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You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Government, UG, SMDA & RWA Statements / 2008 / RWA Questions at Estimates Hearing - 15th October 2008

RWA Questions at Estimates Hearing - 15th October 2008

Below we have extracted the examination of proposed expenditure for the portfolio areas of Planning and Redfern Waterloo by General Purpose Standing Commiittee No. 4 on Wednesday 15 October 2008. This transcript has been extracted from the draft transcript for final transcript please refer to the link at the end of this transcript.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Could I ask you several questions about the Redfern Waterloo Authority [RWA]?


Ms SYLVIA HALE: When will the proposed filter environment plan be made public?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: My apologies for the slight delay in answering the question. This is why I asked for a break between our portfolio questions.

Mr DOMM: We had intended to put it on public exhibition this year, but that will not happen now. The project has proven to be much bigger and more complex than we originally anticipated. Given that we are now getting close to the end of the year, and given that we have a new Minister who is yet to be briefed on this issue, to be updated on where the project is at and the fact it will have to go to Cabinet for endorsement to go on public exhibition, I would not anticipate it going on exhibition until the early part of the new year, subject to Cabinet endorsement.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Has the plan in a prototype format gone to Housing New South Wales for its comment and input?

Mr DOMM: We have been working in partnership with the department.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Can I add to that and reiterate that, first of all, the RWA has met and will continue to meet with members of the public housing community in Redfern-Waterloo. We commit the Government to no cuts in the amount of public housing, current residents will not be disadvantaged and all public tenancies are secure.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Is there any planning underway for the redevelopment of Housing New South Wales properties in Waterloo?

Mr DOMM: We are basically working on a planning regime. We are not working on a development strategy at this stage. It is basically looking at available sites and seeing what ways we can revitalise and regenerate public housing and create a better deal for public housing tenants and the surrounding community.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: I refer now to the Rachel Forster Hospital site and the community health centre. Now that the hospital site has been sold, do you know when work will begin on its redevelopment as a residential complex?

Mr DOMM: No, I do not. We had anticipated that works may have commenced by now, but I guess with the current credit situation, it may be impacting on a whole range of projects, including this one.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: What percentage of units is anticipated to be set aside for public housing in that redevelopment?

Mr DOMM: The Rachel Foster development under the concept plan that was approved envisages approximately 150 dwellings, and they are all private dwellings. It is not a public housing development.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: There is no mention or requirement in that development that there will be affordable housing?

Mr DOMM: In that development, we are obviously collecting an affordable housing levy, which will be applied to the provision of affordable housing in other parts of the area.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: In other parts of the area, which will be a privately owned enclave, as it were?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Ms Hale, there are many private developments in the Redfern-Waterloo area.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Now that the Rachel Foster has been sold, when will work commence on the community health facilities in the old courthouse?

Mr DOMM: It has already commenced.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: What stage has it proceeded to?

Mr DOMM: I have not visited the site recently, but work has commenced, I am advised, and it is in the early stages of construction.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: So when do you expect it to be fully operational?

Mr DOMM: Hopefully by late next year.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Do you see any reason for that target not to be achieved?

Mr DOMM: It is not our project. It is being managed by the Department of Health, but they advised us, when there was meant to be an earlier start, of an anticipated finish by August next year. Given that they are a little bit behind that, I suspect they are pushing for the end of next year, if things go to program.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Could you give the Committee some idea of the budgetary allocation for the Redfern-Waterloo Authority for the next financial year?

Mr DOMM: The Redfern-Waterloo Authority is funded for $5 million a year. That does not take into account Australian Technology Park, which is not funded. It is a company that generates its own revenue. But in terms of the statutory authority, the Redfern-Waterloo Authority is funded operationally for $5 million.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: What do you anticipate spending that $5 million on in the next financial year, specifically?

Mr DOMM: There are salaries, continuing to completion the Everleigh railway plan stage two, getting the north Everleigh site concept plan approved and taking the site to market in the early part of the New Year, seeing to the finalisation of the Channel Seven development in Australian Technology Park—a wonderful new project which will help to revitalise that whole area and create a lot of jobs—taking the remaining development sites at the Australian Technology Park to market after we have subdivided and prepared them for sale, and continuing with our innovative employment programs, including leveraging off these developments to create jobs for unemployed Aboriginal people.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: In relation to north Everleigh, I think you said you envisaged taking the site to market in the early New Year.

Mr DOMM: Yes.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: You will do that, regardless of the depressed state of the real estate market?

Mr DOMM: That is our program. Obviously, you have to monitor the situation repeatedly and make judgement calls at the time. But at this stage, our program is to go to market in February next year. Having said that, though, even though the current market situation is difficult, you have to take into account that these developments occur over a number of years. People who are bidding for these sites have a longer-term view. They do not just look at the immediate situation. They take a longer-term view and make judgements on purchasing based on that. We will have to make an assessment in the early part of the year of whether there is sufficient market interest to take it to market now, or whether we should postpone that.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: For example, if a private developer purchases the site, or any of the site, are they under any compulsion to complete the development within a specific number of years or their approval lapses? I am thinking here whether we will have a recurrence of the case involving the World Centre site at Haymarket where development languished for many, many years.

Mr DOMM: I will answer that question in two parts. Firstly, any development approval requires substantial commencement within a defined period of time. Secondly, we intend to structure the sale contract so that those components of the development that are relevant to the community—that is, open space and in the public domain, whatever—are built by defined dates.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Other than the University of Sydney, have there been any other expressions of interest in the north Everleigh site?

Mr DOMM: We have not gone to market yet, but certainly we have had a number of inquiries, yes.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: So you expect groups other than the university to be interested. When will plans for the upgrading of Redfern station be released?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: We are at the moment looking at a concept design study for the Redfern railway station upgrade. The next step in that process is that RailCorp commences preparation of a business case for the station upgrade, but again, the Redfern-Waterloo Authority is working in partnership with another agency here, RailCorp.

Mr DOMM: A business case has to be finalised and approved by Cabinet, and the funding for the station upgrade comes from the net proceeds of the sale of north Everleigh. All of the proceeds of the sale of north Everleigh are being reinvested in public infrastructure. The nature of that sale of course will determine the timing of that upgrade.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Which is another factor to consider when we go to market with north Everleigh. It actually funds the upgrade of Redfern station.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: What stage is the Aboriginal Housing Company's Penmulwuy project at?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: The Aboriginal Housing Company's concept plan was launched some time ago with the Department of Planning. The payment of an outstanding application fee was an obstacle to the application proceeding.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: The Council of the City of Sydney Council has now paid that. Is that correct?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Part of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority's charter is to facilitate the social and economic advancement of Aboriginal people in the Redfern-Waterloo Authority's operational area. To enable the Aboriginal Housing Company's concert plan to be considered, the Redfern-Waterloo Authority has paid the application fee of behalf of the Aboriginal Housing Company to the Department of Planning.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Very good.

The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI: You should not get too excited.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Such acts of generosity excite forever.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: The Aboriginal Housing Company's application for the project can now proceed to assessment. It is currently on public exhibition.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: One of the sticking points or sore points, certainly from the point of view of the Aboriginal Housing Company, is that they felt they had been very disadvantaged by the floor space ratio that had been imposed on that side compared to other comparable sites within the authority's area. Will the authority be reconsidering that floor space ratio?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: They have launched their application now, and it is on public exhibition. My understanding is that that issue largely has been resolved.

Mr DOMM: The reality or truth is that the rezoning of that Everleigh Street precinct, which occurred following the Redcliffe-Waterloo Authority's built environment plan, nearly doubles the floor space potential on land owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company. But rather than reducing it, their development potential nearly doubled. In addition, we increased heights particularly on the rail corridor. We rezoned land as mixed use that was zoned open space, which gave it a development capacity. The end result was that the Penmulwuy project, which would not have been capable of being approved under the former Council of the City of Sydney's planning controls, is now capable of being approved under the rezoning of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority that the Minister for Planning brought in.

Page 42 … 43

The Hon. DON HARWIN: I want to ask one or two questions on the Redfern-Waterloo Authority [RWA]. Minister, what is your view on the Redfern-Waterloo Authority's proposed concept plan for North Eveleigh? Do you agree with the demolition of 20 heritage buildings to make way for high-rise towers?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: The concept plan was publicly exhibited by the Department of Planning. The RWA has now lodged a preferred project application, which considers the issues raised in submissions and amends the concept plan by creating additional and improved open space, including a new 3,350 square metre park at the western end of the site; reducing car parking on the site from 1,943 to 1,800 spaces; improving access at the western entrance to the site; and reducing the overall floor space by 2,400 square metres. That preferred project application is being reviewed by the Department of Planning staff.

Mr DOMM: I would like to add to what the Minister said. I doubt there are even 22 buildings on the site, let alone 22 buildings that are allegedly being demolished. Every heritage building that is identified in the State Environmental Planning Policy is being retained under the proposed concept plan. That constitutes 52,700 square metres—over five hectares—of heritage floor space that are being preserved.

The Hon. DON HARWIN: The National Trust's conservation director, Graham Quint, has said that plans for Eveleigh equate to trashing the place. Minister, do you agree with Mr Quint's assessment and, if not, why not?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I have not seen Mr Quint's comments. You have read one quote out to me. I think Mr Domm has just made clear the position of the heritage buildings on the site.

Page 44

Ms SYLVIA HALE: I will get more detail. I wanted to ask a further question in relation to Eveleigh and the railway workshops. Unfortunately the background is fairly lengthy because without the background you cannot understand the questions. In December 1997 the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Craig Knowles, published a media release entitled "World class railway machinery saved", which stated that a State Government grant of $300,000 would go towards the conservation of world-class railway machinery at the Eveleigh workshops and would result in the employment and training of a group of young people to carry out the work. The grant was to go to the Australian Technology Park on a dollar for dollar basis. That was in 1997. In 2000 the member for Hawkesbury asked a question in the House as to whether this was so and, if so, what was the current status of the grant and the work. The answer in August 2000 said:

A Heritage Assistance Grant of $300,000 was made to the Australian Technology Park for the conservation and interpretation of machinery in Bays 1 and 2 ... at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop. The Grant was not for building conservation. This grant was to be matched by the Australian Technology Park (ATP) on a $ for $ basis. Approximately $80,000 has been expended on conservation works for the machinery ($40,000 from the Heritage Assistance Grant and an equal amount from the ATP).

It went on to say:

... residual funding of the grant of $260,000 will be made available to the SHFA on a $ for $ basis, to continue the work of conservation and interpretation.

My questions are: Has that residual funding been released? If so, what was it spent on? Was it spent on those items for which it was intended, namely the conservation and interpretation of machinery in bays one and two? If not, what has happened to those grant funds?

Mr DOMM: All I can say is that the Redfern Waterloo Authority assumed ownership of the Australian Technology Park in January 2005 and assumed management control in April 2005 from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. In that time I have no knowledge of the issues you are talking about, but can I say that the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and the Redfern Waterloo Authority have spent millions of dollars on heritage preservation and the conservation of the Australian Technology Park.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: My concern is the missing $260,000. Minister, given that both the Harbour Foreshore Authority and the others under your control, will you get back to me with a detailed answer as to what has happened to those funds?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I will do my best. I acknowledge that I was not even elected to Parliament at that time, but I will endeavour to do my best to answer that question.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Thank you, Minister….


QUESTION ON NOTICE                                                                    ESTIMATES COMMITTEE

On 15 October, 2008, The Hon Sylvia Hale MLC placed the following questions on notice during the Estimates Committee Hearing for Planning and Redfern Waterloo:

In 1997, a Heritage Assessment Grant of $300,000 was made to the Australian Technology Park for the conservation and interpretation of machinery in Bays 1 and 2 at the Eveleigh Workshop... [At 2000,] $40,000 had been expended.

Has the residual funding [to SHFA] been released? If so, what was it spent on? Was it spent on those items for which it was intended, namely the conservation and interpretation of machinery in bays one and two? If not, what has happened to those grant funds?


The Australian Technology Park's Annual Reports for the years 2000-01, 2002-03 and 2003-04 outline works undertaken to restore heritage machinery from the Eveleigh workshops. These works are consistent with conditions attached to the Heritage Assessment Grant by the NSW Heritage Office.

In 2003, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning opened the Eveleigh Heritage Walk through the former locomotive workshops, including Bays 1 and 2. The walk showcases restored machinery and provides interpretive signage describing the workshops' history.

The Australian Technology Park has an ongoing heritage asset management strategy.


QUESTION ON NOTICE                                                                      ESTIMATES COMMITTEE

On 15 October, 2008, Ms Gardiner MLC placed the following questions on notice during the Estimates Committee Hearing for Planning and Redfern Waterloo.

47.   How many times have you met with representatives of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority? Please provide dates of meetings, with whom you met and the issues you discussed.

48.   How many times have you met with representatives of the Aboriginal Housing Company? Please provide dates of meetings, with whom you met and the issues you discussed.

49.   How many times have you met with representatives of the Aboriginal Housing Company? Please provide dates of meetings, with whom you met and the issues you discussed.

50.   What are the salaries of the 3 most senior executives in the Redfern-Waterloo Authority? And what overseas or interstate travel has been undertaken by them since the establishment of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority?

51.   What is the cost of rental for the premises occupied by the Redfern-Waterloo Authority? What is the length of the lease? And to whom is the rental paid?

52.   Do you agree with Redfern-Waterloo Authority CEO, Robert Domm, that it is in the "public's interest" to sell the North Eveleigh site?

53.   How do you intend to balance your role as Minister for Planning as well as Minister for Heritage when deciding on the future of Eveleigh?

54.   Why hasn't there been a Redfern-Waterloo Update newsletter since July 2008? Is it acceptable that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority is not keeping the public informed on issues affecting that area?

55.   What will your Department do to ensure the heritage future of the Eveleigh workshops?


47.        1 have met with representatives of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority on a number of occasions over the past three years, in my capacity as a local Member of Parliament and more recently as Minister for Redfern-Waterloo. Numerous issues were discussed relevant to my electorate and Ministerial responsibilities.

48.      My diary indicates that since becoming Minister for Planning 9 weeks ago, I have not met with representatives of the Aboriginal Housing Company.

49.          See answer to question 48

50.      The three most senior executives in the Redfern-Waterloo Authority are Robert Domm (CEO), Petar Vladeta (General Manager) and Richard Clark (Director - Development Projects). Mr Domm receives no salary from the RWA. Mr Vladeta receives an annual salary from the RWA of $239,755 and Mr Clark receives an annual salary of $178,820. Mr Clark attended the UDIA National Congress conference in Adelaide between 3-7 April 2006 on behalf of the RWA and has not undertaken any overseas travel.. Neither Mr Domm nor Mr Vladeta have undertaken any overseas or interstate travel during their employment with the RWA.

51.      The RWA currently pays $10,464 per month (ex GST) to Group Colleges Australia for rental of Level 11 at 1 Lawson Square Redfern. The RWA's current lease option expires in September 2009.

52.      I am advised that the quote attributed to Mr Domm is incorrect. The CEO of RWA was quoted recently in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying words to the effect that, to serve the public interest, the sale of the North Eveleigh site needs to be conducted through an open and competitive process.

53.      I am advised that under the RWA's Built Environment Plan, about 6.7 hectares of rail heritage buildings are to be preserved. The Australian Technology Park, which forms part of the former Eveleigh Rail Yards, is a fine example of rail heritage preservation and adaptive reuse. I am further advised that, under the RWA's proposed Concept Plan for the North Eveleigh site, all heritage buildings listed in the State Environmental Planning Policy are to be preserved. A heritage interpretation strategy is also being prepared for the site. The RWA's application is currently before the Department of Planning and its recommendation will come to me in due course.

54.      I am advised that the RWA has produced 16 Redfern-Waterloo Updates since August 2005. About 16,000 copies of each edition of the newsletter are hand delivered to all dwellings in the operational area and some immediate surrounds. A further R-W Update will be distributed before the end of this year to advise the local community of recent developments. All newsletters are also posted on the RWA's website.

55.      See answer to question 53


15/10/2008 Public Hearing - Portfolios of Planning, Redfern Waterloo
Answers to Questions on Notice: Planning, Redfern Waterloo