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RWA Questions at Estimates Hearing - 16th September 2009

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 16 September 2009. This transcript has been extracted from the draft transcript. For the final transcript please refer to the link at the end of this transcript.

From Transcript Pages 23-26 …


Ms SYLVIA HALE: I would like to just ask a few questions about Redfern and Waterloo, to ensure it gets covered.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Thank you, Ms Hale, it would be welcome.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: This is in relation to the Redfern railway station. In a RailCorp document on forward planning, in a section titled "Capacity and service improvement, delivery 2006" on page 175, it is claimed that the Redfern railway station upgrade will be completed by 2011. Is this still the completion date and, if so, who is responsible for bringing that plan to fruition?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: That would be a question best put to the Minister for Transport. The Redfern-Waterloo Authority was working with RailCorp but ultimately the redevelopment of Redfern railway station is a matter for RailCorp and the Minister for Transport.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Minister, on another matter which I think specifically concerns the Redfern Waterloo Authority: Have you investigated the appointment of Mr Peter Vladeta, General Manager for the Redfern Waterloo Authority, given claims made by staff in a letter to you dated 15 December 2008 that no proper recruitment process was followed in his appointment to that position?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I am aware of that letter. I referred that letter to the ICAC. I might ask if the chief executive has any further information to add.

Mr WAKELIN-KING: I am advised that the letter was referred to ICAC and that further investigation has been conducted, the results of which are currently under consideration in relation to that matter.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Perhaps you would be able to tell us why Mr Vladeta's contract was terminated.

Mr WAKELIN-KING: I was not there at the time, but my understanding is that it was part of the overall reductions in relation to SES positions that occurred at the end of last year.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I might also note that Mr Vladeta was brought on when Mr Domm became the chief executive of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and Mr Domm continued to hold both of the chief executive officer positions for the RWA and SHFA. When I came on as Minister, and Mr Domm then subsequently resigned from the chief executive officer position of the RWA, I was able to appoint a chief executive officer who could hold that position solely at the RWA and not have the dual responsibility.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Did Mr Vladeta receive a payout on termination? If so, how much did he receive?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: I would have to take that question on notice, if I may.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Thank you. Minister or Mr Tabart, have you investigated Mr Chris Saunders, the General Manager of the Australian Technology Park—

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I think you mean Mr Wakelin-King. Mr Tabart is the chief executive of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: My apologies. Minister or Mr Wakelin-King, have you investigated Mr Chris Saunders, the General Manager of the Australian Technology Park, given claims made by staff in a letter dated 15 December 2008 that no proper recruitment process was followed in his appointment to that position?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: My previous comments in relation to the former matter regarding Mr Vladeta and also Mr Saunders apply in relation to that matter.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I might note that these complaints came in the form of an anonymous letter.  Nonetheless, we took them very seriously. That is why I sent them to ICAC and that is why Mr Wakelin-King has undertaken the actions that he has outlined.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Can you tell the Committee whether the proper recruitment procedure was followed in both Mr Vladeta's case and Mr Saunders's case?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: As indicated, these are matters that are currently under consideration arising from an investigation, and I think it would probably not be appropriate at this time to outline that particular investigation.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Can you not even tell us whether a public advertising of the positions took place?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: The questions you are asking relate to activities that would have occurred either before I became the Minister or before Mr Wakelin-King became the chief executive officer.

These allegations were made anonymously. We took them seriously. We have referred them to the ICAC and, as Mr Wakelin-King has indicated, there is an investigation under way and it would be inappropriate for him to comment until that is concluded.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Minister, are you aware that in the letter that was signed by RWA staff—

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I never received a letter signed by any particular individual.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Well, signed off with the words "RWA staff".

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Again, anonymously.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Are you aware that there was an assertion in a letter that the appointments were, and I quote, "blatant political nepotism by former RWA CEO Robert Domm"? And do you think there is any validity in that assertion?

The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO: Point of order: My point of order is that the question asked by Ms Hale, even though she claims she is reading from an unsigned document—

Ms SYLVIA HALE: I will give you a copy of the letter if you like.

The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO: No. I am taking a point of order, if you would be quite for a minute.

The question makes an adverse reflection on another person, being a former CEO of the Redfern Waterloo Authority, and that is not within the standing orders relating to General Purpose Standing Committees Budget Estimates. I refer to paragraph 4.11, on page 17, and ask that the question be ruled out of order.

CHAIR: Order! I think it is best if we do not make adverse comments about people who are not here, because we may have to get them back again.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Certainly. Has the Redfern Waterloo Authority purchased a property on Little Eveleigh Street?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: Yes, it has.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: If so, what was the reason for the purchase?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: The purchase relates to the redevelopment in relation to Redfern station, as it is adjacent to the rail corridor and may be a key part of the overarching redevelopment, subject to design.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: I just tried to ask questions about the redevelopment of Redfern station, and I was told that I was referring them to the wrong person.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: You asked about the timing of the delivery of the redevelopment, and that is a question best put to the Minister for Transport.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Presumably the Redfern Waterloo Authority has some interest in the timing of the project and some knowledge of the timing.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Indeed, Ms Hale. I can advise you that plans for the upgrade of Redfern station are progressing. The RWA and Railcorp have formed a joint working group to develop a draft concept design. There are some key issues for consideration that we are working on together. Those include accessibility. The upgrade to the station must maximise accessibility for all members of the community, including those who are less mobile or physically impaired persons. Another is connectivity. The upgrade to the station needs to enhance connectivity to surrounding destinations, including Redfern Street and Redfern town centre, the Australian Technology Park, North Eveleigh, Lawson Street and the university.

Another key issue is a paid concourse. The upgrade to the station needs to incorporate a new paid concourse that enhances accessibility to the station and to platforms and meets Railcorp operation requirements.

Another key issue is the unpaid concourse. The upgrade to the station needs to incorporate an unpaid concourse for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2007 the RWA lodged a separate project application with the Department of Planning for a pedestrian/cyclist link over the rail corridor, which is known as the Eveleigh Heritage Walk.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Thank you, Minister, but my question was not about the Redfern station proposal.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I find it extraordinary that the Greens are cutting me off when I am talking about cycle plans.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: My question was rather about the time line, because it was my understanding that this railway upgrade was to be completed by 2011, and I was asking whether that was at all likely to occur.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: As I have advised you, you should ask the Minister for Transport.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Mr Wakelin-King, regarding the Little Eveleigh Street purchase, what was paid for the Little Eveleigh Street property?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: The specific amount I would have to take on notice, and I can come back to you in relation to that.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Thank you. Mr Wakelin-King, in relation to the Eveleigh farmers markets and the Eveleigh craft markets, are either of those markets financially viable?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: Both the Eveleigh farmers markets and the artisan markets are a very important part of the development of the community and the urban renewal program in the Redfern-Waterloo area. I can inform the Committee that they are a tremendously successful enterprise in terms of building community capacity and in relation to the development of a new urban environment in Redfern-Waterloo. It is very important that this is discussed and understood. Obviously, in the development of any enterprise, and particularly a market that is in its start-up phase, there will be some commitment of funds to that, and the longer term outlook in terms of their viability is something that we are constantly monitoring.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Would you take on notice the net profit or net loss from the operations of each of those markets to date?

The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO: Do you want them closed down if they are not profitable?

Ms SYLVIA HALE: No, I am not saying that. I am merely inquiring as to how they are proceeding.

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: Just checking out the capitalist system of them.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I hope you have been to the markets, Ms Hale. They are absolutely tremendous. They are very popular and successful.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Again, it is not your position to ask questions.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I did not ask; I just made the statement that I hoped you had been there.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Again with regard to affordable housing in the Redfern-Waterloo Authority, the authority has received a number of payments for affordable housing from developers, including a large payment from the Carlton and United Breweries site developer. When will these payments translate into actual housing units, where will those units be and is there a plan to spread the units across the area or are they going to be located on one site such as the North Eveleigh redevelopment?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: The affordable housing payments that the authority has received, which have been significantly obviously biased towards the $6 million that has been received by the authority from Frasers Property as part of the voluntary payment agreement between Frasers Property and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority for affordable housing is identified as part of the overarching, once again, built environment plan for the Redfern-Waterloo area. Therefore, the affordable housing will be identified for the Redfern-Waterloo area.

There will obviously be, as has been announced previously in the concept plan for North Eveleigh, a significant proportion of those amounts for North Eveleigh but an overarching plan, which is currently under development and will be brought forward to the Minister for consideration by Cabinet, will approach affordable housing for the whole Redfern-Waterloo area. [Time expired.]


From Transcript Page 28 …


The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: Earlier you spoke about Redfern-Waterloo. Are you able to provide an update on the renewal process for Redfern-Waterloo?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Yes. Under the New South Wales Government's Redfern-Waterloo Plan the Redfern-Waterloo area has been undergoing an urban renewal process that is leading to real change in this critical area of Sydney. I can advise that one of the exciting projects is the garden and artisan markets, which attract thousands of people and provide a great community spirit there. I would hope the Greens do not campaign for its closure if they find out it may be just gaining its financial viability in its early phases.

The implementation of the plan has resulted in the following outcomes for this area: the creation of over 490 employment opportunities for the Aboriginal community; the placement of over 270 members of the Aboriginal community in employment; the redevelopment of old State sites, including the establishment of the Channel 7 building at the Australian Technology Park, the establishment of the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence at the old Redfern Public School, the redevelopment of the old Rachel Forster Hospital, with the proceeds of this sale being directed into the redevelopment of the old Redfern Police Station and the court house into a community medical facility; the approval of the North Eveleigh rail site concept plan, which will result in a new community with over 1,200 dwellings with retail, commercial and community facilities; the approval of the Pemulwuy Project for the redevelopment of the Block; and the upgrade of the Redfern streets and Redfern oval by the City of Sydney.

It is estimated that this urban renewal process will lead to the creation of 18,000 employment opportunities in the Redfern-Waterloo area. This will have significant economic and social benefits for the area and will bring about lasting positive change for the area. The opening of the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence and the Channel 7 building are scheduled to occur in the next six months. This means that these positive changes are both immediate and significant. The work of the police, in partnership with the community, has been an outstanding feature of the change in the Redfern-Waterloo area. Through a process of community based policing, the Police Force has made a very positive contribution to the reduction of crime in the area. I might note that the greatest symbol of this is when the Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Housing Company, Mick Mundine, nominated the local area commander, Kath Byrne, as the Heffron electorate woman of the year. She then went on to win the New South Wales Woman of the Year award.

The work that is currently being undertaken by both the Government and the Redfern-Waterloo community make this an exciting time for such an important part of Sydney. The results will no doubt be seen soon, with more to follow over the coming years.


From Transcript Pages 48 – 50 …


Ms SYLVIA HALE: I return briefly to Redfern-Waterloo and the built environment plan stage two. The built environment plan stage two was advertised as going on exhibition in March 2008. To date—that is, 19 months later—it has not been released. When will it be released for exhibition?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: The built environment plan stage two, you are correct, is a project of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority in partnership with Housing NSW. For the information of the Committee, that provides for the renewal of social housing estates within Redfern and Waterloo. Ms Hale, I have a number of things here I can tell you that the built environment plan stage two provides for but—

Ms SYLVIA HALE: All I need to know is when it will be released for public exhibition?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: That is fine. Housing NSW and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority are continuing to work on it. We are establishing an expert design panel to provide advice and recommendations for the planning controls that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority and Housing NSW formulate and we are also undertaking financial reviews of the project. At this point I am not able to give you a date as to when it will go on public exhibition.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: But you are collaborating with the Department of Housing?


Ms SYLVIA HALE: Therefore, are you aware of any plans to sell any Housing NSW land as part of stage two of the plan?


Ms SYLVIA HALE: You are not, okay.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: You may wish to put questions about the sale of Housing land to the Minister for Housing.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Thank you, I will do so on Friday afternoon. Is the authority considering any public-private partnerships to bring about the developments that have been suggested in stage two?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: The built environment plan stage two process about possible planning controls and future planning controls for the social housing sites at Redfern-Waterloo, the subsequent implementation of that development is not a matter for the authority and that will ultimately be a matter for Government once those planning controls are established.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Whose responsibility would any proposal to demolish terraces in Raglan Street, for example, be? Would that be Redfern-Waterloo or the Department of Housing?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: That would be with the Department of Housing.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Are there any plans to demolish any terraces in Raglan Street?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: As we have just said, that would be with the Department of Housing. As that is my electorate, I am aware that the Department of Housing engages in buying and selling property and Budget Estimates is constantly reviewing the built form of the properties it owns. But I am not aware of any specific proposal and that is a question, in terms of my capacity as Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, that is outside my area. I would advise that you are best to put it to the Minister for Housing on Friday.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: I understand that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority has told Housing NSW to consult properly with tenants. Did you specify to Housing NSW how any of that consultation should take place?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: I am sorry, consult about what?

Ms SYLVIA HALE: To inform residents and get their opinions on what was likely to happen in their area?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: For the built environment plan stage two specifically or about anything to Housing might do?

Ms SYLVIA HALE: As a result of proposals under the built environment plan stage two?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Certainly when we are prepared to go on public exhibition there will be extensive community consultation.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Just to clarify, was there any requirement by the executive of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority that Housing NSW consult adequately with tenants?


Ms SYLVIA HALE: Are you aware of any?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: Perhaps I could say, we are working with Housing NSW obviously in the development of the built environment plan stage two and part of that cooperation, which I can inform the Committee is very positive and constructive cooperation of course, is the consultation process. It would be inappropriate for me to direct Housing NSW to do anything. What we would do is to work up that plan in a collaborative and constructive way and we would implement that plan accordingly once it is finalised. The executive of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority and myself personally have never told Housing NSW to go and consult in a particular manner.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Do the stimulus payments from the Commonwealth fit in with the stage two redevelopments? Will you be using Commonwealth stimulus package money for any part of the stage two developments?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: If I could just reaffirm that built environment plan stage two is about the establishment of planning controls. So therefore the actual development post the establishment of those planning controls will be a matter for Housing NSW, in particular obviously in relation to built environment plan stage two.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Has a place of public entertainment licence been granted on the Channel 7 site?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: There is an application for such a licence, and that is currently under consideration.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: Is that an application for a 24-hour a day licence?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: I will have to take that on notice and come back to you.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: If it were, I assume you would be putting in place measures to ameliorate the effects on residents?

Mr WAKELIN-KING: It would be inappropriate for me to articulate what any potential outcomes of that would be because it is an application that is on foot.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: On the Australian Technology Park, what is the timeframe for the sale of the 99-year lease on that park?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: You are correct that in the 2008 mini-budget the Government decided to sell the Australian Technology Park on a 99-year lease basis as part of the State's asset sale program. This site is unique and complex and it is a complex site to sell. It comprises a number of different asset types, in that it will appeal to different purchases. The Australian Technology Park is heritage listed; it contains three development sites; it has site contamination issues; it has legal complexities relating to its operations, its buildings and its leases; it is a heritage site with heritage buildings; and it has a mix of long- and short-term tenants.

The Australian Technology Park Precinct Management Limited [ATPPML] currently manages and operates the site for us. The Government has appointed the State Property Authority to manage the sale process of the Australian Technology Park. A steering committee, comprising representatives of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority, ATPPML and Treasury, have been meeting readily to monitor progress on the due diligence and to make decisions on strategic issues. That due diligence process has commenced with the first stage involving collating key information about the Australian Technology Park site and undertaking a preliminary review of significant documents to identify key issues.

I am advised a due diligence planning workshop has been undertaken and there have been key issues identified and many of those were those I have just outlined. That first stage is continuing. The second stage has also commenced with several consultant reports being commissioned to inform the steering committee. Those reports will provide the steering committee with more up-to-date and professionally based information relating to the commercial property market, site contamination, business operations, conservation management plans and other matters. The Redfern-Waterloo Authority is directly managing a number of matters related to the sale process and that includes stakeholder management, communications and staff information arrangements and other matters. At the moment it is on foot but I cannot give you a date as to when we might proceed with the actual sale.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: You have suggested in outlining a range of constraints on the site that, in fact, the return to the Government might be limited by those constraints. One of those constraints is a heritage listing.

Under the amendments to the Heritage Act it is now easier for a landowner or the owner of a heritage site to apply to the Government for dispensation and for removal of sites from the register on the ground of economic hardship. Will the State Government apply that proposal to itself and will there be any attempt to—

The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO: Point of order: The time for Ms Hale's questions has expired.

CHAIR: Minister, did you get enough information to give an answer?

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Yes, I did. It would be premature or inappropriate for me to speculate at this point about the return to Government from the sale. It would also be premature to speculate about whether anyone in the future might apply for removal of State heritage listing. Except to say this, any application to remove State heritage listing anywhere by anyone will be looked at and decided on its merits.

Ms SYLVIA HALE: You will give no guarantee of preservation of the railway—

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: It is State heritage listed.

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: Point of order: The time for questions has moved to the Government members. It is inappropriate for Ms Hale to keep asking questions.

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY: Ms Hale should know well enough that State heritage listing goes with the site, not the owners.

CHAIR: Government members will now ask questions.


Source: Transcript 16/09/2009 Portfolios of Planning and Redfern Waterloo   302Kb