Responding to the Daily Telegraph's misleading attack on my leadership

The Daily Telegraph thinks Sydney is going backwards. Unsurprisingly, I disagree.

Responding to the Daily Telegraph's misleading attack on my leadership

Under Independent leadership the City has been transformed and is powering – for residents, workers, businesses and visitors alike. 

The City of Sydney has a clear vision and long term plan to create a Green, Global and Connected Sydney, which we developed in wide consultation with the community and businesses of Sydney and from commissioned experts such as renowned Danish urban designer Jan Gehl. 

We launched Sustainable Sydney 2030 in 2008, as a blueprint for a city that is environmentally, economically, socially and culturally sustainable.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 proposed that a light rail running down George Street would be the catalyst for CBD transformation and investment.  And in 2016, the State Government signed up to the project.

The City contributed $265 million to make George Street the beautiful tree-lined, pedestrian friendly boulevard we see today. This project was supported by a program of lane way upgrades, millions in grants for arts and activation and a campaign to allow small bars. 

This once noisy, congested roadway now has tree canopies that provide shade and comfort, new street furniture and lighting encouraging people to linger, transformed laneways, public art and small bars that activate streets. The change has vastly improved the status and competitiveness of George Street as a destination, encouraging private development investment of more than $8 billion.

With so much already delivered, we are continuing and extending our targets, our ambition and ourselves to continue 2030’s vision to 2050 to meet and respond to the challenges of growth, climate change, liveability and social isolation. 

We engaged our communities on their vision for Sydney in 2050 over several years. Activities included surveys, pop-up events and community workshops with First Peoples of Australia, small businesses and cultural and nightlife sectors. We also held consultations with children and young people and a citizen’s jury comprised of people from across metropolitan Sydney. Our engagement on this vision was award winning. 

This year, the Council unanimously endorsed Sustainable Sydney 2030 to 2050: Continuing the Vision. The project ideas we outlined in Sustainable Sydney 2030 provided a catalyst for the transformation that has occurred – most notably the Light Rail and pedestrianisation of George Street.

Sustainable Sydney 2030–2050: Continuing the Vision proposes the next set of projects ideas to continue our global city status - such as the Yananurala Harbour Walk that shares Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture on a 9km walk around our Harbour, the pedestrianisation of Park Street and Loftus Street, creating Green Avenues on Broadway, Oxford Street and Botany Road, and creating a swimmable harbour.

When Sydney is benchmarked against other global cities, we are marked down in housing affordability, transport options and greenhouse emission levels. We welcome the Daily Telegraph’s call for improvements in these areas, which will take state and federal investment to address.

While many aspects of the city economy and global competitiveness depend on the work of state and federal governments, the City makes important and direct contributions towards creating a vibrant and dynamic place to live in, work and visit.

The City stands ready to work collaboratively with the new Minns Government to make our global city the best it can be, no matter their Ministerial makeup.

We work collaboratively with developers to see our city grow in the right places, with modern buildings that also deliver community benefit. Recently, in a NSW-first, we transferred floorspace across city blocks to facilitate the award-winning AMP Tower and public Quay Quarter Laneways development, and in negotiation for Salesforce Tower at 180 George Street delivered the first new city plaza in decades. We have attracted world-class investment to the city, including in recent months luxury businesses like the Capella Hotel and Cartier’s flagship Australian store.

People don’t want to visit, live or work in a dull city that is singularly focused on business. We have made direct investment in infrastructure, assets, services, events and activity to improve the amenity, liveability and functioning of the City. We have delivered record levels of street greening, pedestrian space, active transport connections, festivals and events, culture and art.

We are delivering safe, separated cycleways and more space for pedestrians to improve safety for people who want to get into and around the city on bike or foot. We look to other global cities for inspiration. By lowering vehicular speed limits and creating safe cycle infrastructure, other global cities have eliminated pedestrian fatalities and we strive to emulate that success. 

While housing and homelessness are primarily the responsibility of the State Government, the City uses every lever available to generate more affordable housing in our local area. We have introduced planning and development agreements, land rezoning and transfers, affordable housing levies and a dedicated fund to support the development of permanent affordable and diverse housing. But the lack of ambition shown in the State’s major housing projects is disappointing. The former Government’s proposed redevelopment of Waterloo Estate sees just 100 extra social housing homes than there is now.

The State Government’s lockout laws decimated Sydney’s nightlife. When they were introduced we objected strongly, calling for a more nuanced policy approach than unilaterally grinding our nightlife to a halt. The City has been working tirelessly to restore Sydney’s night-time economy since, including through our support of small bars, by reducing red tape, changing planning laws to allow businesses to operate later, grants, precinct activations and recently, waiving all fees on outdoor dining to facilitate an alfresco revolution.

When I became Mayor, the City was on the brink of bankruptcy. We have developed a strong and consistent record of financial management and turned that position around, allowing us to keep rates low and fund our $2.4 billion program of capital works - including city transforming projects such as George Street. 

Since I have been Lord Mayor, the City has approved over 30,000 development applications worth over $40 billion. Over 250,000 new jobs have been located within the City at an increase of over 160%. In that time the City’s economy has increased by over 175% and is nudging pre-COVID levels, with $135.6 billion generated in the last financial year – 20% of the state's economy and 6.5% of the entire country’s.

Given its value to the economy of the entire state, and indeed the entire country, everyone has a stake in Sydney powering.