Sunday, January 07, 2007

December Newsletter

Cut out the cancer source
Local residents band together to oppose an overdevelopment in their area. They stage protests, write letters and organise petitions and marches. They learn about planning issues, collect money and take their fight to the Land and Environment Court. After all these efforts the best they can usually hope for is a minor reduction in the overdevelopment proposal they oppose. What is more, this will not be the end of their problems. Like cancers, more and more overdeveloment proposals continue to spring up in their area. The result is stifling traffic and the destruction of their environment.

The primary cancer source is the NSW Department of Planning. This department spreads its despotic urban consolidation policy by means of issuing dictatorial planning policies and its officials making regular visits to the staff of councils
These secondary cancers will continue to spring up until the primary source is cut out.

Counteracting the spin.
The government tries to tell us that high-density is for the overall community benefit. It says we must all have "our share" of high density.

Under this blatant untruth the overdevelopment scourge is forced onto the community.
SOS is the only NSW-wide organisation that counters these Orwellian actions and falsehoods. In August we ran a public forum entitled "Sydney Planning - off the rails?" including Liberal Shadow Planning Minister Chris Hartcher and world authority Wendell Cox. Frank Sartor, Minister of Planning was invited to speak but was "too busy".

We continue to write letters to the press and get onto talk-back radio. With the assistance of SOS member Ted Webber we have produced a DVD that exposes Government lies and portrays what is really happening to our city. And we are active politically.

Campaign a great success

Developers are the major political parties’ biggest source of funds. In the last three years the two major parties have collected over $7.7 million in donations from developers.

It is now six years since Save Our Suburbs first turned the spotlight onto these developer donations, demanding that they be banned.

On Quentin Dempster’s ABC TV Stateline program, 30 March 2001, I criticised the policy of Urban Consolidation, which the then planning minister Dr Refshauge defended. After Dr Refshauge had said his piece Quentin Dempster said "But Tony Recsei smells a rat" and featured me bringing up the developer donation issue.

That program caused the facts to hit the fan, so to speak, and the next week Paul Keating and others, including the Greens, took up the topic. Developer donations is now a major public issue and even developer organisations have joined the chorus calling for a blanket ban on political donations, they say "to tackle public concerns that money is corrupting the planning process".

We now have the extraordinary situation of developers themselves actually asking for a ban on their political donations! Our campaign is turning out to be a great success.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Public Transport in Sydney: Where's the Beef?

Sydney Transport blog 2 20070102

Perhaps the Sydney Morning Herald is beginning to "get it." In 27 December editorial entitled "Planning with a Shovel," the paper noted that New South Wales densification policies promise to "clog the city with cars." The paper goes on to decry the ineffective government policies that have failed to materially improve public transport. That was vividly illustrated last year when the Herald's competitor, the Daily Telegraph showed that a marathon runner could beat the train over at least short distances. Today, Sydney's trains may run on time more often, but only because their schedules have been retarded.

However, it would be premature to celebrate an epiphany at the Herald. Its editorial writers quickly lapse into the tiresome anti-automobile ideology, charging, " Sydney must become a denser city lest it turn into a wasteful, car-dominated environmental disaster." The editorial implies that things would be better if only the state government had a better public transport plan.

Yes, Sydney is car-dominated. So is Atlanta. So is Portland. So is Paris and so are Stockholm and Barcelona. Moreover, none of them even, not even Sydney, approaches being an "environmental disaster." The Morning Herald needs to move from delusion (even hysteria) to reality. Urban areas today are cleaner than they have been in centuries. There is every prospect that they will continue to get cleaner as even better air pollution technologies reduce automobile emissions.

So what of this devotion to public transport? What would the Morning Herald have the government do? Any government? The reality is simply this. There is not a single serious proposal on the table in any of the high-income world's major urban areas that would establish a public transport system capable of replacing the autombile or even attracting a material share of demand from it. The research is clear --- mobility improves productivity and it makes people more affluent.

There is an applicable story from the US 1984 Democratic campaign for President. In a debate, Vice-President Walter F. Mondale turned to his opponent Gary Hart, and challenging his policies, asked "Where's the beef." Mondale was mimicking a phrase from a television advertising campaign in which a hamburger chain was implying that its competition sold hamburgers with not very much beef.

The same question could be asked about public transport. Why is there no beef? Because there can be none. Throughout Australia, North America and Western Europe, the automobile is the dominant form of urban transport. Today's geographically expansive urban areas simply cannot be served by public transport systems that are competitive with automobile travel, except principally to downtown.

If the Herald doesn't believe it perhaps they should run a contest and seek proposals from local experts and experts around the world to propose a feasible, affordable automobile competitive public transport system. The prize money, at whatever level, would go unclaimed.

When policymakers finally recognize that public transport rhetoric is largely without substance, then the focus can move from ideology to reality.

By Wendell Cox
Principal, Demographia (St. Louis, USA)
Co-author, Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey
Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris

Published Letters December 2006

To Sydney Morning Herald
29 December 2006

Frank Sartor, is there a government strategy to force people out of their homes in fully built-up areas? Otherwise how will all these flats be squeezed in? As Ku-ring-gai has no space, does the minister have a secret plan to develop its national parks, as suggested by one prominent Sydney developer? How does all this increased high-rise density square with global warming’s effects on Sydney’s water and electricity supplies, both of which are already overstretched?
What we need for our future is water tanks and solar panels on single houses, and more trees to counteract the ever-increasing air pollution from the traffic on our overcrowded roads.
When will the Government start thinking about decentralisation?

Jeannette Tsoulos

To Sydney Morning Herald
26 December 2006

The Department of Planning hides behind councils to impose high-density on Sydney communities ("Revealed: the Sydney flats squeeze", Herald 26 December). It threatens to take away council planning powers unless councils submit strategies that will provide the new dwellings it demands. The councils then cop the anger triggered by the resulting high-rise while the Department and our politicians get off scott free.

Tony Recsei

To Daily Telegraph
28 December 2006

Developers hold city to ransom

On the night of Wednesday, December 26, ABC television news featured a story about the NSW Government's furtive plan to increase the population of Sydney enormously.
The plan is to force the development of many huge apartment blocks on local councils and to get the councils to do the Government's dirty work.
Once again, in response to huge developer donations to the Labor and Liberal parties, the State Government is giving developers a licence to print money.
The Claytons Opposition is inert, other than to smear the opponents of profit-driven development, and Sydney is rapidly turning into a slum.
Commercial donations to major political parties must be made illegal. People who buy from developers must be warned that, if they do so, they will get only a fraction of value for their money.
And at election time, put Labor and the Liberals last. Both parties have betrayed their supporters one way or another at local, state and federal levels.
Vote for one of the minor parties or an independent.

Hugh Knox, Gordon

Letters Not Published - December 2006

To Sydney Morning Herald
28 December 2006

The Department of Planning, under the "guidance" of the omnipotent Frank Sartor, continues to spread its tentacles throughout our beautiful city. Sydney will cease being beautiful if the Department has its way, and will deteriorate into a cramped, traffic-choked, polluted mass of multi storey developments with inadequate infrastructures and, of course, not enough water to support the inhabitants. Money and power are driving the people behind this overdevelopment of our fair city ... obviously the future of our children and grandchildren doesn't merit a thought.
Jenny Yule,

To Sydney Morning Herald
26 December 2006

I am so tired of listening to the arguments against sprawl. Yes it is happening here in Hervey Bay also. When are we going to start talking about population growth and a ‘sustainable’ economy not an economy based on eternal growth? If the argument that by building up we retain more open space was true I would not be so opposed to high rise but when examining the reality of what is happening everywhere, especially along our coastal fringe, we simply see all the land taken up by high rise. Setback and site coverage provisions are either inadequate or compromised. Any open space left around a high rise building is undesirable open space. It is constantly in shade, wind swept, leafless and usually not accessible to the general public. Squashing two houses into a block designed for one has the exact same result. High density living equates to ever increasing traffic congestion, less useful open space and no positive outcomes except for increased income to the developers and government (via taxes and rates). High density living steals our sky! A sensible approach to population growth combined with decentralisation is the answer, NOT urban consolidation.

Cr Sue Brooks
Dundowran Beach