During her last four years as Lord Mayor, Clover Moore and her party have worn the nimblest of political shoes, cosied up to the Liberal-National state government, and danced around the looming crunch on local services.
And every time the community cries out for common sense to prevail, the Council responds with all the right words but the wrong follow through. It just approves more and more apartments.
The impending infrastructure crisis in Erskineville is manifest and frequently acknowledged by the Lord Mayor herself.
At a meeting held by Friends of Erskineville and Alexandria Residents Action Group in August last year, Clover Moore promised that before approving any further developments in the Ashmore Precinct, she would see what she could do to address the dangerous overcrowding on train services, the threatened reduction of services after the Metro by-passes Erskineville, the vulnerability of the area to dangerous flooding, the overflowing schools, and the fact that childcare waiting lists stretch to the hundreds. That promise evaporated at the most recent meeting of the Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) this month, which the Lord Mayor chairs, when she directed her obedient councillors to join forces with State Government appointees to unanimously approve another nine-storey apartment block.
Particularly galling to the community was the sanctimonious speech the Lord Mayor gave before the vote where she wagged her finger at the state government for how services are not keeping pace with development in Erskineville but concluded her confected outrage with a vote for more development.
The Lord Mayor’s hypocrisy on this issue is never more obvious than when talking about WestConnex. Clover Moore quite rightly rails against the massive impacts WestConnex and the spaghetti junction at St Peters will have on local traffic in Erskineville, Newtown and Alexandria. But at the most recent CSPC meeting to approve more apartments, councillors relied on an out-of-date traffic assessment that did not mention WestConnex at all. Not even once. Instead, Clover Moore and her party were quite happy to continue their development conga line with the state government and join the chorus of unanimous “ayes” to just keep building.
Instead of standing up to the state government and its arbitrary building targets, the Lord Mayor has continually fallen back on the same line for the last four years: “It was Council that fought against the 19 storeys proposed for the Ashmore Estate by Tony Kelly, the former Planning Minster, who was unceremoniously tossed out of government, found corrupt by ICAC and then thrown out of the Labor Party. Residents should be grateful that it is only nine-storey apartments going up.”
Of course, this well-trotted-out line misses the point that it was residents that led the charge against the 19 storeys, campaigning instead for no more than five storeys and for the principle that regardless of height, services needed to increase for new as well as existing residents.
In Erskineville’s case, the new apartments at the Ashmore Estate will double the local population within the next five to ten years. The Lord Mayor seems to think that because there will no longer be 19-storey towers, the right response is to do nothing. Probably more likely is that the Lord Mayor is just so scared of losing her job if she dare disobey the state government that she is unwilling to do her job and vote against unsupported development.
Regardless of what the Lord Mayor may say or think, she and her party continue to dance cheek to cheek with the Planning Minister and we, the community, are left sidelined, forced to watch Clover Moore mouth that it’s not her fault; that the massive shortfall in local infrastructure is all the state government’s doing.
Sure, the state government is first and foremost responsible for trains, buses, and schools, but Council is meant to be the level of government closest to us, the people. It’s meant to reflect our concerns and advocate for local services. That’s why Council has three seats on the Central Sydney Planning Committee. Councillors are meant to stand up and tell the state government that development cannot go ahead for development’s sake and must be matched with services.
If Clover Moore and her party are not satisfied with services, they should vote against the development. It’s as simple as that. Sure, they may still be outvoted by state government appointees, but the community’s voice will have been heard and there will be an end to the current hypocrisy.
Instead, the Lord Mayor clutches her political dancing partner ever tighter, directs her councillors to vote in favour of more and more development, and quietens her faux protest long enough to whisper “yes” into the minister’s ear.