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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release September 2004

A Question of Balance

Hi SOS Members

Our letter to the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 September was not published. We have now sent one to the Australian Financial Review:

One wonders just how balanced Sydney’s future growth will be “Balanced growth the key” (September 17).

The Sydney residents to be selected at random to discuss the Metropolitan Strategy proposals, without prior exposure to a complex subject such as planning, can be easily influenced by skilled presenters to produce any outcome the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources desires. In 1999 we witnessed such manipulation at forums when the subject was “Plan making in NSW”.

Community groups have so far been excluded from the formative period of Metropolitan Strategy development. The first Sydney Futures Forum on 18-19 May was advertised as being an opportunity for the public to “have their say”. However an application by Save Our Suburbs to attend was met with “the response has been overwhelming and the Forum has been fully subscribed”, which we subsequently discovered was not the case. An application to attend the second forum was also rejected.

The community should be genuinely involved in the Metrostrategy Planning process if its confidence is to be gained. It is not good enough to adopt a tokenist approach that eventually consults with community groups once the plans have coalesced into a predetermined outcome and no opportunity remains to question the basis of the proposals.

We have to ask how balanced Sydney’s future will be. Will the outcome come down in favour of the community or in favour of those making the largest political donations?

Meanwhile a controversy is also raging in Melbourne. The following letter published in The Age was forwarded to me by SOS member David Buchholz:


Melbourne 2030 ignores shaping forces
September 17, 2004

The recent decision to allow a multistorey residential development in Mitcham (The Age, 11/9) exposes the serious flaws in the Melbourne 2030 strategy. These extend beyond the very real anguish that the decision will generate locally.

For the established part of the metropolitan area, the strategy relies upon poorly justified and fuzzy definitions of activity centres, which are expected to change the distribution of new housing. The strategy has paid little or no serious attention to the provision of short or long-term infrastructure in the form of transport, community facilities or other elements needed to accommodate the additional population and activity that will fill these centres.

Consider the options facing the new residents of the just-approved new buildings in Mitcham. If they are like many who live in the area now, they will work in nearby Knox, Ringwood and Croydon, and they will drive to work by car. What thought has been given to providing new or even additional bus services in this area so the extra road traffic is not excessive?

Because the new building is close to the rail station, perhaps the new residents will follow some of the current locals and commute to the CBD. Melbourne 2030 provides no mechanism to plan, let alone deliver, even a single extra morning or evening train service.

Once the residents are in place, can the local area handle their cars? Can the local shopping centre cope with extra customers?

The simple site development strategy used in Melbourne 2030 ignores these questions. It imagines that changing housing supply is all that is needed to manage change in a metropolitan area. The residents of Melbourne, and in particular those who live close to an activity centre, are badly served by its approach. The strategy has paid little or no serious attention to the provision of short or long-term infrastructure needed to accommodate the additional population.

Height restrictions could be a useful short-term Band-Aid. However, not until the strategy addresses the real forces that shape metropolitan change - i.e. acknowledging the impact of the location of jobs, patterns of traffic and connections to social and community facilities - with a clear set of infrastructure funding, pricing and other mechanisms, can we be confident it will be able to deliver on its well-intentioned objectives.

Kevin O'Connor, Professor of urban planning, University of Melbourne

Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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