You are here: Home / Media / “You want a place that’s vibrant, you want a place that’s safe” - Interview with Nathan Rees (Part 1)

“You want a place that’s vibrant, you want a place that’s safe” - Interview with Nathan Rees (Part 1)

Having spent just one tumultuous year in office, NSW Premier Nathan Rees seems to be focused on achieving tomorrow’s goals rather than giving long-winded explanations about his government’s performance. Mr Rees sat down with the SSH on the top floor of the former TNT Tower. Despite a couple of grueling months in the press, he was happy to speak candidly about the future of South Sydney reports Kelly Lane and Nicholas McCallum in the South Sydney Herald in October 2009.

“It’s got everything going for it,” said Mr Rees, looking over the city from the office of the Redfern Waterloo Authority. “For a long while it lacked a cohesive vision ... we’re not there yet but we’ve made a solid start.”

As part of the impending redevelopment in and around Redfern, the Premier said he would like to see more diversity in the local economy that would result in the creation of more jobs. “You want a place that’s vibrant, you want a place that’s safe. You want a place that people enjoy coming to and enjoy living in,” he said, acknowledging that not all these qualities are easily measured.

Having studied at the University of Sydney in the early 90s, Mr Rees observed that the Redfern area hadn’t changed much since then, but was not denying its future potential.

“It’s got a railway station on its doorstep ... it’s got an extraordinary cultural fabric, whether it’s the restaurant scene or the local Aboriginal community, there’s a great sense of community here.”

It’s that same community that previous governments had struggled to form any lasting relations with. In July this year, the State government gave concept plan approval for the Pemulwuy Project. For over a decade prior to this, the government and the Aboriginal Housing Company had failed to find a workable solution for the redevelopment of the Block. Mr Rees said that while the plan has been “ticked off” by the Department of Planning, it will continue to be the responsibility of the AHC in terms of finding funds to make the project a reality.

“It’s an iconic site,” Mr Rees said about the Block. “There’s no question around that, and because of that everyone has a great deal of respect for it. We have a lot of respect for the processes that are going to be followed and the community’s involvement in it, the local Aboriginal community’s involvement in it.”

Also on the table is the future of the North Eveleigh site. Approval has been given for a plan that will provide more than 1,250 residential units and over six hectares of commercial space. Although Sydney University is rumoured to be the only potential buyer for the site, Mr Rees doesn’t see the need to move quickly, despite agreeing it will be a significant windfall for South Sydney.

“I’d rather take a little bit longer and get something right than rush it and do something that’s not what the community expects or shortchanges the taxpayer,” he said. “So if it takes a little bit longer to get it right then that’s what we’ll do.”

Despite the Premier erring on the side of caution, some locals are still awaiting promised upgrades to Redfern Station. As covered previously in the SSH, the $12 billion in funding for the redevelopment has been tied to the sale of North Eveleigh. Many feel that an upgrade should be the first step in revitalising the greater Redfern area.

As the Premier of Australia’s largest state, Mr Rees accepts that any attempt to please everyone is simply not possible. And rather than attempting to play populist politics, the Premier simply wants to get things right.

“With any large development you’re going to get competing views,” he said. “The job for government is to make sure that the decision-making process is as transparent from the start through to the finish. So that even if someone’s view isn’t necessarily accepted in the end, the rationale for going a different path is there for them to examine and access, and that’s what we seek to do. You’re not going to please everybody all the time, but ultimately you’ve got to make decisions about the nature and scale and dimensions of any proposal. But you do it, despite what some people say, you do it with the best interests of the broader community at the very core of your decision-making.”

Part 2 of our interview with the Premier next month.

Photo: Ali Blogg -  Nathan Rees in Redfern