Hundreds of individuals, businesses, councils and community groups have made submissions to the Review into Barangaroo and over the last month dozens of them have been given the opportunity to speak with the Chairs of the Review and explain their feelings on the project.
This morning I met with the reviewers on behalf of the NSW Greens, along with our planning spokesperson David Shoebridge MLC, and am feeling cautiously optimistic that they have heard some of our concerns.
In a good sign about the Government’s intentions for the Review it is headed by two architecture and planning experts from Melbourne who seem to have started the process relatively free of preconceptions about the project. By the time our turn to present came this morning they had heard from a huge number of stakeholders and seemed to be developing some strong ideas about the development.
One potentially positive view that they seem to have heard is that the hotel in the harbour shouldn’t go ahead. This would be great news as the hotel is probably the single most hated part of the project, privatising the harbour for the sake of a building for the elite and setting a very worrying precedent as to how future waterfront developments may proceed.
The reviewers also were very receptive to the issues I raised about the development’s lack of transparency, with many of the decisions made behind closed doors and the public being left to scratch their heads about how the project, that many people overwhelmingly dislike, got the approval to go ahead in the first place.
Another positive response concerned the reviewers apparent awareness about the lack of available transport infrastructure to serve the site, as well as the $250 million pedestrian tunnel from Wynyard.
Ultimately the reviewers seem to have been listening to all the views presented to them. I’ll be very much looking forward to their report, however in the end their report will be nothing but a recommendation – it will be up to the government to act on it.
How they respond to this will be an important test of the new Liberal government’s credibility. Will they listen to the views of the community and their own Review and transform the project into something that will become an asset for the people of NSW or will they continue to pander to the developer lobby as the previous government did?
Will they create a development tied to improvements in public transport for the thousands of extra workers it will attract every day or will they chase dollars in the commercial office market and throw the City into gridlock with a massive overdevelopment? Will they create a truly welcoming precinct or will they build something that looks pretty from a distance but up close is lifeless and dangerous at night? Will they follow accepted procedures for remediation of contaminated land or will they excavate and simply hope that the damage to the environment and human health isn’t too great?
Only time will tell.