Saturday, August 02, 2008

Voice of Community Needed

Sydney Morning Herald 21 June 2008

Why planning needs the voice of the community
The passage of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Bill 2008 late last Tuesday night will sound the death of community participation in planning in NSW.

The then premier Neville Wran introduced in 1979 the original Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. In the decade before this, Sydneysiders saw the emergence of green bans and the rise of resident action groups. The end result of this activity was the push for planning to change.

Jack Mundey, a former recent chair of the Historic Houses Trust, was instrumental in campaigns in the late 1960s and 1970s in saving The Rocks, Woolloomooloo, Centennial Park and Kellys Bush in Hunters Hill. It was the actions of Mundey and the Builders Labourers Federation - which imposed green bans at the requests of conservationists, residents and community groups - that apparently influenced Wran's legislation.

The original planning legislation was based on consultation, something that is foreign to the current legislation. Consultation on the discussion paper "Improving the NSW Planning System" was limited.

The rights of residents will be eroded so they will not have a say about how their neighbourhood develops. What impact will this have on our streetscape, our heritage and our environment? The end result will inevitably be conflict between neighbours.

The residents in Kogarah municipality are proud of their homes, their streetscape and their suburbs. The mums and dads will only recognise the scope of the legislation when a neighbour attempts to build an inappropriate design next to their property.

Then, Minister Sartor, you'll see the rebirth of community activism across our local communities.

May the ballot boxes of September 13, in the local government elections across NSW, send strong signals in your direction that the legislation is to the detriment of our heritage, our environment and our communities.

Anne Field Kogarah

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