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REDFERN-WATERLOO AUTHORITY BILL 2004 Briefing Note – November 30 2004

With the passage of the Redfern Waterloo Authority Bill through the NSW Legislative Assembly REDWatch prepared a breifing not with which to lobby for changes to the Bill in the NSW Legislative Council. REDWatch met with Minister Sartor who had carriage for the Government as well as the Liberal Party and the Cross-Benchers to acheive some changes.


Briefing Note – November 30 2004

REDWatch has serious concerns about many aspects of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority Bill 2004.  These include:

  • the speed with which the NSW Government is trying to enact this legislation, thus limiting public input into it
  • the wide-ranging powers that it allows to the Minister responsible for the Redfern-Waterloo Plan
  • the way the legislation grants powers to the Minister in relation to the Plan before there is any Plan at all
  • the very limited public participation mandated by the Bill
  • the way the boundaries of the area can be changed simply by regulation
  • the lack of objects in the legislation, against which future Ministerial action could be judged. 

In essence, this Bill grants place-based powers to the Redfern-Waterloo Minister, some of which relate to other Ministerial portfolios, in ways that have not been seen in NSW before.

The Government states that the Bill is modeled on the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Act.  However, that Act does not relate to social objectives – only economic and environmental ones, and applies to an area whose problems do not resemble those of Redfern-Waterloo. 

Cobbling together a range of provisions of other Acts of Parliament does not adequately address the inter-related nature of the social and economic problems of Redfern-Waterloo, nor does it ensure that economic development will achieve social outcomes.

With the Metropolitan Strategy flagging other areas of Sydney as being in need of renewal it is likely that this Bill will become a template for future authorities. It is also for this reason that it is important that the legislation be as tight as possible and allow those who live within the boundaries of such a Place-based authority to enjoy similar rights as they would if their area remained under local government control. 

Finally, the Minister maintains that he will consult, he will establish advisory committees, and that all he wants in relation to boundary changes is the capacity to make minor amendments.

If that is the case, on these matters as on others, the legislation should reflect what the Minister says he intends to do.  This is all the more important as this is a 10 year Plan, and over this period there may well be other Governments and other Ministers.  Under the current provisions of the Bill, the way the legislation is implemented over time could vary significantly from the current stated intent, and neither the people nor the Parliament could reasonably prevent this. 

We believe it is possible to devise a Bill that meets both the Minister’s need for reasonable flexibility and the community’s need for reasonable security. 

A meeting of the REDWatch on 28 November 2004 agreed that the following issues needed attention if the above objective is to be achieved.

1. The Bill Must Have Objects

Normally Bills have Objects set out at the beginning of the Bill which are used in the interpretation of any ambiguities that arise during implementation of the legislation. This Bill does not have any specified Objects.

Consideration could be given to objects relating to social, environmental and economic purposes of Plan such as:

• There should be an Indigenous objective recognizing the importance of the area to Aboriginal people preferably negotiated with Indigenous people.

• Creation of an economic environment which will provide employment opportunities for local residents

• Provision of affordable housing that meets the diverse family, cultural and disability needs of the local community

• Enhancement of a vibrant and inclusive community recognising the strengths of communities of interests in existing residents.

• Protection and enhancement of the heritage of the area

• Promotion of social justice and enhancing of community well-being, in accordance with the interrelated principles of equity, access, participation and rights.

The last Object would be in line with the Government's "NSW Social Justice Direction Statement: Supporting People and Strengthening Communities"  which is also used in the Social and Community Planning and Reporting Guidelines to describe the commitment a Council should have in this area.

2. The Bill Must Make Provision for a Community Advisory Council –Clause 11

The Government has indicated that there will be limited opportunities if any for community representation on the Board of the Authority but that the Minister will create advisory committees. These committees would be totally at the discretion of the Minister.

We propose requiring one of the committees to be a statutory Community Advisory Council, representative of the Redfern-Waterloo community, to advise the Minister in relation to making, amending, reviewing and implementing the Plan and on the operations of the RW Authority and other government bodies implementing the Plan. The Advisory Committee could be based on Advisory Committee in the Community Welfare Act 1987 No 52 or similar.

The mechanism for appointment, fixed terms, and conditions under which Minister can terminate a member’s appointment or dissolve a committee should be spelt out or be similar to existing Ministerial Community Advisory Councils.

There would be some consequential amendment necessary to give the Minister the power to set up such additional committees as may be seen fit and for the Minister to consult the Community Consultative Council as well as the Board regarding the Plan.

We are of the view that there should be other committees established either as sub committees set up by the Community Advisory Council or by the Minister. Such committees should include among others an Aboriginal Reference Group.

3. There Must be Community Involvement in Making & Changing the Plan – Clause 26

Currently there is no guaranteed role for Community Involvement in making and changing the Plan. The Minister alone can make it and change it in what ever way he / she likes as long as he/she takes regard of public submissions and the result is publicly displayed. There is no requirement to notify an intention to review, or allow specified period for submissions – the end result is that the Minister may amend Plan unilaterally and in an ad hoc manner.

As the principal objective of the Authority is the achievement of the outcomes of the Redfern Waterloo Plan, the nature of the Authority can be changed by the Minister changing the Plan.

It has been indicated in briefings that there will be public participation in making the Plan but this is not guaranteed in the Bill. The Minister would still retain the right to alter the Plan as he/she saw fit.

There must be a legislated process for consultation, to include, at a minimum, public notification, and a defined exhibition period during which submissions may be made in writing or in audiotape or videotape format, on the initial Redfern Waterloo Plan and for any [material] amendment to the Plan.

The Bill could also require the Plan to be made as a Regulation (or equivalent) under the Act and this would also allow Parliament to be able to review for 15 sitting days the Plan accepted by the Minister.

4. There Must Be At Least A Strategic Vision in the Plan before Anything Happens – Clause 26 (2)

The Bill provides that the Plan may contain the listed items. It is possible that the plan may not have any of them and for this reason we would prefer that these items must be in the Plan. If it is not possible initially, all listed items should be included within an agreed period of say two years.

The Government has argued that they wish to roll out the Plan and do not want to be locked into having to have all the items listed in a Plan before they can start.

We are of the view that at least a strategic vision for the whole area must be publicly available at the same time or prior to any individual element being added to the Plan or executed. The Strategic Vision must appear in the Plan within 12 months of the legislation being enacted.

As per our previous proposal the Strategic Vision would be subject to community consultations with the rest of the plan and its existence should be mandated.

5. The Authority must report annually against a full set of performance criteria to be established through the plan – Clause 26

Nothing in the Bill requires the NSW Government to report publicly on the success or otherwise of the Plan. The Plan must incorporate performance criteria that will be used to evaluate its various elements and these must be reported annually and publicly.

The Legislation should require annual, public reporting of outcomes of the Plan, unless this is adequately covered by other legislation which would automatically require the Authority to report in this way.

6. The Planning Instruments Issued must allow equivalent consultation as under a Local Environment Plan – Clause 26 (7)

The Bill allows for environmental planning instruments to be made to implement the overall Plan and the Bill appears to allow these instruments to be made “despite any provision of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979” (Clause 26 (7))

As the Bill creates a precedent for the creation of place-based Ministers and place-based Authorities with very broad scope and very wide-ranging powers and it allows the State Government to take over local strategic planning from Local Government, it is crucial to ensure the same public consultation provisions are in place as would be under a LEP.

This would ensure processes in line with local government provisions would be followed and thus ensure public involvement in the planning process was not unduly limited.

7. There Must be a Social Assessment / Audit of the Plan – Clause 26

There is concern that the social objectives central to the rationale for the Authority will not be adequately integrated into the plan and that the infrastructure objectives will outrank social objectives.

As the Authority will operate as a Place-based authority with similar powers and provisions as a local government, the preparation, review and amendment of the Redfern-Waterloo Plan must be accompanied by the development or review of a social or community plan, generally in accordance with the social and community planning and reporting guidelines issued from time to time by the Department of Local Government.

8. Limits on Heritage Act Exemption – Clause 28

The Bill allows exemption from the Heritage Act provided the Minister is of the view that the exemption is necessary for the Authority.

We are of the view that this clause should be deleted and that the normal provisions of the Heritage Act should apply especially given the large number of buildings and places within the Authority’s Area which are of Heritage Value.

The Minister has said that he needs this provision for a particular problem with the oldest toilet in Sydney at Redfern Station. If this was the only problem we would suggest that the Minister should seek a specific exemption for this site, however according to press reports there appear to be other areas where the Minister wishes to bypass the Heritage Act.

If this provision cannot be deleted we propose that the Bill require an assessment process for proposed exemptions to be both public and independent of the Minister. We propose that if the Minister wishes to use this provision that he gives notice that he plans to do so and provides 30 days for submissions on the proposal so it can be considered on its merits by the Minister responsible for Heritage Matters.

This process would at least remove the conflict of interest between the Minister as Developer and Consent Authority for bypassing the Heritage Act provisions.

9. Limits of the Expansion of the Authority’s Area – Clause 45

There is considerable concern that this provision could be used to expand the operational area of the Authority and move it away from its stated focus. To ensure this is not possible we would prefer that the boundary could only be changed by amending legislation.

The Minister has indicated that he wants the ability to move the boundary a block or two if needed. If this is to be allowed we wish to see the Bill amended to limit the expansion allowed by Regulation.

We propose that the expansion of the area of the Authority in Schedule 1 be limited to a maximum of 5% of the Authority’s original gross area. Any change above this figure would need the Act to be amended.


The interests of Redfern Waterloo residents must not be sacrificed in the name of the interests of greater Sydney.

REDWatch is of the view that these changes to the Bill would address major concerns in the Bill without unduly limiting the ability of the Government to undertake the program it has outlined for the Authority and the Plan. This would result in a better Bill and greater surety in the community that the Bill is not a stalking horse to be used for other purposes not directly related to Redfern Waterloo.


This Briefing Note has been prepared by REDWatch.

REDwatch is a residents’ group covering Redfern Eveleigh Darlington and Waterloo (the same area covered by the Premier’s Department Redfern Waterloo Partnership Project). REDwatch monitors the activities of the RWPP, the RED strategy and its other programs and seeks to ensure community involvement in all decisions made about the area. REDwatch meets on the 4th Sunday of the month at the Redfern Community Centre at 2:00pm

Further Information Contact:
Geoff Turnbull 02 9318 0824                               Email:
C/- PO Box 1567
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012