We are into the second year of this mega urban renewal project and progress is visible on a number of fronts.
The ongoing tussle between community groups and UrbanGrowth NSW to get meaningful community participation in the planning of this huge project continues with some – albeit limited – progress.
In October 2015 UrbanGrowth NSW produced its third public information glossy – The Bays Precinct Sydney Transformation Plan which provides some new information, although still mainly at the level of options or high level plans. This version identifies seven key action areas and it is of significance that these now incorporate Wentworth Park (long rumoured) and ‘working towards repurposing Glebe Island Bridge’(previously invisible) into the Bays Precinct project. Both these inclusions are welcome – although, of course, this depends on the outcome.
It is clear that the many ideas that individuals and community groups submitted as ‘great ideas’ for the Bays Precinct in response to the invitation from UrbanGrowth have been given some serious consideration and are reflected in the document.
Some of you may have attended UrbanGrowth’s ‘open house’ sessions to discuss the Transformation Plan in Glebe and Rozelle in November. I was not able to attend but understand people found them useful in providing information.
On a different level the Glebe Society, along with 40 other organisations, was invited to join a Bays Precinct Reference Group, which allegedly will provide a forum for ‘continued meaningful engagement and collaboration with stakeholders’, again a belated but welcome initiative that we have been requesting since the project was announced in 2014.
We met once on 16 December with very little notice and no prior agenda or papers. While UrbanGrowth seems to have put considerable effort into the event it was a disappointing and deeply frustrating meeting. Essentially, we were taken through a Powerpoint presentation which was old hat for most participants. As objections to this process managed to be registered – the response was that ‘some in the room’ do not have this background knowledge. It does not seem to have occurred to UrbanGrowth that there were other ways of handling this.
I do not think I was alone in leaving with very little new information and zero input beyond an expression of frustration.
With around 30 people in the room it was obviously impossible for meaningful discussion. As those of us who had endured the prior Bays Precinct Community Reference Group in 2009/10 of 20 plus members, this seemed to be looming as an even worse process. If it continues in this mode few people will stay the distance.
Post the meeting the focus of the Bays community groups has been to persuade UrbanGrowth NSW to radically improve the process and to do so quickly. There have been some signals that they will attempt to do so and will set up working groups to enable members to engage in serious input into the various destination projects underway.
But it is now almost March and our request for the establishment of working groups (or some mechanism to enable willing participants to discuss matters between formal meetings) has had no response. We still do not have a list of members (as distinct from a list of groups) and there were no introductions (understandably given the size). This does not augur well.
We expect the next meeting to be in March. This will obviously be a pivotal point as to whether or not this is a serious consultation process.