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RWA Letter to REDWatch Regarding BEP2 Consultation

REDWatch wrote the the Redfern Waterloo Authority on 15 February 2011 raising concerns about the Consultation process being used for BEP2. This is the respoonse to that letter from the RWA.

25 February 2011

Mr Michael Shreenan

Convenor of Redwatch

c/- PO Box 1567

Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

Dear Mr Shreenan,

I refer to the Redwatch letter dated 15 February 2011, expressing concern with the public consultation occurring on the Built Environment Plan Stage 2 (BEP 2), I acknowledge that the Redwatch letter does not necessarily reflect your personal views on this matter and I have considered this in my response as outlined below.

While the 'intended spirit in which the requests (and comments) are mode" is acknowledged, both the specific comments made in the Redwatch letter, and its central suggestion that inadequate consultation has and is occurring regarding BEP 2 are not agreed.

The Redfern Waterloo Authority, in close consultation with Housing NSW, has undertaken significant effort in seeking to engage with the community and other key stakeholders on this key project. As you are aware, the RWA has determined that this consultation is a non-statutory process thereby affording the community further opportunities to consider this matter at a later date. As you are also aware, this issue of affording the community this opportunity of a non-statutory consultation period has been a key request of Redwatch and we have responded to that request accordingly.

Any suggestion that "misdirection techniques’ are being used at street corner discussions is firmly rejected. Questions regarding the type of facilities residents may desire is a perfectly valid request for information that will help in the development of the BEP 2 project. Further, full information regarding BEP 2 is provided at the street corner sessions, which have been extensively and widely notified as being for the purpose of discussing the Plan. There has been no intent to avoid legitimate consultation either by RWA or Housing NSW.

As Redwatch is also aware, Housing NSW has spent much of the last 18 months conducting activities that have been aimed to build understanding and knowledge of planning and urban design issues, so that social housing residents will be better able to comment on BEP 2. This has included:

  • A series of site visits and workshops on Urban Design with bus trips out to new residential developments (including Bonnyrigg, Mlinto, Pyrmont, Victoria Park), so residents could see how planning controls and urban design principles operate in practice. Bi Lingual Community Educators (BCE) were available for these sessions. Bruce Judd (UNSW) has been a primary person in this series;
  • A series of Community Forums featuring visiting experts in urban design or regeneration (Bliss Browne, Judy Cowans, Jim Diers, George Housakos) so the community could hear
  • First hand what's happening across the World and what the issues and trends are. Reports on proceedings were provided on each of these Forums to our stakeholder list;
  • Sponsoring tenants to attend Shelter's 'Estates in the Balance' Conference to learn more about renewal;
  • A number of 'Meet the Designer' sessions so the community could begin a conversation with some of the people contributing urban design ideas for Redfern and Waterloo, coordinated by Chris Johnstone; and
  • A Community Learning and Research Forum (facilitated by Judy Stubbs) which identified a process and some key issues that the community believes are important to understand in planning for renewal in Redfern and Waterloo. A further Forum is scheduled for mid February.

In terms of the consultation following the release of draft REP 2, the following components of the consultation strategy have included:

  • Advertisements in key newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald & the Sydney Central Courier);
  • Housing NSW residents being provided with a Resident Information booklet, with interpreter service details and facts on BEP 2 — over 4000 people;
  • The Plan being available on RWA's website, with electronic copies also being available on request;
  • Fact sheets, and frequently asked questions (FAQs), together with supporting studies being placed on the website;
  • Updated FAQs in response to questions and queries received from the consultative processes being placed on the website;
  • A dedicated phone line with a professional town planner ready to answer queries being set up;
  • A Feedback forms to make providing a submission easier;
  • A Newsletter summary being delivered to every household and business in the RWA Operational Area (approximately 20,000 recipients);
  • RWA holding 7 information sessions at Redfern Town Hall, including Saturdays and evenings during the exhibition period. These sessions included hard copies of the Plan, large information panels and experts in planning and HNSW representatives being available to discuss the Plan and answer any questions, In addition bi-lingual community educators (Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin interpreters) have also attended all sessions;
  • The RWA's architect and traffic advisors have attended the Saturday sessions;
  • The RWA printed and distributed 4500 additional feedback forms to the social housing sites following the request for access to hard copies of the feedback forms for social housing tenants from the Redwatch meeting held on 3 February 2011. This involved a feedback form, covering letter with advice in Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin on how to have your say and a fact sheet to provide an overview of what the BEP 2 is about;
  • The use of an independent specialist consultation firm to collate all feedback, and manage the information sessions;
  • Specific briefings to key stakeholders groups, including Redwatch, to explain the detail on the BEP 2 project and to answer any queries in this regard;
  • HNSW holding information sessions daily at Redfern and Waterloo, including:
  • 15 sessions
  • 4 sessions specifically for the Aboriginal community held at The Block, outside the Purple Goanna, NCIE and at Wyanga facilitated by the Aboriginal Housing Specialist from HNSW
  • 11 held on street corners and 4 drop in sessions in the Social Housing Community Rooms
  • Another 11 sessions are planned for the week ending 25 February 2011
  • These HNSW information sessions include Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin interpreters.

Through the street corner sessions, over 500 social housing residents have been consulted to date which represents over 10% of public housing tenancies, while around 100 people have attended the information sessions at Redfern Town Hall. Over 300 feedback forms have been received by the RWA. The feedback forms and submissions received will be analysed and reported upon by Mediate Today — the independent consultancy firm contracted by the RWA to assist in the consultation process.

Whilst we are awaiting all submissions and feedback forms, the response from the Public Information sessions thus far has largely indicated that this process is very effective. Comments have included, via email, that an attendee 'had learnt more about planning in 2 hours from the information session than she had in two years".

In light of all of the above, the assertion that the consultation process is inadequate and/or flawed is clearly not agreed. I am of the view that the commitment to gathering and understanding community views displayed by both the RWA and Housing NSW has been of a high standard and that the implementation of the consultation process has been done in a professional manner,

Although the consultation process is ongoing, the feedback to date has been very constructive, which augers well for the development of this project and the further work that will be undertaken accordingly. It is also worth noting that the HNSW will be undertaking further detailed consultation as part of their master-planning process which will follow the finalisation of BEP 2.

In closing I wish to reiterate the position of the RWA on consultation that I have advised Redwatch and other organisations since my appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the RWA, which is we seek to engage with the community on our specific proposals, and whilst we acknowledge that we will not always agree, respectful dialogue on these matters is central to our approach. We remain committed to this approach accordingly.

I trust this assists you with this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Wakelin-King AM

Chief Executive Officer

REDWatch Note - This letter was in reply to  REDWatch Concerns Regarding BEP2 Consultation