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The Block under threat, says AHC - 31.05.2005

THE NSW government is making a land grab for the Sydney Aboriginal housing estate known as The Block in order to "cleanse" the area of indigenous people, a peak Aboriginal housing group says.

Aboriginal Housing Company project director Peter Valilis said the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Frank Sartor, had snatched planning control over The Block, in Redfern, coinciding with the beginning of Reconciliation Week.

"Frank Sartor has now made the block state significant, it's a legal term that they're using; this means that he has full planning control over the block," Mr Valilis said tonight.

"So even if the Housing Company went and got private funding, federal funding or anything like that, Frank could veto any plans that we put up."

The Block is privately owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company, which should be entitled to build anything within council rules, Mr Valilis said.

"Right now that land is zoned residential for residential units and the Aboriginal Housing Company would like to build 62 residential units in accordance to council's rules," he said.

"But Frank says that would be okay as long as it's not Aboriginal housing."

A redevelopment proposal for The Block by the Aboriginal Housing Company would see building begin on 62 residential units on the site by the end of the year, he said.

However, under legislation set down under the Redfern Waterloo Act, Mr Sartor now had the power to nominate any public or private land as "state significant" to remove powers from The City of Sydney Council.

"The council would make an objective decision on what it wants built, whereas Frank Sartor has made it clear he does not want any Aboriginal housing built back on The Block," Mr Valilis said.

" ... despite what the zoning is, despite what the precedents are, despite what the history is, he'll unilaterally decide not to allow Aboriginal housing back on The Block."

Mr Sartor did not see Aboriginal people as part of his vision for future of the area, he said.

"This to me looks like classic ethnic cleansing," Mr Valilis said.

"This is an ethnic group that Frank does not feel should be a part of his grand vision ... and he wants them out and I think that's pretty disgusting."

The Aboriginal Housing Company have refused to meet with Mr Sartor and would look to the Federal Government or private investors to fund building of the units, Mr Valilis said.

The Courier Mail,5942,15462157,00.html