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REDWatch - Planning & Infrastructure Correspondence on Sydney Uni Consultation

Below is the text of correspondence between REDWatch and the Director General of Planning and Infrastructure regarding Sydney University's failure to consult with resident groups in the preperation of their Campus Infrastructure Program as required by the Department. The bottom line in the respoinse is that Planning & Infrastructure will ensure that the community does have the opportunity to comment on the University's response to submissions before a determination is made.

REDWatch Letter to Planning and Infrastructure

Mr Sam Haddad
Director General
NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure
23-33 Bridge Street

Mr Michael Spence
Vice Chancellor and Principal
Sydney University
Quadrangle A14
The University of Sydney NSW 2006

Peter McManus
Greg Robinson Director (CIS)

Dear Director General,

RE: Failure to Comply with Director General’s Environmental Assessment Requirements by the University of Sydney - SSD 13_6123 Campus Improvement Program 2014-2020 for Camperdown-Darlington Campus
REDWatch has only just sighted your requirements for this project.

The above referenced Director General’s Requirements (Reissued 23 October 2013) contain the consultation requirements specified below:


During the preparation of the EIS, consultation must be undertaken with the relevant Commonwealth Government, State or local authorities, service providers, community groups and affected landowners.
In particular you must consult with:

  • City of Sydney;
  • University Community Groups (if relevant) and Residential Colleges;
  • UrbanGrowth NSW;
  • Transport for NSW;
  • Roads and Maritime Services;
  • NSW Heritage Council;
  • Local heritage group/s;
  • Local Aboriginal Land Council and relevant stakeholders;
  • Local community groups, including but not limited to: REDWatch – Redfern Eveleigh Darlington Waterloo Watch and RAIDD – Residents Acting In Darlington’s Defence.

The EIS must describe the consultation process and the issues raised, and identify where the design of the development has been amended in response to these issues. Where
amendments have not been made to address an issue, a short explanation should be provided.

Attached [USyd CIP on Community Consultation] please find the Community Consultation section of the abovementioned project’s EIS, and Appendix N to which it refers, that should comply with the above requirements.

The key paragraph is as follows:

“The University has been engaging with the local community throughout 2013 on the Darlington Campus Abercrombie Redevelopment Project. This has resulted in meetings with key stakeholders and local community with the University providing regular communication regarding the development of the Business School, the Abercrombie Student Accommodation project and the Darlington Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Strategy. Details of these community stakeholders can be found at Appendix N.”

The Vice Chancellor in correspondence to RAIDD on 24 February confirmed “There is no suggestion that these community stakeholders were being consulted about the CIP in this reference.” REDWatch received similar confirmation from the University’s Project Director responsible for the CIP.

The Community Consultation Issues raised and CIP response shown in the EIS hence does not relate to any consultation regarding the EIS, but are rather a list of issues the University has produced from discussions with residents attending meetings related to the separately approved Abercrombie Precinct Redevelopment Project. Only discussions about the Darlington Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Strategy, a PAC condition, related to a broader area but specifically excluded some matters which were to be covered in the CIP.

Sydney University has not consulted with REDWatch during the preparation of the EIS as required. REDWatch has repeatedly urged the University to engage the community in the preparation of such proposals. Late last year at one of the meetings the University has referenced in its EIS, REDWatch requested that the University call a meeting to present its Campus Improvement Program and discuss it with the community before it was put on
exhibition. The University did not do this.

Furthermore there is no indication in the EIS that the University consulted with any of the other non-government stakeholder’s referred to in your requirements, such as local heritage groups and the Local Aboriginal Land Council. Only Government and Authority feedback is reported and some other non-government groups only have names provided as was the case for REDWatch and RAIDD neither of which was consulted.

It is disappointing that the University worked with statutory agencies but failed to work in a seminal fashion with REDWatch and other groups named in the DGRs.

It is disappointing that your Department did not identify the University’s non-compliance with the DGRs at the time of its pre-exhibition checks. At that point the University should have been asked to address the non-compliance.

The opportunity for the community and local stakeholders to provide input during the formulation of proposals is far more effective than merely commenting on them after they have been prepared and signed off by the organisation. This is not only because change is more difficult to affect later in the process, but the proponent gains the trust and benefit of local knowledge.

The community, through community groups like REDWatch and RAIDD, have been not only denied the opportunity to participate in the EIS preparation but also denied the early information about the project that would have allowed broader community discussion and a more considered community response and engagement in line with the Government’s aspirations of community engagement early in the strategic planning process.

REDWatch also lost the opportunity to respond during the formal exhibition to how the University incorporated initial community input into the EIS. Under the current circumstances this could only be addressed by REDWatch being granted the opportunity to comment on the University’s response to submissions.

The University’s non-compliance has also meant that REDWatch has not been able to prepare a detailed submission for the Department prior to the end of the statutory exhibition.

For statutory purposes we request that this letter be taken as an objection for purposes of any decision to refer the assessment to the Planning Assessment Commission.

REDWatch, RAIDD and others have been busy requesting an extension for the exhibition. This would not have been such an issue had the University earlier consulted with resident groups. Only on 27 February were we advised that University would make special arrangements to consult the community until 31 March and to cover the issues raised by the community in the University’s response on submissions to the department – see Vice
Chancellor’s letter also attached of 28 February.

While we welcome the further opportunity for the community to comment on the EIS, REDWatch is concerned that the statutory exhibition itself has not been extended and that the community is dependent on Sydney University to relay community representations regarding itself to the Department.

This approach is not satisfactory as the University’s role is conflicted and submissions to the University would not be assessed by the Department in determining if the assessment was passed to the Planning Assessment Commission.

The current proposal also does not allow resident groups to comment to the Department about how the University has dealt with their initial concerns as would have been the case if the University had followed the DGRs.

REDWatch is seeking corrective action from the Department. Such corrective action should demonstrate that the Department takes compliance with its DGRs regarding community consultation seriously.

Such corrective action should provide a remedy to ensure REDWatch, RAIDD and any other community groups have similar opportunities to participate in the statutory planning process to those they would have had if the Sydney University had complied with the DGRs for the preparation of the EIS.

It is not sufficient to just have further discussions with the proponent outside the statutory process.

Yours sincerely
Geoffrey Turnbull
REDWatch Spokesperson

Reply to REDWatch by Planning & Infrastructure Director General

Mr Geoffrey Turnbull
REDWatch Spokesperson
c/- PO Box 1567

Dear Mr Turnbull

I refer to your email and attached letter of 3 March 2014 regarding State significant development application SSD 13_6123 for The University of Sydney's Campus Improvement Program and your concerns relating to the level of pre-lodgement consultation undertaken by the applicant in accordance with the Director General's Environmental Assessment Requirements (DGRs).

As you may be aware, no provisions exist under Part 4.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 requiring an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be reviewed against the DGRs for adequacy. Notwithstanding this, prior to publicly exhibiting the EIS, the agency thoroughly reviewed the submitted EIS, and determined that Section 10 Community Consultation and Appendix N Consultation Outcomes satisfactorily addressed the DGRs for the purposes of exhibiting the EIS.

I am advised that the University of Sydney (the University) continued its community consultation during the EIS exhibition period, including the creation of a dedicated website, email communication to interested community members, letterbox drops advising of community dropin sessions and the establishment of a Campus Improvement Program exhibition display. I am further advised that the University has now extended this consultation until 31 March 2014 and has undertaken further letterbox drops advising the community of this extended consultation.

I can also assure you that all submissions received by the agency, including those received following the completion of the EIS exhibition period, will be fully considered in the agency's assessment of the proposal.

Furthermore, given the level of community interest in the proposal, the agency will formally exhibit the University's Response to Submissions report when received, along with the EIS, and invite further public submissions at this time. Following this further exhibition period, the agency may request a further Response ions report from the University to address any potential additional issues raised.

I trust that the above information is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely
Director General 7/3/2014