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GRIEVANCE DEBATE: New South Wales: Planning Processes

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (5.21 p.m.) —I wish to complain about the planning processes used by the government of New South Wales in newly developing areas in the north-west of Sydney.

It has been planned by the Carr government that there be a massive increase in the population of the north-west sector of Sydney, with it finishing with a population roughly the same as that of Canberra.
This is in an area which is poorly served by infrastructure and services. It is an area which has been in the process of development by a strange consortium comprised of the Sydney Water Board and a number of private developers, and some unusual practices have been devised to bring about the growth in population in this area.

For many years—I think for 10 years—there has been much talk about the need to take remedial action to ensure that, as the population increases, the services needed by the community are in place and there can be harmonious growth in opportunity for employment and services provided to families. Most of the new settlers in this area will be families—not entirely but mostly—with children.

As long as 10 years ago, in discussions between Baulkham Hills Council and Blacktown City Council, employment and transportation were identified as two key issues that had not been attended to by the planners of the New South Wales government. Regarding the issue of employment, opportunities for employment close to home, with suitable industrial areas and light industrial areas and retail centres, are particularly important. Neither of those two key issues has received the necessary attention from the New South Wales government. The issue most significantly lacking attention has been transport.

The whole of Sydney knows about the shambles of Windsor Road. With upcoming state government elections, there has been a lot of attention given to announcement after announcement about the improvements that are going to be made to Windsor Road to allow access from the far western areas and outer fringes of Sydney to Parramatta—and to employment in Parramatta—and then access to the public transport system which goes further into Sydney. I believe the activities of local people have brought about these announcements. The councils have been active. The state members, Michael Richardson and Wayne Merton, have been most active, as has Ray Williams. There have been large groups of people most concerned about the public transport and road systems. It has only been recently, however, that the community has become aware of proposals for a rail system through the area, linking the Castle Hill district to Epping.

Heavy rail is something that is not generally talked about in the context of urban transport solutions, but the New South Wales government has proposed that there be a heavy rail link between Castle Hill and Epping and that there be an extension further out to Rouse Hill. A publication presented by the New South Wales government about the needs of our growing suburbs outlined the long-term plans in rough format. I think that when it was produced, the residents of my electorate looked at it and felt that it was less a matter of substance than a proposal designed to attract attention at election time. It was somewhat surprising then that more detailed maps were released very recently, which were said to represent the proposals for a heavy rail route running through already developed areas and areas awaiting development.

This does not sound of much importance, unless you happen to be one of the people affected. If you own a residence or a property which is coming up for residential development, seeing lines proposed by a state government on the map can massively change your expectation and your land use. That is what has happened. In maps released in April, the state government changed the whole context and nature of opportunities for vast numbers of people in north-western Sydney. In a delegation with one of my state colleagues to see Kevin Moss, the parliamentary secretary assisting Carl Scully, we became very aware that the state government had been caught short in its understanding of the impact of its decision. Instead of having made a massively popular decision, what they have done is spread great uncertainty over a large portion of land and opportunity. [start page 6758]

I will give some idea of what this has meant. Because of the unusual nature of the development which I have described—a consortium comprised of the water board and four or five developers who own land in the area—there were great stretches of land which were not proposed to be developed for residences. In discussions with the New South Wales government over about five years from about 1997, residents convinced the state government that changes to this original plan would be beneficial. I agreed with that. These larger holdings, in lots of five acres and more, are coming up for residential development. Into the middle of a recently changed plan, the state government has dropped a railway line which is going to cut across vast tracts of land, completely destroying any potential development plans and changing the opportunities for a large number of people. Mr Eddie De Marco and his organisation, the Extend North-west Rail Tunnel Action Group, have been to see me. He was part of the delegation to the minister. His action group put a very clear case showing the damage these proposals, through lack of consultation and the exercise of raw power with thoughtless concern for the residents, have imposed on people in north-western Sydney.

Not only were Eddie De Marco and his group and local residents badly affected; I have received representations from another group whose members—private residents—are going to find that they are going to have a heavy railway line within a few yards of their back fences. These houses are valued at half a million dollars. They have only recently moved in, and suddenly—overnight—through a plan dropped into the Sydney media, the whole valuation of and prospects for these lifetime investments are changed. Mr Pethani and his group are absolutely distraught, as they have discovered that the noise and damage to their property are going to be so substantial that the things they have worked their life for are going to be seriously devalued. That is the result of this decision, which has been thoughtlessly put in place. The solution, of course, is to have a tunnel which bypasses all these difficulties created by poor planning.

On top of this, the shopping centre at Norwest and the Hillsong church have discovered that there is a great cutting opening up right in the middle of their car park, which will destroy their facility. They have land already purchased, which, I would say, has conditions on it such as they must develop within a certain period and have plans approved. None of that was taken into account by the state government.

So what have we got? We have a large church and a large shopping centre offering employment. We have large numbers of residents who have put their life savings into the property with an expectation that their land will be developed. Residents are all up in arms through poor planning, lack of consultation and a failure by the New South Wales government to consider the very basic processes of how to deal with a community when a large development project is pending—one that should be beneficial to the area but that most people feel is being raised purely for the purpose of the upcoming state elections. Even if it is an electoral ploy, it is going to create huge long-term damage to the investment and lifestyle of many people. (Time expired)

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 23/9/02
Release Date: 29 Sep 2002


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