Statement on new City of Sydney street furniture and advertising

I want to give you an update on the City’s new street furniture and advertising panels.

Throughout my career I have worked tirelessly to create a city for people, with increased space for pedestrians and cyclists and markedly improved public domain.

While our contract with QMS provides significant value to the city – both in terms of attractive, well-maintained street furniture and income – it is clear the balance isn't right.

I have asked the City's CEO to work with QMS to review the placement of communications pylons and remove those that have a significant negative impact on pedestrian movement.

Why do we have the panels?

The City contracts out the provision of street furniture. Advertising providers build, install, clean and maintain all our bus stops, bins, seats and kiosks, and provide the City with a percentage of the advertising revenue.

The contract provides significant revenue for the City, as well as attractive and well-maintained street furniture at no cost to ratepayers.

In June 2020, when our 20-year contract with JCDecaux expired, Council unanimously resolved to award QMS Media a ten-year contract that secured more income to the City and a complete renewal of street furniture, including 20 new public toilets, 670 bins and 780 benches.

The overall value of the contract to the City is up to $450 million, which includes ongoing maintenance such as cleaning and repair of the infrastructure, and of course the advertising revenue.

This is an important income stream for the City, which helps fund our extensive capital works, social and environmental programs while keeping rates among the lowest in the metropolitan area.

JCDecaux offered to sell the City its 20-year-old furniture for $50 million. However, the age of the furniture meant it would require significant upkeep and it did not meet current Disability Discrimination Act requirements, so the City accepted QMS’ offer of new furniture. JCDecaux is required to recycle or reuse the old furniture.

The City’s Design Advisory Panel spent months working with QMS on the new designs, to achieve a modern look and ensure compliance with current design standards and accessibility requirements, such as better sight-lines to busses and wheelchair accessibility.

The new contract does not include an agreement with Telstra, so the new stand-alone communication pylons have replaced the old telephone booth-mounted advertising panels.

It may not appear it because these are new and unfamiliar, but the vast majority of these panels have been installed in the same location and are a similar width to the old phone-booth billboards.

Telephone-booth advertising replaced with screen on Crown Street, Surry Hills.

Unfortunately, Telstra determine the location of their payphones and under the Federal Telecommunications Act are not required to consult with community or seek approval from councils or other authorities – no matter how little they’re used.

At the end of the roll out, the QMS street furniture will feature 80 fewer advertising panels than we previously had with JCDecaux.

The City has 50% use of these new screens, which enable direct communication with the community including sharing event and emergency information and wayfinding for visitors.

Yes, they are quite large and in some locations – as was the case with the old telephone-mounted panels – you may have to walk single-file.

But we have worked to ensure compliant, assessable and positioned in accordance with the City’s Street Furniture placement guidelines. Adequate footpath access has been provided to ensure prams, mobility walkers and wheelchairs can continue to use the footpath.

And they form part of the bigger contract, which provides so much value to the City.

The new suite of furniture will help modernise our streets while also providing significant revenue to the City, which will help us maintain high quality services and public spaces for our residents, businesses and visitors.

The placement of all Bus Shelters, Communications Pylons, Kiosks and Automatic Public Toilets were subject to development application process, which included public consultation with a determination made by the independent Local Planning Panel.

Managing the City’s needs is a constant negotiation. Some benefits require trade-offs.

I assure you we are listening and responding to your feedback regarding the furniture upgrades and I hope you understand the value of this contract to our work delivering a great place to live, visit and work.