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Tough-talking Sartor targets the Block - 11.03.2005

They say Frank Sartor has a good chance of being the next premier of NSW. He certainly talks the right way. Tough. Last week he was reported as saying there would be no more Aborigines in Redfern.

Sartor, NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities is the state government's answer to one of its toughest planning challenges: heading the newly created Redfern-Waterloo Authority.


The authority's job is to redevelop the decades-old slums of Aboriginal housing in the infamous Block around Eveleigh Street and the nasty public housing in Waterloo, now potentially prime inner-city real estate.


Yesterday, at a Property Council of Australia's lunch at the Westin in Sydney, Sartor said stories of "no more blacks" in Redfern were exaggerated.


What he means is that the government would not hand over a cent to replace Aboriginal public housing once the Block is razed.


He scoffs at accusations that developers are poised to move in on the Block.


He says the authority will have three priority areas: further development of the Australian Technology Park, the North Eveleigh Precinct and the Block.


The public housing and high rise around Waterloo will be tackled in the longer term.


The technology park, which is only 30 per cent developed and riddled with debt, is a prime opportunity for development of employment opportunities.


A good start would be to better connect it to its surrounding resources such as the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and universities.


Sartor says the technology park is "Balkanised" at present and difficult to get to.


Another opportunity is redeveloping the Redfern station precinct but this would not work before solving the social problems at the Block, which is on the station's doorstep.


Property Council of Australia NSW executive director Ken Morrison says the authority should make the Block a priority.


"There is no way that Redfern is going to be that commercial mini-centre with Aboriginal housing and the Block still in place," he says. "We need to sort that out before any private investors will be interested."


But Morrison has given the thumbs up to the model of the authority, saying it will be capable of tackling the tough decisions necessary to bring change.


"The government should look at other areas where it will want to marry up planning objectives with the objectives of increasing housing densities." Sydney's Parramatta Road for instance.


At present the government is encouraging councils to work together for a cohesive plan along the road.

But Morrison says: "It is unlikely that you're going to be able to deliver the government planning objective through a committee of councils."


Australian Financial Review 11th March 2005 Tina Perinotto