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Labor councillors want to limit Sartor power - 07.12.2004

Labor councillors have rebelled against the NSW Government's plans for Redfern and Waterloo, attending a residents' protest against the proposed redevelopment.

They have also written to the minister responsible, Frank Sartor, to suggest changes to a proposal that would give the minister sweeping powers to demolish public housing, override heritage laws and defy the local council in the redevelopment of the area.

In spite of the revolt, the proposal looks likely to pass the Legislative Council this week with tentative support from the Opposition Leader, John Brogden.

"I said the day after the riot at Redfern that the real solution to this was to bulldoze the Block," Mr Brogden said.

"I can hardly argue when the Government comes forward to do that and so much more."

The Opposition was nonetheless worried that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority Bill would give Mr Sartor enormous power to go about Sydney knocking down buildings, he said.

About 150 Waterloo residents, many of them elderly Russians, assembled on the grass outside their high-rise homes yesterday to protest against the plans.

The rally was attended by some councillors from the City of Sydney, including Labor councillors Verity Firth and Tony Pooley, a former South Sydney mayor.

Cr Pooley has written to Mr Sartor on behalf of local Labor Party branch members, suggesting changes to the bill such as a guarantee of community consultation, no sale of public land and no compulsory acquisition of the Block.

Cr Firth said the main concern for residents was consultation. "All we are asking is that the minister comply with the same legislative provisions when it comes to public notification, advertising and acceptance of submissions as other bodies have to comply with."

Not all the residents who attended yesterday's rally agreed on the best course of action.

Waterloo resident Lynn Denford, who has lived in high-rise public housing for 17 years, wanted the buildings to stay and said the Government was using February's Redfern riot as an excuse to redevelop the land.

"Putting rich people in here isn't going to help the people who live here," she said. "This isn't about us, it's about helping themselves to the last remaining land near the city."

Fanya Teslerf said many Russian residents like herself lived in the area and wanted to stay. Her friend, Cilyla Rozenbaum, said they were accustomed to the area and the central location made it easy for their children to visit. But a former resident, Lee Wallace, who lived in Waterloo until bricks were thrown through her window, wanted to see the towers torn down.

Mr Sartor expressed concern that residents had been misled about his plans for the area. "There will be no moving out public tenants and we're debating the form and nature of public housing in the future and whether we can give them something better than they have now," he said.

Last night, the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, told the council that urban renewal was urgently needed in these disadvantaged areas, but the level of power that would be given to the minister was not justified and was counter-productive in the circumstances.

Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard was the only councillor who did not vote to support Cr Moore's sentiments.


By Lisa Pryor, Urban Affairs Reporter SMH December 7, 2004