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Action group wants law to ensure rights for residents - 01.12.2004

A residents' action group has called for the state upper house to tighten legislation next week handing one NSW minister sweeping powers over planning in Redfern-Waterloo, saying there are fears that people living there will be stripped of rights enjoyed by residents of local government-controlled areas.

The legislation creating the Redfern-Waterloo Authority will set a precedent giving its minister, Frank Sartor, "place-based" powers never seen before in NSW, the spokesman for REDwatch, Geoff Turnbull, said yesterday.
In a meeting with Mr Sartor yesterday, members of the group covering Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo, suburbs that are the target of the Government's city CBD expansion plans, asked for the public to be given guarantees that locals will be consulted on development proposals.
"We want to make sure that the mechanisms that apply allow opportunities for notification of development plans and time for the community to respond, so that you've got those normal processes that one would have expected in terms of any local environment plan or development project," Mr Turnbull said.

The group, which includes the secretary of Darlington's Labor branch, Trevor Davies, the South Sydney Greens convenor, Ben Spies-Butcher, and the Liberal Party president for Bligh, Ian Thomson, will lobby the Opposition and cross benches to amend the legislation, which has already passed the lower house.
The Parliament should require the new authority to set up a statutory community advisory council representing residents which would advise the minister, they have argued.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Sartor had assured the group that as minister, he would consult residents and there was no need for that to be legislated. But a committee needed to be enshrined in law "so that there is a definite place where the community is involved in making representations to the minister rather than being at the whim of the minister", he said.
"The reason you need to put it in the act is no matter how much faith you might have in the experience of Frank Sartor, he is not going to be there all the time. He might be called to sort out the problems of the trains, or become premier," Mr Turnbull said.

However, Mr Sartor told the Herald last night that legislating for such a committee would not help because what was needed was goodwill between himself and those he was consulting.

He also denied that his power to override heritage laws would be too strong, as suggested by the group.
"The minister has said that he needs this provision for a particular problem with the oldest toilet in Sydney at Redfern station. If this was the only problem we would suggest the minister should seek a specific exemption for this site," the group said.

By Debra Jopson

Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald
December 1, 2004