkness will be reduced from light spill. The projects will add thousands of new trucks to local roads every day, including trucks up to 19 metres long. Traffic in the region is already heavily congested with jams and queuing across intersections a regular occurrence. The existing road network will not cope and this will affect the region's amenity and the city's efficiency. Residents of Jackson's Landing already report amenity impacts from ships and cruises berthed at Glebe Island and White Bay. Massive increased industrialisation of the port will seriously harm thousands of residents' quality of life.
Urban renewal policies established by successive State and local governments have dramatically changed the landscape of this region over past decades. The working harbour at Glebe Island has been significantly scaled back and the industrial purposes at Pyrmont have been replaced with residential communities. Pyrmont is now Australia's most densely populated neighbourhood and further development is planned, including on the current Sydney Fish Market site.
While there is general support for Glebe Island to retain some level of working harbour and recognition that the region will always have a working harbour presence, Glebe Island is now located within an environmentally sensitive area and any activities on the site will affect a large number of people. Glebe Island planning must respond to this residential context, not that of a bygone industrial era. It is difficult to see how Glebe Island and White Bay will be able to support an innovation tech hub, as identified in the 2015 transformation plan when heavy industrial noisy, polluting activities will overrun the area.
Local Pyrmont residents have made submissions, signed petitions and held two well-attended community meetings at which I spoke. They have initiated the Don't Waste Glebe Island campaign in support of the Government's promises to bring innovative industries to the site. Google's withdrawal from White Bay should not be used as an excuse to abandon a tech hub because demand for tech real estate close to the city is rapidly growing. Residents are also considering legal options against the multiuser facility, which is being inappropriately self‑assessed and determined by the NSW Ports Authority despite significant impacts on large numbers of people. Along with the community, I have called on the Minister for Planning to call in the project to ensure an independent assessment is undertaken by his department.
The piecemeal approach to planning at Glebe Island will not result in the best public outcome for the region. A master plan should be finalised before any development is approved. It is time for the Government to protect Pyrmont's residential amenity and to abandon plans to turn Glebe Island into a heavy industrial port and construction site. Strategic planning for the site must protect this important waterfront site and residential amenity in adjacent densely populated regions.