Opinion

Local communities must stand up for themselves now

A constant challenge for community organisations and resident action groups is to focus the precious and often limited time of volunteers on what is most needed and on what can achieve the most good. All too frequently, this means not everything gets the attention it deserves. But, prioritising is essential in order to make the greatest impact with the resources available.

One such emerging priority for communities in South Sydney is the Central to Eveleigh Corridor Development.

Even at this early stage, the Central to Eveleigh Corridor Development has all the hallmarks of a looming battle between local communities and an over-reaching government.

Think for a moment about size and scale. The NSW government’s “master developer” UrbanGrowth NSW is eyeing 80 hectares of state-owned land, spanning southward from Sydney’s Central station. To put that in perspective, 80 hectares is roughly equivalent to twice the size of Sydney Park.

And then consider UrbanGrowth’s “vision”. Already, computer generated visuals show tower after tower. Couple this with the new Planning Minister prepared to put “all options on the table” in respect of building height. Sydney Tower (309m) may soon become the dwarfed little brother of the city skyline.

But perhaps most pressing is the timeframe. UrbanGrowth has identified North Eveleigh, South Eveleigh and Australian Technology Park as the first sites for redevelopment within the next “0-5 years”. So, in the absence of anything to the contrary, consider the starting gun fired.

It is at these early stages of this monster redevelopment that communities – and the groups that represent them – stand the best chance of having some influence by becoming informed, getting organised, and speaking up with a clear voice.

Of particular concern to us all should be the clear and present danger to public housing along the corridor.

As noted in Geoff Turnbull’s recent column (“Early Central to Eveleigh timeframe”, SSH, July 2014), UrbanGrowth’s Concept Plan identifies the possible loss of 46 public housing homes in Explorer Street, South Eveleigh within the next five years. Given the NSW government’s disposition towards the public housing tenants in Millers Point, this possibility would seem to be a strong one.

However, there is a strong precedent in Erskineville of the community kicking back when local public housing is threatened. In 2002, public housing tenants and the wider community came together to successfully resist redevelopment of the Erskineville public housing estate on Swanson Street. This should be a clear warning to government, if one was needed, not to expect communities to sit idly by.

In the coming weeks, the Friends of Erskineville will be letting locals know about UrbanGrowth’s redevelopment designs for South Eveleigh. We are getting organised early. I encourage you to join us.

 

Darren Jenkins is the President of the Friends of Erskineville. You can become a Friend of Erskineville or join the mailing list at www.erskinevillevillage.org.

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