04 June 2020
(Private Members' Statements, 4 June 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Pyrmont is one of Australia's most densely populated and liveable areas. It is socially vibrant, diverse and cohesive. It supports good jobs and services, including the creative industries. It is close to the city and is surrounded by a beautiful harbour. Pyrmont's success is the result of early collaborative planning between experts and the community to get the right scale, location and mix of built form and inclusion of social and affordable homes. But successive governments have abandoned this responsible approach and have split the peninsula into different jurisdictions with fragmented planning decisions that have not benefited the community.
The Government has promised to address this challenge and harmonise Pyrmont planning. It has asked the Greater Sydney Commission to review the existing planning framework and is now developing a Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy. However, the community is understandably concerned that the process is about squeezing more towers onto the peninsula. The review was initiated in response to the Independent Planning Commission's responsible decision to reject The Star's proposal of a 237‑metre hotel and residential tower, leading many to conclude it is geared towards ensuring the proposal can be approved in the future. The tower had no strategic planning justification, would have cast shadows throughout the Pyrmont public domain and was opposed by the community, the council and by me as the local member.
Furthermore, the planning strategy will not integrate Pyrmont's planning framework as promised. Any site that is the subject of an existing process will not be assessed. The Powerhouse Museum and Blackwattle Bay specifically are expressly excluded. Indeed, it is unclear from existing material exactly what parts of the peninsula will be included. Blackwattle Bay includes the former Sydney Fish Market site. Early concept plans for the site earmarked towers close to the waterfront of up to 45 storeys—higher than the Anzac Bridge pylons. That represents gross overdevelopment of the harbour. The heights are completely out of character with the rest of Pyrmont and would dominate views between Pyrmont and the harbour, including from Anzac Bridge. There is no reference to past visionary work on Blackwattle Bay through, for example, the Bays Precinct Task Force, the Bays Precinct strategic framework and the community reference group, all of which concluded that the waterfront should be protected from overdevelopment and be retained for publicly accessible open space.
The community engaged in the process in good faith but its work has now been sidelined. Redevelopment of the Sydney Fish Market site should not be assessed separately from the planning strategy because there are significant risks of burden to Pyrmont facilities and services. With around 2,500 new homes crammed onto the existing site and no new public open space on site, other than the boardwalk, even more residents will rely on crowded Wentworth Park for recreation. The existing transport network will not cope, given that roads and buses are already congested and are expected to worsen when the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange opens. The proposed affordable housing targets of 5 per cent to 10 per cent fall far short of the minimum 15 per cent needed to address this State's homelessness crisis.
How can the community assess the merits of the Blackwattle Bay redevelopment without completion of the place strategy? If the two are not coordinated, we risk a repetition of past mistakes, especially failing to deliver adequate social infrastructure, such as schools, childcare centres and libraries. The recently released draft directions for the place strategy represent important planning principles, which should be applied across the entire peninsula, not certain sites only. One vital direction calls for a coordinated planning approach, but that would not be possible if Blackwattle Bay, the Powerhouse Museum site or any other sites are excluded. In response to my questions in Parliament, the planning Minister promised meaningful community consultation on Pyrmont's planning framework. However, there is no community representative on the steering committee. Also it is unclear how community input will ultimately be used to make decisions.
Pyrmont residents have been through hollow planning consultation processes before. Their primary request for the Darling Harbour redevelopment was improved pedestrian access through Darling Harbour to the city. In countless meetings with project officers they were told, as was I, that their suggestions would be addressed. The redevelopment is complete and Pyrmont continues to have poor pedestrian links with the CBD. We now have a proposal for a helipad at Darling Harbour, which has come out of nowhere and threatens the neighbourhood amenity. Pyrmont should not be treated as a cash cow for developers. It is already contributing significantly to Sydney's residential density. No further development should be permitted without completion of a comprehensive planning assessment that includes transport, social structure and affordable housing. Blackwattle Bay is an interconnected part of Pyrmont and should not be planned in silo. I call on the Government to harmonise planning across the peninsula through a holistic planning process that does not relinquish sites.