Pyrmont and Western Harbour Precinct

(Question Time, 3 March 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

Mr ALEX GREENWICH: I address my question to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces. Given the concerns of the community and the City of Sydney about overdevelopment in Pyrmont—already one of the most densely populated places in the country—how will the Minister ensure any future plans listen to the needs of the community, and deliver important social infrastructure including arts, creative spaces, public transport and social and affordable housing?

Mr ROB STOKES: I thank the member for Sydney for his question and for his great commitment to the people of his electorate and Pyrmont, in particular. I trust the member had a great time at the Mardi Gras on the weekend as I know it is an event very important to him and his electorate. I also know that it is an event that brings much excitement to the Treasurer because of the great economic benefit it brings to Sydney and to all of New South Wales. On the subject of the Treasurer, Pyrmont and excitement, what could be more exciting than the future of the Pyrmont and Western Harbour Precinct in recent months? Both the Treasurer and I, together with the Mr Alex Greenwich, have a great deal of passion for it.

In a planning sense, Central Sydney's harbour-side geography and the peninsula, particularly Pyrmont, creates some constraints based around its peninsula location, its undulating topography and the fact it is also very densely settled with land scarcity issues. Of course, in a planning sense with those constraints is the crucible of creativity and that is precisely what we want to see—the Government, landowners and the community working together to get the maximum benefit for the community and for businesses in the Eastern Harbour City, one of the three great cities of Sydney.

The eastern edge of the city is now bordered by the Domain, Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the beautiful green and open space envisioned by some of Sydney's earliest Governors. On the other hand, the western side of Central Sydney, which includes Pyrmont and the western harbour, in times past was carved out by ports, shipping terminals and productive industrial lands. For the past two centuries this part of the city has been the gateway to the CBD from the west. The Pyrmont peninsula is dominated by heritage items, terrace housing and strata subdivisions rich in history. Along its western shore, the still-productive shipping areas and ports are being rejuvenated with government projects like the new Sydney Fish Market. At the southern end of the peninsula, the University of Technology Sydney anchors a hub for jobs in multinational businesses and start-ups alike, setting Sydney up to compete in the global economy.

With such a wide variety of land uses having been enabled over the years in such a geographically tight area, it is no wonder that there have been competing visions for land use. The city and the State are left with a whole mismatch of different planning controls, particularly across Pyrmont and the western harbour, that form a patchwork tapestry over time with layers of planning controls that have come to restrict the economic potential of Pyrmont and the western harbour when we know its economic potential is very real. Recognising this potential the New South Wales Government requested the Greater Sydney Commission [GSC] complete a review of the planning framework for the Western Harbour Precinct, including the Pyrmont peninsula.

The GSC provided its report to government in September and made three recommendations. First, to support the delivery of the New South Wales Government's vision and objectives through a consistent consideration of the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the Eastern City District Plan in local and State planning matters to realise benefits for residents, visitors and the wider CBD. Secondly, to develop a place strategy for Pyrmont, which includes a master plan, an economic strategy and a simplified planning framework. It is supported through collaborative arrangements between State Government, industry, council and the community because collaborating is indeed the only way to realise a sustainable vision. It also considers the individual character and potential of sub-precincts within the Pyrmont community. Thirdly, to establish a timeframe and options for implementation of the place strategy.

The Government has accepted those recommendations and is implementing them via the Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy that is being developed right now. It will be completed before the end of October, consistent with the GSC's recommendations for the masterplan to be delivered within a year. Pyrmont and the Western Harbour Precinct will be transformed into the next jobs hub and economic driver of Sydney. The place strategy will articulate the strategic vision for the peninsula. It will be framed by a long-term economic strategy for the area, which will inform the master plan to help deliver that strategy over the next two decades. It will establish a pathway to resolve and simplify the complex, overlapping planning controls in the area to deliver the economic strategy and master plan, providing greater certainty to all stakeholders. 

A steering committee has already been established towards this end. Major development proposals that are being planned in the area will need to demonstrate they are consistent with the direction and strategic intent of the place strategy, or capable of being consistent with the place strategy at critical gateways, to continue progress down their respective planning pathways. Mr Alex Greenwich also specifically asked about social infrastructure like arts and creative spaces, public transport, public and green spaces and social and affordable housing, which are key pillars of the work being examined by government in preparation of this place strategy. The steering committee is preparing a set of directions to guide the economic and place strategy that we will release publicly soon.

Those core issues included in the question asked by the member relate to a clearer and unified planning framework that focuses not only on economic potential for the area but also the social and environmental opportunities, with green space, public and active transport connectivity, nurturing our creative spaces and encouraging a variety of housing tenures for our society. Already the Government works with the City of Sydney and City West Housing to ensure that new development in Pyrmont makes contributions towards new affordable housing. Under State Environmental Planning Policy No. 70—Affordable Housing, 428 affordable units have been delivered in Pyrmont and Ultimo, contributing to better social outcomes in this renewal area.

The community will be consulted along the way not only in a statutory sense on any new planning framework that is recommended by the Steering Committee but also on the economic and place strategies. Following the release of the directions, I look forward to briefing the member for Sydney on the work being undertaken in Pyrmont and the western harbour so that we can ensure that the future of this unique peninsula is a beautiful place for everyone to live and work and that it embraces those creative and place strategies mentioned by the member.