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Sartor keeps right to annex land around Redfern - 09.12.2004

The new State Government body that will oversee the redevelopment of Redfern and Waterloo will be able to bypass heritage laws and consent to its own development plans despite amendments to the Government's proposals yesterday.

The new authority will have to consult the Heritage Council before it demolishes heritage buildings, under changes to the proposals which were put forward by the Government itself.

But the authority is still exempt from heritage laws and can go ahead with demolition if the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Frank Sartor, is satisfied that it is necessary to improve the area.

The Redfern-Waterloo Authority Bill was expected to pass through the Legislative Council last night with support from the Opposition.

Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said the Government's amendments were very weak and did not go far enough. "My view is that the bill needs to be amended so the minister can't annexe lands without coming back to Parliament," she said.

Mr Sartor will still have the power to annexe land outside the Redfern-Waterloo area without the oversight of Parliament.

There are also specific provisions to allow Mr Sartor to claim levies paid by the developer of the Carlton and United Breweries' site in Chippendale, even though the site is outside the areas of Redfern, Waterloo, Darlington and Eveleigh that the authority has been formed to administer.

A new amendment to the bill makes it clear that the funds will have to be used within a reasonable time and for their intended purpose - affordable housing.

Further details about the Government's secret plans for Redfern and Waterloo are likely to emerge in the next two weeks, after a successful motion by the Greens MP Sylvia Hale seeking tabling of the plans. "Before developers start sizing up the valuable land in Redfern, the public has a right to see what they intend to do," Ms Hale said. "Community groups, members of parliament and the public were lied to when the Government told us there was no plan."

Geoff Turnbull, a spokesman for the local resident group REDwatch, said the tabling of the plans would give residents a chance to see how advanced the plans were and "give the community a chance to go into the discussions with the Government over the setting up of the Redfern-Waterloo plan with the same lot of information that the Government has".

Mr Turnbull was disappointed there had been no amendments to the bill to clarify the way the community would be involved in making and revising the plan.

Councillor Moore said the fact that the Government had been willing to amend its own bill showed it had responded to the widespread criticism that came after Cabinet documents were leaked to the Herald showing secret plans for the area.. "I think they're sensitive to the leaking of the Cabinet documents," she said.

"I think they're sensitive to the very large rally of traditional Labor voters and I think they're sensitive to all the Aboriginal groups getting together to oppose what they're going to do to the Block."

By Lisa Pryor, Urban Affairs Reporter
December 9, 2004