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Hillsong Development Donations and Issues

The Central Sydney in it 12 March 2008 edition has continued to carry articles on Hillsong, this week with a focus on Donations to the ALP. They also carry letters on the Hillsong DA from a Rosebery resident and local Member Kristina Keneally on the proposed development.

Hillsong Denies Donation

HILLSONG church breached its own strict governance rules by making a political donation to Heffron MP Kristina Keneally just before last year's state election, less than a year after buying land in Ms Keneally's electorate reports Robert Burton-Bradley in the Central of 12 March 2008.

While the religious organisation's website clearly states it does not make any donations or financial contributions to political parties or candidates, NSW Electoral Commission records showed that on February 9, 2007, a $600 political donation was made by Hillsong church to Ms Keneally, the state's Ageing and Disability Minister.

At the time of the donation Hillsong had recently bought land in Rosebery, where it hopes to build a controversial super church.

Electoral Commission documents show the money was a political donation from "Hillsong church" and lists a mailing address used by its Waterloo branch.

Hillsong's website details its corporate governance rules which state "Political Impartiality: Hilisong Church's objectives are distinct and independent from any political agenda. Hillsong Church does not make financial contributions to or align itself with any political party or candidate."

Documents provided to the Electoral Commission by Ms Keneally after the state election showed the money was from tickets bought for a dinner hosted by Ms Keneally, featuring NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor as a guest speaker.

Hillsong spokeswoman Maria leroianni denied that the dinner was a fundraiser for Ms Keneally, or that the church had made a political donation, contradicting the Electoral Commission records and a statement from Ms Keneally describing the money as a donation.

"Hillsong church does not make financial

contributions or align itself with any political party or candidate," Ms leroianni said. "In November 2006, we were invited to a dinner hosted by Kristina Keneally, and we purchased four tickets for this dinner.

"We certainly did not, and do not, view this as a donation,"

Ms Keneally said the event was a fundraiser attended by more than 100 people including politicians, local sports clubs and residents.

She also told Central she had no idea that the political donation was in breach of Hill-song's governance rules.

"This donation represented less than 1 per cent of all the funds I raised for the 2007 election campaign," she said.

"I am not a member of Hillsong church and, as such, I am not aware of its governance rules.

Photo: Phil Rogers - Residents from Rosebery hand a petition to local state MP Kristina Keneally, containing signatures from residents opposed to the Hillsong development.

A New Church

June 2006: Hillsong buys an RTA site in Rosebery to build a 3200-seat church.

2006: Following negative feedback, the auditorium is reduced to seat 2700.

February 2007: Hillsong church makes a $600 political donation to local MP Kristina Keneally.

October 2007: Hilisong lodges DA with Sydney Council for the site. February 14, 2008: Forum about the DA, which will be assesed by the Central Sydney Planning Committee.

Safe Harbour for Hillsong? - Letter

IT is not the responsibility of Rosebery residents to find a solution to an alternative site for the regional facility proposed in the Rosebery project either within or outside of the South Sydney area.

There are many rumours of alternative site negotiations, including statements in Central magazine by the general manager, George Aghajanian, that they have been approached by council to consider alternative sites.

The Building Code of Australia report classifies the 2700-seat auditorium as a "Place of Public Entertainment" - in essence, an entertainment centre.

On YouTube, the building is referred to as a convention centre.

The State Government is currently reviewing the use of the Sydney Entertainment Centre and the Sydney Convention Centre in the southern part of the Darling Harbour precinct. This location is well serviced by an existing transport infrastructure.

It is also well serviced by public parking stations.

The increase in traffic volumes would have significantly less impact there than that proposed for the residential Rosebery area.

Are discussions currently occurring between the City of Sydney Council, the State Government and Hillsong about mutual opportunities that would locate the regional facility proposed by the applicant in a more suitable location that does not shatter local amenity?

The Southern Darling Harbour precinct seems perfect.

- SAMANTHA GARDNER-WADE, Rosebery

Its Clover’s Call - Letter

I write in relation to the proposed development application from Hillsong Church for Rothschild Ave, Rosebery.

Hillsong is a long-time resident of the South Sydney area, having been in Waterloo for many years.

I have visited Hillsong both at its Waterloo church and at its community services in the South Sydney, and I know that their community support work makes a real difference to many people in the state seat of Heffron.

To this end I support Hillsong's continuing presence in South Sydney and I recognise the church has outgrown its Waterloo site.

I commend the Rosebery Residents Action Group for keeping its focus on the merits of the proposal. The Action Group has not questioned or raised Hilisong's work or its members' beliefs. Instead, the residents raise quite legitimate concerns in relation to the DA itself and its impact on the suburb of Rosebery.

In particular, residents justifiably raise questions in relation to the floor space ratio, height and parking proposed in the DA. The residents are also rightfully concerned about the increased traffic movements.

As the local MP I know that South Sydney is a generous and practical community. It has the capacity to debate this proposal honourably and appropriately. It was in that spirit that I facilitated a meeting between Hillsong and the Rosebery Action Group in my office.

Ultimately this DA will be determined by the City of Sydney's Central Sydney Planning Committee, chaired by Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

In many ways the path forward will now be determined by the leadership of the City of Sydney Council, and I urge the Lord Mayor to pay close attention to Hilisong's proposal and the Action Group's concerns.

- KRISTINA KENEALLY, MP, Member for Heffron

Source: Central of 12 March 2008

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