At the very end of last year, you re-elected my Independent team to lead a stable, progressive and experienced City Council.
It was an incredibly challenging first year of the new term, as we continued to deal with the impacts of the pandemic amid seemingly relentless rain. It was also an incredibly rewarding and productive year.
We could never do all our work justice in one article, but see below 22 highlights from 2022!
We committed $3m to fund precinct activation events like Neon Playground in Haymarket and Hollywood Quarter in Surry Hills.
We also ran another series of successful #SydneyStreets events, closing high streets for a day of lively fun. We will run these events again next year.
We extended the City’s free outdoor dining program through to 2025. The City has supported over 500 businesses to trade on footpaths and on roadways as part of the alfresco dining program – a key way we have supported businesses through the pandemic and give you the chance to socialise safely.
Our updated long-term strategy Sustainable Sydney 2030–2050: Continuing the Vision was endorsed by Council this year. It will underpin everything we do to continue to create a liveable, sustainable and thriving city and villages.
We created four new advisory panels: the cultural and creative sector advisory panel; the business, economic development and Covid recovery advisory panel; the multicultural advisory panel; and the housing for all working group. These groups will help to inform the City's direction in really important areas.
In an Australian-first, Council this year endorsed controls that require applications for new office buildings, hotels and shopping centres and major redevelopments to comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023 and achieve net-zero energy use from 2026 – ensuring buildings help reach our target of net zero emissions by 2035.
Earlier this month Council endorsed our new Urban Forest Strategy and Street Tree Master Plan – documents that will guide our work to create an even more cool, calm, and climate change-resilient city.
Because of our extensive planting, we are the only city in the country to increase our canopy cover over the past decade. This year, we planted 70,000 plants and 800 trees and now we're readying to go even further – to plant more trees, plants and shrubbery, and make sure they are species that are hardy and resilient to our changing climate.
I joined other Capital City Lord Mayors in Canberra to meet Federal Government Ministers, including the Treasurer and crossbench MPs, and at the top of our list for discussion was the need to increase funding for social and affordable housing.
We provided discounted land to St George Community Housing to enable its Gibbons Street Redfern social and affordable housing development, with 45% for Aboriginal families, which went on to win this year’s award for excellence at the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s NSW Awards.
We also supported the refurbishment of the Wesley Mission’s Wesley Edgar Eager Lodge in Surry Hills with a $1 million grant from our Affordable and Diverse Housing Fund, creating larger, secure bedrooms with private bathrooms and wrap-around services.
In May, at a headland ceremony reminiscent of traditional Gadigal gatherings, First Nations dancers unveiled one of the city’s most significant public artworks: bara, our new Monument to the Eora.
We also began installing signage for Yananurala, our nine-kilometre walk that highlights Aboriginal history and culture at places along the Sydney harbour foreshore.
We also officially opened our new, five-storey City of Sydney Creative Studios in Bathurst Street, which we negotiated with the developer for a peppercorn rent for 99 years. The centre has affordable spaces for painters, musicians, dancers, film makers, digital, multimedia artists and has a stunning rehearsal studio.
We transitioned to flying the Progress Pride flag over Town Hall and throughout our streets during Mardi Gras. The design represents greater inclusion, embracing the breadth of identity within the LGBTIQA+ community.
We continued our impressive program of park upgrades and delivery, this year opening the Crescent Skate Park in Glebe, additional indoor and outdoor courts at the Perry Park Recreation Centre in Alexandria, Lawrence Hargrave Reserve in Potts Point, The Drying Green in Green Square, Clyne Reserve in Millers Point, and Crystal Plaza in Waterloo.
We began major new projects, turning the sod at the Green Square Primary School and at Wimbo Park in Surry Hills, where we continue advocating for a new light rail stop.
This year we opened six new cycleways: King Street and Pitt Streets in central Sydney; Gadigal, Crystal and Potter Streets in Waterloo; Portman Street and Zetland Avenue in Green Square; and MacDonald Street in Erskineville.
In central Sydney, we have approved the construction of Castlereagh Street cycleway and the long-awaited return of College Street will happen soon. After years of advocacy, we now have the State and Federal governments onside with joint-funding for a separated cycleway on Oxford Street.
In 2022 there were 11% more bike trips during peak hour compared with last year.
We refurbished significant City buildings like the Corporation Building in Haymarket and 343 George Street in the city centre. And we worked with developers to deliver not just impressive, sustainable office towers but also a network of retail lanes, public art and community facilities at the AMP Tower/Quay Quarter Lanes and 180 George Street/Salesforce Tower projects in the CBD.
We successfully completed major upgrades of Macleay Street, Potts Point, Macdonald Street, Erksineville, and George Street south, creating beautiful streetscapes and more space for people. We have three new projects now under way. We have begun consultation to pedestrianise George Street north to Circular Quay and to upgrade Crown Street in Surry Hills. And soon we will beging work in Dixon Street, Haymarket, which will include the public art, lighting and renewal of its famous gates.
We launched the program for WorldPride 2023. The City has allocated more than $1.7 million in funding to support what will be the largest event hosted by Sydney since the Olympics. We have specific funding and work in train to ensure Oxford Street sparkles throughout, including a newly unveiled artwork to tell the rainbow history of the strip.
This year we supported Ukraine by flying its flag over the Town Hall and hosting a community fundraiser. And we made significant donations to flood-recovery efforts in regional NSW and Pakistan.
This year, in recognition of their significant contributions to Sydney, I presented a Keys to the City to: The Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross; entrepreneur, art collector and philanthropist John Kaldor; and founder and CEO of the national food rescue charity Oz Harvest Ronni Kahn.
The Government proposed taking local councils’ developer contributions – money levied from developers to pay for community infrastructure associated with development, like parks and playgrounds. I led a campaign of metropolitan councils to fight the bill and we were successful but will remain vigilant and fight any changes that will disadvantage our residents and businesses.
We also stood up to the State Government and extracted improved development outcomes on significant sites at Blackwattle Bay, Barangaroo Central, Waterloo and the Paint Shop Precinct in Redfern. This work will continue in the new year.
And to cap off the year and look with hope to 2023, we have just hosted the best Christmas concerts ever and announced plans for the most spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration ever!
These 22 of course aren’t all the numbers that tell the tale of 2022.
We also gave $19.4m in grants to fund 367 impressive local projects; 594,095 visitors spent time at our 11 libraries, checking our 548,107 books; 44,000 meals were delivered by our Meals on Wheels team; 1,350,466 swims were swum across our pools; and 500 tonnes of food waste was recycled in our food scraps trial.
It was a massive year.
And we’ll be back, energised and ready to do it all again in 2023, while we welcome the world to Sydney for Pride and fight for a Voice to Parliament.
Have a very merry Christmas and a safe and peaceful new year,