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REDWatch Correspondence with Council regarding release of Waterloo South Documents

Following the June 2020 REDWatch meeting, REDWatch wrote to LOrd Mayor, Clover Moore regarding the release of Land and Housing Corporation's proposal for Waterloo South. Below you will see our letter to Clover and her response which has addressed the concerns that we have raised with her about the lack of transpaency of the Waterloo South proposal, for which Council was being blamed.

REDWatch Letter to Clover Moore - 11 June 2020


Dear Clover

Thank you for attending the June REDWatch meeting online, it was most appreciated.

I am writing on behalf of the REDWatch Co-ordination Group. I apologise in advance that this email covers a lot of ground and hence is not short.

We would like to clarify some of the issues raised at the end of the REDWatch meeting to see if it is possible to reach some accommodation around the Waterloo rezoning process, which works both for Council and for those who have raised concerns with REDWatch.

At the outset, I want to emphasise that we are not questioning the Council’s good intentions in the planning process to work with LAHC to arrive at controls that deliver the best possible outcomes for the community.

Early in the master planning process, both tenant representatives and agencies, sought to negotiate with LAHC an engagement process that kept public tenants aware of the process as transparently as possible. While we have had some wins and losses over the last few years we have consistently tried to hold LAHC to its engagement undertaking. LAHC’s engagement framework worked out with the community in late 2016 is attached for your reference.

There has regrettably been no newsletter or update to the community since LAHC publically released its preferred master plan brochure in early 2019. The NAB’s Waterloo Redevelopment Group (WRG) and the Groundswell agencies (Counterpoint, Inner Sydney Voice, Redfern Legal Centre, Fact-Tree Youth Service, Shelter NSW, NSW Tenants’ Union and REDWatch) have complained about the lack of information going to tenants. Both have said that if LAHC was to change its preferred plan from what it had shown the community that it needed to, at a minimum, publically share the changed proposal with the community at a similar level of disclose to what it initially released.

Council officers have confirmed to the WRG that it is up to the proponent whether it wants to release information about its proposal to the community before lodgement with Council. LAHC advise us however that while this is being said publically to the community, behind the scenes it is being asked by Council not to release that material. This has meant LAHC has not provided the community with the transparency they were promised and Council is being blamed for that non-release.

We are aware that once the proposal is submitted to Council that Council itself will not disclose information until it is publically available with the recommendations of council officers. As we understand it, the submission to Council is currently for adequacy checking. We are asking that Council withdraws its objection to LAHC releasing detail of its submitted proposal to the community, so at least the same level of detail of its 2019 preferred master plan can be made publically available. This then would make it clear that if LAHC still did not release the details promised that it was entirely of LAHC’s choosing, not because of Council.

REDWatch, agencies and the WRG are fully aware that what emerges from the rezoning process will be different to what LAHC has submitted to Council. This, however, is not a reason to prevent the release of some details of the LAHC submitted proposal.

Throughout the Master Planning process, the community has seen many proposals for how the estate could be redeveloped; there is not an expectation that what LAHC puts up will be what ends up happening. Tenants at the WRG have already expressed concern, based on the limited information that has been released, that the proposed buildings are still too high.

REDWatch expects that the community will see the submitted proposal in the documents presented to the Council and at that point, people will understand what has changed during the Council assessment process.

All we are seeking is for some of that information to be made public by LAHC now rather than by Council then. We cannot see how Council allowing LAHC to provide basic information on its proposal will impact in any way on the Council process and its intention to try to deliver the best possible planning outcomes for the community.

The material released so far, by way of artist impressions have only confused the community about what LAHC is proposing, as there is no indication of the proposed layout and how much it is like the City’s proposal or like LAHC’s preferred proposal. These are the only two detailed options they have seen and do not know what might, or might not, have been already accepted by LAHC. Giving more information now would help people understand what LAHC has changed and how far it is from what the City proposed.

REDWatch is of the view that the nature of the Waterloo Estate rezoning is very different to the rezoning of industrial sites with low levels of existing residential use that Council usually deals with. This rezoning has a large existing residential community that is impacted by both the planning process and by the long-term redevelopment of the estate. They have an active interest in what happens to them and their homes. They have also been engaged in a planning process for the last few years with undertakings given by LAHC about how they are informed through that process.

REDWatch has argued that with such an impacted residential community in the rezoning area that the planning requirements issued by Council should be public in the same way that the State Government made its SSP requirements public for the estate redevelopment. While this issue has passed at the moment, it will become an issue again when plans for Waterloo North and Waterloo Central are being prepared. REDWatch is urges Council to review its policy of not making public the planning requirements for sites like Waterloo with a view to aligning such transparency of its requirements for such sites with the State SSP planning process.

One of the other areas where we think there is a need for modification of Council’s rezoning approach is in how the capacity building and engagement is handled in the lead up to, and during, the official exhibition of the planning proposal. Both Groundswell and the WRG were set up to provide sounding boards for LAHC about how they could best talk to the complex public housing community. Both those groups are keen to have similar discussions with Council about how best to undertake the Waterloo South engagement process.

LAHC has argued that the Capacity Building, Aboriginal Liaison, Community Development and Bilingual Educator roles only needed to be funded for the preparation of the Master Plan. The capacity-building role was defunded at the end of 2019 and LAHC has not renewed funding for the other positions that are funded only until the end of June 2020. Council, they have argued, will be responsible for the process after that.

We have argued to LAHC that some of these roles should persist across the life of the redevelopment. We have further argued that these positions will have a role in engagement about the promised human services plan consultations. If LAHC does not relent, then there will be major support holes to be picked up by Council during the Waterloo South consultation process and potentially by DCJ, LAHC or Council longer term. Council’s focus on just funding legal support to Waterloo tenants may need to be reassessed in the next phase if LAHC withdraws funding of the existing community support roles.

Over the last few years, FACS has defunded the UNSW Community Development Program and removed funding from Counterpoint for the Redfern Waterloo Housing Community Program (HCP). The FACS restructuring of the Inner Sydney Voice run Tenant Participation Resource Service (TPRS) did not take these changes into account when it was restructured into the Mission Australia run TPCE program. The LAHC Waterloo redevelopment funding, thankfully, part covered some of that defunding for Waterloo. If the LAHC funding disappears then the implications of the earlier FACS defunding will become very evident. Council’s community engagement would need to take into account these changes, which will make it very difficult for local agencies to play the role they have historically during the consultation and the redevelopment.

REDWatch along with Groundswell and the WRG, both of which REDWatch participates in, are keen to work with Council over the planning process to provide the maximum possible transparency of the process, the maximum support for the community and an engagement process that responds to the complexity and diversity of the community.

With Council now taking responsibility for engagement on Waterloo we think it is time for representatives from the WRG and Groundswell to sit down with Council to discuss the challenges outlined above to see how those groups can best work with Council to deliver the best outcomes on several fronts for Waterloo residents. There is a need for all parties to push LAHC to remain engaged with the Waterloo community over the other Waterloo precincts and to push DCJ and LAHC over the development and delivery of a human service plan in which Council and community will both have a definite interest. REDWatch appreciates your support for the delivery of a human services plan.

Three Groundswell agencies, including REDWatch, have written to Monica Barone, in an attempt to start a conversation on these issues. The CEO has referred the request to Graham Jahn’s office. While we have indicated that we are happy to meet with Graham, we are not sure that Council’s Planning Department is the best place to deal with some of the issues raised in this letter even if the common element is the rezoning process.

There are elements of this discussion, which are matters that relate to Council officers, and there are other elements that are broader and relate to your Lord Mayor’s office. I have already raised some of these issues with Maria O’Donnell in conversations over the last few months.

Following the REDWatch meeting, we thought it best to write to you setting out the issues with which we are struggling.

We would be happy to meet with you and further unpack the issues and to explore what needs


Geoffrey Turnbull

REDWatch Co-Spokesperson

Response from Clover Moore - 5 August 2020


Dear Geoffrey

Waterloo South planning proposal

I refer to your email about the Waterloo South planning proposal. I apologise for the delay responding.

I understand Graham Jahn, the City’s Director – City Planning, Development and Transport met with you and others from Counterpoint Community Services on 14 July to discuss community engagement in relation to the Waterloo South planning proposal.

Information about the planning proposal request that NSW Land and Housing Corporation lodged with the City of Sydney in May 2020 for the southern part of the Waterloo estate is now available on the City's website at City staff will release more information about the project as soon as possible, and update the information on our website about the planning proposal as they assess it.

We acknowledge the unique circumstances of this proposal and the level of community concern surrounding the future of the Waterloo Estate. NSW Land and Housing Corporation’s previous release of a preferred masterplan in January 2019, followed by little further information being offered, has led to uncertainty and concern amongst the community about how their neighbourhood will develop in future. The community understandably want to know how the proposal has changed since they last saw it.

I share your ongoing concerns about the NSW Government’s decision to defund community support roles. As my staff told you, I have written to the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services to ask him to reinstate NSW Government funded initiatives for social housing residents in Redfern, Surry Hills and Waterloo, and commit to developing a Human Services Plan for Waterloo residents, as part of the redevelopment of the Estate. I also expressed my concern that these community support roles had been defunded. I enclose a copy of my letter to the Minister.

I appreciate your suggestion for changes to our approach to community engagement. I understand that Yvette Andrews, the City’s Strategic Community Consultation Manager, and other staff have met with you in recent weeks and that City staff are in regular contact with you and other local groups. I understand that City staff spoke with you about the City’s approach going forward, and committed to working with REDWatch, Groundswell and other community groups over the coming months to inform our approach to the public consultation process that will take place next year.

Yours sincerely

Clover Moore

Lord Mayor of Sydney

Followup by Council

Following these representations Council released a site map of Waterloo South which allowed residents to better understand the LAHC proposal. In a presentation on this map Council staff released aditional information which they have now turned into a webinar on the LAHC proposal. On 11th August Council also publically released four of the LAHC support studies.

You can access this information on Council's website at