The NSW local government elections will be held on Saturday, December 4. Candidates from six parties responded to three key prompts on progress, community input, and advocacy.
The City of Sydney covers the central suburbs of Sydney, including Pyrmont, Ultimo, Glebe, Forest Lodge, Erskineville, Surry Hills, Chippendale, Darlinghurst, the Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Redfern, Alexandria, Waterloo, Zetland and Rosebery, as well as parts of Paddington, Newtown, Camperdown.
PROGRESS – [Sylvie Elssmore says] The Greens have a vision for a more equal, sustainable and grassroots city, where every resident has a voice. Sydney should be a city for everybody, not just people with huge salaries.
The pandemic revealed deep inequalities, but also possibilities. Last year, government housed rough sleepers and reduced poverty. Now housing insecurity and inequality are growing again. Sydney is more expensive than it has ever been.
As a Marrickville Councillor, we invested directly in affordable housing. The City of Sydney can do this too, and should go much further. The Greens have a costed plan to create genuinely affordable housing with rents of $100 a week – more housing in one term than the City has achieved in the last 17 years.
Climate action must match the scale of the crisis. Council can help transition the grid –through planning and community investment in batteries. We need specific strategies to help renters access cheap, clean energy. There’s so much more we can do to reduce waste, and match the more ambitious tree canopy targets of other major councils.
COMMUNITY INPUT – First, we’ll shift money from consultants to community-building and partnerships. Communities are strongest when they have genuine opportunities to drive Council’s agenda. We support participatory budgeting, prioritising First Nations communities, and giving communities real control over how money is spent.
The Greens will make it easier to connect, create and organise; by improving access to Council spaces, re-staffing community halls, and ensuring information and services are available in community languages.
We need more community control in our planning, and how we protect and celebrate our heritage and stories. Efforts to recognise our city’s rich social and First Nations history are too slow.
ADVOCACY – We stand with social housing tenants against the state government plans to sell off public housing and break up local public housing communities. Council can do much more to support public housing residents to have a real seat at the table in decisions that affect them. That includes no more meetings about massive new developments behind closed doors, which residents hear about first through the media, or after key decisions or Council concessions have been negotiated.
The Greens’ costed plan will create thousands of new affordable homes. We support First Nations housing targets and at least 25 per cent affordable housing in new developments, and much stronger renters’ rights.
PROGRESS – [Linda Scott says] Growing up with a sister with Down Syndrome, inspired me to reduce inequality, support others in my community and work for social justice.
The Labor team is committed to making Sydney fun, fair and sustainable for the future, with more local social services for our residents, accelerated action on climate change, more green space across the City.
In my nine years on Council I’ve seen City services and spaces outsourced. I was the only Councillor to vote against the outsourcing of our City’s waste.
Labor is committed to examining the feasibility of reducing outsourcing of council venues and services to improve the quality of service delivery to residents and businesses and create good quality jobs
Labor will keep rates for pensioners free and expand grants for local social services.
As we recover from Covid lockdowns, Labor has a jobs plan for a locally led recovery across the City, with opportunities for great work and support for creatives.
COMMUNITY INPUT – At my monthly street stalls, I have too often heard residents say their voices don’t count. Throughout my time on Council, I’ve tried to ensure that residents’ concerns and ideas are heard.
I’ll keep doing monthly street stalls, ensure the City holds regular meetings with public housing tenants. Labor will ensure the City reaches out to all our community to seek your feedback and input at every step of the way.
ADVOCACY – With two local Redfern legends on our Labor team, Damien Minton and Norma Ingram, we’re committed to ensuring Redfern and Waterloo communities, and First Nations Australians, have an elected voice on the Council.
I have moved more motions to seek City action on affordable housing than any other councillor, with many voted down by the Lord Mayor who claimed it’s the state government’s job. I am strongly committed to utilising the City of Sydney’s significant resources to lead in this area.
As a Labor Councillor, I proudly moved to ensure there will be minimum social housing targets for the Waterloo redevelopments. Labor will double the City’s Diverse and Affordable Housing Program to $20 million and support more housing for those transitioning from homelessness in the City of Sydney, working with Tanya Plibersek MP and the state government.
If honoured to be elected Lord Mayor, I have committed to donate my entire salary to local charities in my first term.
PROGRESS – [Shauna Jarrett says] Sydney Liberals have developed a Covid recovery plan to support Council to ensure Sydney becomes a welcoming place once again to live, operate a small business, invest in creative industries and cultural pursuits. We will fight to keep rates low and encourage innovation in and activation of our public spaces.
By supporting small and medium business we will work to reinvigorate key business precincts, such as Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, Kings Cross/Potts Point, Crown and Bourke streets, southern Sydney in Redfern, Zetland and Green Square, with plans to beautify and improve the amenity of these precincts.
Fighting for improved speed and transparency in Council processes, enabling access to Council to support innovation and working alongside the NSW government to ensure the City of Sydney leads Australia in the pursuit of emissions mitigation measures for a sustainable future.
COMMUNITY INPUT – Prioritising working more closely with state government, Sydney Liberals will champion the needs of the whole community.
We will work to improve the access of residents and ratepayers to Council services and response times via an expanded website/hotline tailored to the various services that residents and ratepayers require or suggest.
ADVOCACY – Our team has diverse and long experience of actively supporting those most in need in our communities. We will fight to better utilise almost $1 billion in City assets for community benefit, including investing funds to redevelop Council assets to support at-risk and vulnerable communities.
Sydney Liberals will fight to end the waste on follies like “Cloud Arch”, re-directing millions of dollars spent on fanciful agendas to support our communities with infrastructure, waste and cultural services they need to thrive.
Despite talking up Council’s achievements, affordable housing targets of 7.5 per cent per annum have not been reached under the current leadership. When the Lord Mayor was elected, Sydney had 447 affordable dwellings, and after 17 years there were only 1,028 – not even one-tenth of the 2020 Review 11,000 target. At the current rate Council will struggle to meet the 2030 target by 2044, yet Council-owned apartments are sitting empty.
The $300 million spent on the Town Hall Square could have been more effectively spent meeting real needs of Sydney residents. If elected, Sydney Liberals will immediately push for a proper audit of Council properties and take action to get low-income Sydney workers into homes.
PROGRESS – [Angela Vithoulkas says] Over the past nine years as an elected representative for our beautiful City of Sydney, I have been blessed to work alongside many of the wonderful and talented staff at City of Sydney Council delivering valuable and much needed services.
At every available opportunity I advocate collaboratively and constructively with my fellow Councillors in service to residents and ratepayers who bring issues to my office.
Equally, as an Independent Councillor, I have, and will continue to agitate loudly for under-served communities. I have spent the past nine years as a Councillor fighting for the “little guy”, diligently working to ensure “the individual”, the human being at the core of our democracy, is not swallowed up or washed away by the administration of government.
It is for this reason that I must nominate for Lord Mayor. It is past time to reassess the leadership and direction of the City of Sydney.
COMMUNITY INPUT – The greatest lesson I have learned is that the system of government is what lets people down. The lack of transparency and accessibility around information and decisions of Council have been without a doubt some of the biggest concerns our residents and small business owners have brought to me over the years, which is why our team has created a seven-point plan, focused on reimagining how local government should work for the people.
Our plan ensures broad community input including:
- “Questions Without Notice” Meetings where the people have a true opportunity to ask direct questions or bring up issues of concern without waiting for pre-determined agendas.
- Community Liaison Unit for our residents who might struggle to get assistance.
- Cap on Lord Mayoral Terms to safeguard the future of our city, regardless of who is Lord Mayor.
- Proactive solutions to Covid impacts should be a priority, by establishing a Mental Health & Wellbeing Unit with financial support, free financial counselling and free health and wellbeing programs to assist our residents, local business owners and staff.
ADVOCACY – Advocacy should always be one of the most essential roles of council, in particular being the champion of our vulnerable and those who the state government forgets or ignores like our essential workers and our First Nations people. It’s our responsibility to serve all our constituents equally and vigorously.
PROGRESS – Our independent team has provided progressive, stable and corruption-free governance for our City since 2004. We will continue to work toward a Covid-safe economic recovery, supporting especially business, creatives and the community sector.
Action on climate change is a key priority. We committed in 2008 to reduce our emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 and achieved that goal nine years early in 2021 and our operations are powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity. Our plan is to reach net zero emissions by 2035 and complete water-recycling initiatives to drought-proof our city.
We’ve created new parkland, open space and extended harbour foreshore walks, increasing city open space by 24 hectares. We’ve renewed parks and playgrounds, provided childcare, world class pools and community facilities, and created cycleways.
We were quick to help our businesses and residents when the pandemic struck – funding food security programs so that no one went hungry and working with the NSW government to ensure our community facilities were used for testing and vaccination hubs and that masks and accommodation were available for those at risk.
We are now helping reactivate our city and supporting businesses, including through our popular al fresco dining program.
A $377 million program will increase our tree canopy and street planting, and build and upgrade 60 parks.
ADVOCACY – We continue to call for more social and affordable housing and better outcomes for key neighbourhoods such as Waterloo. The state government’s plan to redevelop public housing on public land with an insufficient allocation of social, affordable and First Nations’ housing is unacceptable.
At Blackwattle Bay, we’re fighting Infrastructure NSW’s proposal allowing developers to build 1,500 apartments in 12 towers of up to 45 storeys – again with minimum social, affordable and Indigenous housing.
COMMUNITY INPUT – We’ve been working closely with business, community and residents’ groups for the past 17 years, since we developed the ground-breaking Sustainable Sydney 2030 program. Our process of consultation for the update to that strategic plan has been internationally recognised for leading engagement during Covid.
In the past year, the City has consulted on 75 projects ranging from park upgrades to major planning changes such as Botany Road. Some consultation is long-term, such as the work we’ve undertaken to protect our residents at Waterloo.
At the heart of all this is our sound financial management of the City, which will see us finance and deliver $1.7 billion in projects over the next 10 years.
UNITE FOR SYDNEY
PROGRESS – [Yvonne Weldon says] There’s no question that Sydney’s cultural sector is crying out for help: areas like Kings Cross and Oxford Street have been left for dead by the current Lord Mayor. Under my leadership, the Council will rebuild Sydney’s nightlife, and resurrect its creative spirit. We will do this by supporting freelancers, entrepreneurs, and grassroots venues with micro-grants for up-and-coming creatives and cultural groups.
Our team aims to make Sydney an urban playground, by renovating alleys and retail streets, supporting community-led street activation, and creating city-wide programs that make art and culture accessible for all.
I believe Council should be an enabler, not just a regulator. That’s why I want to make it faster and easier for good actors to obtain the grants and permits they need to help Sydney come alive after Covid. We’ll also review rates and levies on unoccupied shop fronts, to help businesses bounce back.
COMMUNITY INPUT – For too many residents, trying to communicate with City of Sydney Council is like shouting into the abyss. It’s time for genuine community consultation, with greater transparency and accountability around Council decisions.
My team and I will work to enable direct representation in Council meetings, so that counsellors hear straight from the people of Sydney. We will set up diverse advisory committees representing cultural, business, and community interests, and provide annual grants for arts and innovation through an independent and auditable process, to ensure public funds are awarded based on merit, not on who you know.
ADVOCACY – As a community leader and proud Wiradjuri woman, I’ve spent the last 30 years advocating for First Nations people and residents facing disadvantage. I’m Chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, and currently sit on the boards of Domestic Violence NSW and Redfern Jarjum College.
My vision is for a Sydney where everyone can thrive – not just the wealthy. If elected as Australia’s first ever Aboriginal Lord Mayor, I’ll put the City of Sydney’s most vulnerable residents first, instead of leaving them behind.
Affordable housing is a top priority for Unite for Sydney. We’ll take concrete action to increase the supply of affordable housing, by ensuring a significant proportion of new developments are made up of truly affordable homes, and working with more community housing providers to secure homes for those who need them most. We’ll also consider effective new models and policies for affordable housing, drawing on evidence from cities around the world.
See profiles of Lord Mayoral Candidates here: https://southsydneyherald.com.au/lord-mayoral-candidate-profiles-city-of-sydney/
City of Sydney Lord Mayoral Candidates have been invited to speak, followed by a Q&A session, at an online forum on Wednesday November 10, 7-8.30pm. Organised by Alexandria RAG, Friends of Erskineville and REDWatch. Zoom link http://tinyurl.com/2021cosforum/.
NSW Electoral Commission: For information phone 1300 135 736 or visit https://bit.ly/3jLxEJt/.