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Planning Minister promises to fix problems of Redfern Waterloo

Member for Heffron and Planning Minister Kristina Keneally has made bold claims about her intention to tackle the serious social issues confronting public housing communities in Redfern and Waterloo reports Robert Burton-Bradley in Central of 22 April 2009.
Planning Minister promises to fix problems of Redfern Waterloo

Central April 22 2009 Cover

Ms Keneally’s electorate of Heffron has the largest number of public housing dwellings in NSW, but Ms Keneally is also the Planning Minister and Minister for Redfern Waterloo.

At a recent community forum attended by public housing residents, Redfern police, Redfern-Waterloo Authority CEO Roy Wakelin-King, Department of Housing and social workers, Ms Keneally said she was in a “unique and unexpected’’ position to deliver fresh outcomes.

“Sometimes you get put on a horse you never expected to be on, as the local MP, Planning Minister and the Minister for Redfern Waterloo I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change things – and we are going to do it,” Ms Keneally told the gathering.

The challenges confronting Redfern and Waterloo public housing estates are myriad, serious and will require long term solutions say community groups and welfare organisations in the area.

The most pressing worry for residents is safety, with almost every speaker at the meeting expressing serious concerns about safety – both on the grounds of housing estates and inside the buildings.

One Waterloo resident said he was afraid to even go into his own building after an alleged violent attack in which he was left with a permanent leg injury and another incident where a fire was lit outside his door.

“I’m scared, I’m really, really scared,” the resident said.

“I want to live in peace and I can’t understand what’s going on here anymore.”

Other residents complained of people drinking in the parkland on the estates, constant vandalism, drug use and dealing and people other than residents entering the buildings and engaging in antisocial behaviour. According to Ms Keneally a number of projects were underway already – including a massive injection of Federal Government money for the repair of public housing in inner Sydney.

“There’s $3.8 million from the Federal Government going into Redfern Waterloo to upgrade over 1400 homes,” she said.

The money is part of a $9.2 million package for Inner Sydney for improvements to more than 3100 homes including new carpet, painting, plumbing and electrical repairs.

NSW Housing Minister David Borger and Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek said the spending was to improve public housing and increase available accommodation as well as to stimulate the local economy through the employment of local tradesmen.

At Waterloo Green a landscaping plan that would improve safety and the amenity of the grounds, largely through the removal of more than a hundred trees, was also on the way.

Strategies to remove and report graffiti the moment it appears and a safety audit action plan involving the Department of Housing and Redfern police were also ongoing. Social worker Michael Shreenan from the Factory Community Centre in Waterloo said since a change in command at Redfern police last year safety in the area had improved.

“The whole perception of an increased police presence makes a big difference,” he said. “If you increase patrols, which has happened, it acts as a deterrent and people feel safer.”

Mr Shreenan said a co-operative approach between the housing department, Ms Keneally, residents and police was the only way to solve problems in the housing estates.

Resident precinct spokesman Ross Smith said the new spending was welcome but questioned the delivery of other improvements such as the action plan for reducing crime.

“The audit that formed the Waterloo Green Action Plan was first undertaken in late 2007 over 18 months ago and we are still talking about these issues now,” he said.


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