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Block talks under way - 04.11.2004

A week after announcing the creation of a powerful new Redfern/Waterloo authority, Energy Minister Frank Sartor begins talks with community groups.

Frank Sartor, the minister in charge of the new Redfern-Waterloo Authority has met with the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) to discuss the future of The Block.

Mr Sartor, who met with the AHC last Tuesday, said he was interested in sustainable development and confirmed that he would enter into further discussions with the company about plans they had developed for the site.

AHC spokesman Peter Valilis described the meeting as friendly and consultative. "I think the new authority will be receptive," Mr Valilis said.
"It's hard to explain five years of planning in one meeting, but Mr Sartor was interested in talking about the issues."

While funding was not discussed at the meeting, Mr Valilis said the AHC would look into State and Federal government, as well as private sector funding, to realise their plans for The Block.
Mr Valilis said that much of the planning for the site's redevelopment had been conducted by volunteers, as all rent collected from tenants of The Block is used for general maintenance and community projects.

Bligh MP Clover Moore told the NSW Parliament last week that The Block should be a priority for the new authority.
"Years of talk about the Aboriginal Housing Company redevelopment must be translated into action with a financially viable, sustainable development, good tenancy management, and support for tenants with problems," Ms Moore said
"This is urgent and a major barrier to lasting improvement."

Despite highly publicised tensions between Ms Moore and Mr Sartor, Ms Moore has been invited to join the board of the new authority in her capacity as Lord Mayor of Sydney.
"I am interested in working constructively with Ms Moore," Mr Sartor said.
He also confirmed that at least one Aboriginal representative will be appointed to the board.

Tony Larkings, the president of the Redfern Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, has welcomed the new authority describing it as a move forward.
"The biggest problem is that people aren't looking forward - we have a lot of new businesses and a really vibrant business community here," Mr Larkings said.
"We can only hope that the new authority works in conjunction with the planning we've already done."

However, community group RedWATCH has been more cautious in its response to the new initiative.
Geoff Turnbull, a spokesman for the group, said transparency in the process would become a critical issue.
"If the authority is going to be acting as landlord, regulator, land setter, developer and consent authority then we'd like to see processes like those set up for council reflected in the authority," Mr Turnbull said.
"We want an open process with mechanisms for people to complain if they feel the self interest of the authority is colouring a decision it has made."


Original published in the Central Courier
04 November 2004