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Open for Inspection: MP's visit Redfern landmarks - 01.06.2005

The REDWatch bus tour gave NSW Parliamentarians the chance to visit historic buildings in Redfern and Waterloo that could be sold to fund the State Government's redevelopment of the area. Parked outside Parliament on the 4th May, all State politicians had been invited to take the trip. Labor MP for Heffron Kristina Keneally, NSW Greens Leader Lee Rhiannon, and NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale, boarded the bus. Two other Labor MPs and the Member for Bligh, Clover Moore, apologised for their absence. The bus visited public assets that the Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) is likely to sell, including the Redfern School, the previous 'Police Station, and Courthouse sites, as well as the Rachel Forster Hospital

The potential sale of public land is facing strong community opposition, which was explained to members of Parliament on the bus trip. NSW Labor MP Kristina Keneally told the South Sydney Herald she speaks regularly to Minister Frank Sartor, head of the RWA, about the Authority's plans. When asked whether Sartor valued the input of local MPs, Keneally said, "I think, as a Labor Minister in the Carr Government, Frank ignores the advice of the local members and of state policy at his peril. At the end of the day he'll have to make a decision about how we achieve the sort of changes we're looking for in Redfern-Waterloo". Keneally has publicly declared that she opposes the planned sale of Redfern School and will continue to, push the RWA to adopt a similar position. She said, however, that budgetary pressures meant the redevelopment of Redfern-Waterloo could only occur if public land is sold.


A Premier's Department report in October 2004 revealed that the RWA would be a non-budget dependent agency, funded through the sale of public assets, with the exception of a one-off loan. Keneally said, "The reality is the money has to come from somewhere. When we have surplus land, that's equity we're not using. Often the best thing to do is to sell the land and use it for current and future needs. The RWA needs money to develop the Australian Technology Park, and Redfern Station. Later down the track, we'll have to think about renewing the public housing stocks in Waterloo. And while we are going to keep public housing residency at the current level, a lot of those buildings are coming towards the end of their life".


In response, Geoff Turnbull of REDWatch said he is not against the sale of public land but believes the NEW Government needs to undertake greater planning so that the community is not left without valuable assets in the future. "If the RWA has to sell land just so it can cover its start up costs, then the whole process is a farce. Nothing should be sold off until a plan is put together and we know what is needed in the area", Turnbull said. "The NSW Government wants to double the population of Redfern-Waterloo, and their research has indicated that there is already insufficient public space here. It's crazy to sell the scarce land that is available. The money for the RWA should come from the State Government".


NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale said that budget shortfalls should not be used as an excuse for the NSW Government to ignore community interests. She argues that the different parts of RWA policy are in conflict with each other. "If the Government genuinely wants to push for increased population density then it has to make sure it has the hospitals, schools, and parks to cater for that. To sell public assets, particularly when the money isn't going back into then replacements, is appalling", Hale said. "It's strange to knock down the very things that attract people to an area. I'd be really sorry to see those buildings not used for the purposes for which they were built - in them you can see the history of Redfern and. Waterloo'.


Councillor Tony Pooley agrees. He said, "When did it become necessary for individual suburbs to fund their own rejuvenation by flogging off community assets? I doubt this would occur in Point Piper or Vaucluse".


Joe Correy South Sydney Herald June 2005 Page 4