GSC or DPE? What’s in a name?

GSC or DPE? What’s in a name?

By Peter Hehir

So what exactly does the brouhaha between Glad the Impaler and Lucy ‘I don’t know of any demolition in Haberfield’ Turnbull’s Greater Sydney Commission mean for the Inner West? Lucy’s Greater Sydney Regional Plan, a Metropolis of 3 Cities, meant that the already developed Inner West was earmarked to see its housing stock increased by 35%, whether we liked it or not.

It was reported in The Australian last Friday that Aaron Gadiel, a partner at Sydney planning and environment law firm Mills Oakley, said the commission in many ways had taken over the “great majority of powers that were traditionally vested’’ in the planning minister. This hasn’t gone down well with the Department of Planning and Environment who clearly resented the GSC encroaching on their turf.

It’s also clear that after the recent deliberations by the Department of Planning and Environment in relation to the 13,000 objections to WestConnex, that the DPE isn’t about to upset Glad the way that the EPA did by not approving Stage 3. Could the GSC prove to be equally unpredictable?

Does Glad feel that the Greater Sydney Commission was getting a bit too far beyond arm’s length to be yanked back into line? That they weren’t ‘pro development’ enough? Or, heaven forbid, that because they went to the trouble of engaging with the public through their public seminars, that they actually gave an inkling that the opinions of the public might actually matter?

The Premier’s assertion that the position of the GSC ‘would be strengthened as it would report directly to the Premier’ obviously cuts both ways. It’s all about control. The Premier would clearly be able to dictate directly to the Commission. And she no doubt would.

The use of industrial land in the Inner West is a significant bone of contention between the GSC and the DPE. The GSC recognised the need to retain much of this land for its stated purpose while the DPE foreshadowed their intention to rezone these areas for high density residential development. This is significant as the effective removal of planning powers from local councils and placing them under the control of the GSC removed the community from expressing their legitimate concerns about overdevelopment, but obviously this wasn’t good enough for Glad and her developer cronies.

The GSC’s retention of reservations for light industry and hence local employment opportunities has obviously rankled the pro high rise development push, who clearly have Glad’s ear, prompting the Premier to reign in the GSC.

So does this mean even darker days for the Inner West? Probably. The stripping of the GSC’s Planning powers appears to have caught the GSC by surprise as Lucy’s office professes a lack of knowledge in all of this with The Australian quoting a staffer who said This is the first I’ve heard of it’. From the perspective of the Inner West though does it really matter who is driving the truck? GSC or DPE? What’s in a name?

Could the projected 35% increase possibly even double under the Premier? Why not? History, heritage and amenity clearly have no value and are just barriers to development. The fact that residents collectively own residential precincts and should have some say in determining the shape of the environment in which they live, matters not a jot. It’s not inconceivable that whole streetscapes of Victorian terraces could simply disappear and be replaced by high rise ‘little boxes made out of ticky- tacky that all look just the same’. The ugly cancer that killed Pyrmont and Ultimo will no doubt spread.

And there is bugger all that we can do about it.

Concerns expressed by the community in relation to overdevelopment, loss of amenity, the destruction of heritage precincts and National Trust classified homes obviously cut no sway with the Premier. Develop or perish seems to be her mantra. The words history and heritage are spelt with four letters in her mind as they appear nowhere in Glad’s vocabulary. The distancing of the community from the decision making process is deliberate and is obviously designed to dumb down opposition.

Likewise community concerns about the importation of WCX vehicle pollution on a grand scale into Rozelle if Stage 3 proceeds cut no sway with her either. Of course Glad hates to be exposed as the ultimate NIMBY. She wouldn’t have a bar of unfiltered road tunnel stacks in her electorate when it was first proposed by the ALP in 2013. Her protestations in Parliament on this subject are a matter of public record. But Glad will tell you that it’s fine for the Inner West. And that the RMS use ‘world’s best practice’.

The driver behind all of this is the push to double and treble Sydney’s population. It’s fuelled by the greed of the developer who demolishes, builds and moves on to destroy another community. When were we consulted about the desperate need to increase our population? I don’t recall the debate?

So when all is said and done, does it really matter which Department is pulling the strings?