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Waterloo Metro Quarter railroads public housing tenants

The media release below was issued jointly by Inner Sydney Voice, Counterpoint Community Services and REDWatch on 30 May 2016. The media release was aimed to raise concerns about the separation of the Metro Quarter engagement from that of the Waterloo Estate.

Waterloo Metro Quarter railroads public housing tenants

A draft master plan for above the new Waterloo station, styled the Metro Quarter, starts a three-week exhibition from today, in direct contradiction of undertakings given to public housing tenants that they would not be rushed into commenting on the master plan. The plan will be revealed at a community information session at Redfern Town Hall at 5pm today and on www.ugdc.nsw.gov.au/metroquarter.

Tenants negotiated for a 6-8 week gap between the release of a visioning report and key study summaries and the start of master plan comment. The gap was for capacity building and study groups, so public tenants could understand the complex issues dealt with in the master plan and make informed comments.

Transport for NSW and UrbanGrowth have decoupled planning of the Metro Quarter from the planning for Waterloo estate to speed up approvals for the Metro Quarter so they can deliver it well in advance of the metro trains. Railroading undertakings to tenants in the process.

Capacity building will now conflict with the exhibition. A pre-arranged mapping workshop now comes after the two Metro Quarter information sessions. Government run study groups on nine key consultant reports will not be delivered until after the metro exhibition they were intended to inform.

While government says the two plans still mesh, the Metro Quarter plan will be submitted mid-July, just after the start of the three month engagement on the Estate Master Plan. Issues such as whether community and medical facilities should be located on the estate or at the station cannot be worked out with the community before submission. To the extent possible for the Metro it will need to be dealt with in the formal Metro exhibition.

Getting public housing tenants engaged over the redevelopment has been difficult as few trust that the government works in their interest. They point to problems with basic maintenance, tenancy issues and a miss-handled redevelopment push in 2011 as evidence that the government rides rough shod over them. The breaking of the agreement about how consultation was to take place has encouraged the “I told you so” response from the sceptics, and left those who did participate feeling angry and betrayed.

So far, the community visioning engagement and the consultant studies have happened across both sites. The public housing estate owner, Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), has had responsibility for handling engagement for both sites on behalf of all the government agencies. The estate owner says it will honour its commitments to tenants for the estate master plan.

The agreement about engagement, between tenants and LAHC for the government, was made with the elected tenant representatives of the Waterloo Neighbourhood Advisory Board (NAB) through its Waterloo Redevelopment Group. Supporting non-government organisations were also involved in getting the agreement. Some of these organisations receive funding to support tenants through the redevelopment process so they can meaningfully participate. Tenants and agencies are all angry with the government reneging on the agreement for the Metro Quarter site.

Counterpoint Community Services and Inner Sydney Voice both have projects funded to assist public housing tenants during the redevelopment. Together with long-time local resident group REDWatch they are also working with government to deliver a Waterloo human service plan to address the people issues of public housing to sit alongside the built environment master plan. Statements from these agencies are below.

For more information Contact: Geoffrey Turnbull – Publications Officer Inner Sydney Voice isv@innersydneyvoice.org.au

Supporting comments:

Charmaine jones, the Executive Officer of Inner Sydney Voice, who is funded to provide support and capacity building for public tenants, including in Waterloo said:

“It has taken a lot of hard work to bring the community along on this latest ‘redevelopment’ journey, given the high levels of apathy due to previous ‘planning’ ideas having never led anywhere. The community was promised that this time would be different. As an NGO, we took the government at its word and encouraged the community to participate in the visioning and planning processes because we had seen indications that this time it would indeed be different – that this time there would be a respectful, transparent dialogue with the community and some integrity behind the consultation with the community. Commitments were made and undertakings given. When community is ignored, it is not only government’s integrity that suffers, but ours as well. We spend many hours building trust and relationships within the community and in one fell swoop, government destroys it”.

Michael Shreenan, the Executive Office of Counterpoint Community Services, runs The Factory Community Centre and Counterpoint Multicultural on the edge of the estate. It is also funded to support the community. He said:

“Whilst the LAHC process for the rest of the estate so far has been better than anticipated; Political and economic pressure from other departments and Ministers has overridden the agreed principle to ensure adequate community participation in and ownership of the process. 

Separating the Metro Quarter from what was supposed to be an integrated consultation process across the Waterloo Estate is just unacceptable. Was the alleged collaborative approach by government departments to this redevelopment just a well-marketed façade? Through this ill-considered manoeuvre, any trust by the community was eroded by the government’s backtracking on its undertakings. This has undone a lot of good work that has been undertaken to date.

It is ridiculous by any standard to only give three weeks to ‘consultation’ for social housing residents on the most significant part of the redevelopment, it is more condensed than a tin of Heinz soup.

Their talk about social housing residents ‘being hard to reach and engage’, hides the reality is it easier for government to ignore them than is to make sure that they have equality and ownership over any planning process that effects their community. By rushing the process and separating out the Sydney metro quarter from the agreed consultation process this is exactly what government is perceived to be doing by the community.”

Alice Anderson, the co-spokesperson for long-time residents group REDWatch said:

“The focus of the planning system is supposed to have moved to getting people involved early in the planning process, which is the stage that is happening now in Waterloo. Public housing however is not your average community; it is the place where government concentrates vulnerable people. As a result, there is a greater need for capacity building and for time for public tenants to have their say about complex things like planning.

When UrbanGrowth and Transport for NSW over ride agreements negotiated with communities about how they will have their say, it ruins the trust in the planning system and disenfranchises those who are supposed to have a say at the beginning of the process. Denied the opportunity for input at the start of the process, government and developers should not complain about opposition and “NIMBY” behaviour further down the track.”                

Media release ends