My first speech to Council

296 Council PortraitsBelow is a copy of the first speech I delivered in Council at the start of my first term in September 2008.

IT IS WITH GREAT PLEASURE THAT I TAKE MY PLACE ON SYDNEY CITY COUNCIL.

I AM COMMITTED TO SPENDING MY TIME HERE WORKING FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE RESIDENTS OF SYDNEY.

IT WAS MY GREAT HOPE AS A CANDIDATE TO BE ABLE TO WORK WITH COUNCIL TO IMPROVE THE CONDITIONS OF MANY OF THOSE PEOPLE IN THE CITY WHO FIND THEMSELVES WITHOUT A VOICE.

FOR MANY PEOPLE IN THE INNER CITY THE PRACTICES AND PROCESSES OF COUNCIL ARE BEYOND THEIR KEN AND THESE PEOPLE FIND THEMSELVES CONSTANTLY WITHOUT A VOICE IN THE DECISIONS OF THEIR COMMUNITY.

I REFER TO THE MANY PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN PUBLIC HOUSING, ON THE BLOCK OR ON THE STREETS.

TWICE IN THE PAST WEEK I HAVE STOOD ON THE STEPS OF SYDNEY TOWN HALL.

THE FIRST TIME WAS ON TUESDAY WHEN THE RESULTS OF THE POLL WERE ANNOUNCED AND I STOOD HERE WITH MY FELLOW COUNCILLORS.

THE SECOND TIME WAS ON SATURDAY WHEN I SPOKE OUT AGAINST THE NT INTERVENTION FOR THE ABORIGINAL RIGHTS COALITION.

BOTH TIMES WERE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT MOMENTS FOR ME AND HIGHLIGHT THE WAY I HOPE I CAN USE MY TIME ON COUNCIL TO SUPPORT THOSE WITHIN OUR SOCIETY WHO FACE ONGOING INJUSTICE.

TOMORROW I WILL BE ATTENDING THE WATERLOO SAFETY ACTION GROUP AND NEXT WEEK A MENTAL HEALTH FORUM AT NORTHCOTT.

FOR ME THESE ARE THE REASONS I NOMINATED FOR COUNCIL….SO I CAN WORK WITH THE DISADVANTAGED WITHIN OUR CITY.

I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY GREAT INITIATIVES STARTED BY THIS COUNCIL IN ITS PREVIOUS TERM THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO EXTEND AND PROMOTE FURTHER INTO THE DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES.

I’M THINKING OF SERVICES FOR YOUTH AND SENIORS, ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF HOUSING, SUPPORT FOR INDIGENOUS DEVELOPMENT ON THE BLOCK, FRESH FOOD MARKETS FOR HOUSING RESIDENTS AND GREEN SOLUTIONS FOR OUR CITY’S DEVELOPMENT.

I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO ALL THE WORK THAT LIES AHEAD AND THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT WILL ARISE TO FURTHER THESE AIMS.

29th September 2008

My final speech to Council

Council 15 Aug 2016On Monday 15th of August the Council of 2012-2016 sat for the final time. Below is a copy of my final speech to Council.

As I prepare to leave this role I look back on 8 years in office with a sense of pride and of regret.

Pride at what this City has achieved and what it stands for.

For its leadership in crucial areas of sustainability and the challenge this places at the feet of other governments. Pride for the way in which we have responded to the task of preparing diverse and resilient communities for a carbon constrained future. Pride to have been connected to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel since it started. Pride to have been the co-chair of the Environment Committee.

The regret I feel is one that many activists feel. Regret that important social environmental and economic change can only move so fast. It had seemed during the last 8 years that while the City has worked hard at strengthening our communities, federal and state governments have pulled the rug out from under us – selling out our public housing communities, cutting services, slashing the arts, retreating from the promise of renewable energies and handing iconic and precious public land over to the private sector to build a casino that will be a blight on our landscape and world famous harbour.

I also deeply regret the loss of Robyn Kemmis; a pillar of this Council for many years.

Sydney has always been my home. I was born in the Cross and have been a long time resident of Redfern. I’ve seen significant change over my lifetime. I’ve also seen the enduring resilience of disadvantaged communities across Sydney and the important community work that has allowed them to thrive. My fellow public housing tenants are an important part of the city’s fabric. These people deserve a place in the city’s future. Yet more and more, they are being shut out.

The strength of communities across Sydney is their understanding that our well being and our destinies are inexorably linked. As the political leaders of this city it is our responsibly to ensure that we all move forward together. When we move disadvantaged people out to the suburbs, out of sight, we are all poorer.

My great hope for Sydney is that it continues to embrace and celebrate its diversity. This is an act that requires more than just platitudes and parades. It is an act that requires strong leadership and deliberate planning. We must work to strengthen our community organisations and foster understanding across our great city. Our future leaders must understand that the market does not deliver opportunities to those who, for a myriad of reasons, are struggling for inclusion.

Equally, it is important our elected representatives reflect this diversity. While we haven’t always agreed on everything I have really enjoyed the opportunity to work with my fellow Councillors, and appreciate those of you who have reached out a hand of support and friendship when most needed.

What makes the City of Sydney successful is its engagement with our communities. I want to place on the record my thanks to all those in the community that took time to contact me and keep me up to date on their neighbourhood. The job of a Councillor is a difficult one and we would not be able to do the job effectively without the generous work of many community members.

In 2008 I was as surprised as anyone to find myself elected to the City of Sydney. I never saw myself as a politician. I am humbled to have been selected to represent my community and to play a small role in Sydney’s long and rich history. As a community activist, it has meant so much to me to have this platform to advocate for others. I’m so proud to be associated with the City of Sydney and I send my love and best wishes to those of you that will be continuing the task of guiding the City through the next 4 years. Most importantly I send my heartfelt thanks to all of you across the organisation and the community that have supported me in my role as Councillor. I have so much respect for you all and the work you do. You all have a special place in my heart. Especially my team Catherine, Gillian and previously Robert, who have made my work that much easier.

 

Creating a Sydney Marine Park

weedy sea dragonAfter my successful motion in the recent Council meeting the City of Sydney  has announced it will support the establishment of a Sydney Marine Park.

Sydney is known by locals and tourists as a prime ‘harbour city’, with international recognition for our beaches and oceans. Promotional photos of our shores show an inviting shroud of pristine waters. However this façade is broken by the damning evidence of the many issues harming our marine life and polluting our waters.

Currently, plastic pollution is at crisis point across NSW and beyond, and is fast damaging our marine ecosystems. Reports demonstrate that the bottom of Sydney Harbour is littered with widespread microplastic pollution – much of which, ultimately ends up on our plate. Tasmanian Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson summed it up well, comparing Australia’s oceans to a “plastic soup”.

This, along with such issues as climate change impacts, top soil erosion from land clearing, the human destruction of habitat and fishing practices, leaves our marine ecosystems intensely vulnerable, and in dire need of our protection.

The Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion – including Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury region is being considered as a targeted area for conservation measures. A Sydney Marine Park, which includes significant marine sanctuary zoning, will enhance this protection from the noted dangers that our waters face.

Whilst the NSW Government is considering their options over how to act, it is essential that we promote the benefits of an extended marine park with the needed sanctuary zones. These are evidence-based models that ensure conservation. The Marine Parks Authority demonstrated this in their research in the Jervis Bay Marine Park – with the red morwong fish being found in significantly greater numbers when compared to fished areas. In other areas, marine life such as mud crabs are found not only in greater abundance, but with their average size consistently greater.

The Sydney Marine Park would be multi-use, in the same way that our six other marine parks are, including recreational, commercial, and industrial zones. However, importantly, it would also include marine sanctuaries (currently covering only 7% of NSW) – that would prohibit all activities of extraction and focus entirely on the protection of marine life.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society states that when over 1000 residents of NSW were asked, 93% support marine sanctuaries, with 91% of recreational fishers supporting the initiative. This is a project with significant community support. Similar to national parks, the Sydney Marine Park will ensure that protective measures are put in place to protect the many endangered marine animals and sea life.

Considering the State Government’s current draft policy on biodiversity laws that in effect, promote land-clearing, we cannot afford to ease pressure nor can we trust state government to act in the best interests of our environment.

The Lord Mayor will write to Environment and Heritage Minister Mark Speakman, and Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Lands and Water Niall Blair, urging the government to declare a Sydney Marine Park in the targeted Hawkesbury Shelf Marine Bioregion.

You can see my Notice of Motion here.

 

I Stand with the Arts

the artsAhead of this weekend’s Federal election, leaders in the arts sector have produced a successful campaign to put arts funding on the election campaign agenda. As a long time supporter of the arts, I am pleased to see the City of Sydney sign up to this campaign.

Sydney’s creative sector is a vital part of our city. The Coalition’s obvious contempt for the sector has been demonstrated in previous budgets cuts. I have spoken about these savage cuts before (here and here). The effect of these changes on our cultural sector has been enormous. Half of the small to medium size arts companies have had their funding removed. For many of those organisations it will mean the end of the road.

City staff have reported a rise in the number of organisations applying for grant funding since the cuts. While the City remains a strong supporter of local creative enterprises, it is simply not possible for us, and other local councils, to pick up the shortfall that the Federal Government has created.

If Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is as keen on innovation as he claims to be, he might recognise that innovation is at the heart of the creative sector. His preference for spending Government money on welfare for the mining sector, whilst cutting funding to the arts is the kind of thinking that will damage Australia in the long term. The future success of our society and its economy can no longer be dug out of the ground.

To connect with this campaign go to http://www.istandwiththearts.com/

Biodiversity under threat

frogsThe Baird Government has named itself number 1 enemy of our natural environment with the release of its proposed new biodiversity protection legislation. These changes are a threat to the natural environment across NSW in both urban and regional areas.

The Government has renewed its enthusiasm for biodiversity offsets, which allow the developers of major projects to destroy threatened species habitat if they promise to protect an alternative piece of habitat. This ultimately means Councillors and communities will have less control over the protection of habitat in our Council area and across NSW. It presents a big loophole for developers who want to build on sites that are home to threatened or endangered species.

Sadly, this may not be the worst element of the proposed new laws. Baird is also seeking to repeal the Native Vegetation Act which has prevented widespread land clearing. In 2012, then-Queensland Premier Campbell Newman made similar changes north of the border. These changes saw almost 300 000 hectares of Queensland’s native vegetation cleared in a single year.

Land clearing may not sound like an obvious problem for inner city residents but in the climate change century it will have broad significance. Aside from the loss of species and unique ecological communities, land clearing also effects temperature and rainfall patterns in regional areas. Higher temperatures and less rainfall in cleared areas have the potential to increase droughts and further increase our carbon emissions.

My Greens colleague Mehreen Faruqi MLC has been a fierce critic of this backwards step. You can add your name to her open letter to the Premier on her website here: http://biodiversityislife.org/#save-our-land-clearing-protections

Powerhouse Inquiry Established

powerhouseThere is good news for supporters of the Powerhouse Museum with the commencement of a parliamentary inquiry into the Government’s plans to sell off the historic Powerhouse site and move the museum to Parramatta. The inquiry will provide an important platform for the community to further voice its opposition to the sale of the important cultural and historical site.

As part of his campaign to sell the Powerhouse site, the Premier has presented the people of Sydney as a false dichotomy – linking the provision of cultural infrastructure in western Sydney to the sale of the Ultimo site. With a growing population in Central and Western Sydney we shouldn’t need to choose which community is most deserving of cultural institutions. The proposition Baird has presented to us is a paper thin excuse for the Government’s lack of investment in the cultural sector.

My colleague, Greens MP David Shoebridge will sit on the inquiry, which will be headed by Shooters MP Robert Borsak. I would urge everyone in the community to engage with the inquiry process. You can lodge your submissions here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/lodge-a-submission.aspx?pk=2403

You can stay in touch with the campaign by following the Save the Powerhouse community group here: https://www.facebook.com/savethepowerhouse/ or by signing up to Jamie Parker’s mailing list: https://jamieparker.nationbuilder.com/login

 

Message to Waterloo Housing Residents

waterloo housing towersBelow is Cr Doutney’s speech to Waterloo Housing residents at a public meeting on 15th June 2016:

Dear Waterloo residents,

Like you, I have strong apprehensions about the Coalition Government’s plans for our community. What is being proposed for Waterloo appears to be nothing short of a wide scale privatisation of our public space. The extraordinary number of new private dwellings that will be created in our neighbourhood will present serious challenges to our community. Such actions by State Government risk further aggravating the divide between social housing tenants and the private market. This will only serve to increase the inequality gap, as yet again, we are squeezed out of our community.

As a public housing resident myself I understand the anxiety over the uncertain future that this redevelopment represents. The social bonds that residents have forged in our diverse neighbourhood are critical to its success. It is vital that all residents are afforded a right of return as part of this process. My hope is that the staged redevelopment of the public housing stock can be managed so that our community can remain together.

After the long consultation period and promises of renewal as part of the Built Environment Plan 2, the Waterloo community are running low on their trust with the NSW Government, and rightly so. You have witnessed the mis-management of tenants at Millers Point and you are understandably sceptical of the Government’s promise to manage the relocation of your family and community in a sensitive manner.

What is critical at this time of uncertainty is that the community unites to support one another. We must stand together and demand better for our fellow tenants. Our public housing community may be home to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged – but through solidarity with our fellow tenants, we can force the Government to recognise and respond to our needs.

We need Urban Growth to recognise that housing is about more than providing boxes for people to live in. With the rapid increase in private dwellings it is vital that this community remains inclusive. The new metro station has been chosen for Waterloo because of the enormous opportunities it provides to developers, not to social housing. With the pressure of tens of thousands of new residents we must ensure that our community does not become a divided community or a space exclusively for those who can afford inner city housing prices. We don’t want to see a town centre where public housing tenants are unable to afford anything.

At the heart of this debate around competing interests is our access to public space. With the massive increase in private space, how much public space and green space will we have left? Have Urban Growth prioritised space for social and community amenities or will the opportunity for developer profit squeeze out these facilities? How does Urban Growth propose to manage the already existing divide between public housing tenants and private housing tenants?

If we stand together we have the power to change the answers to these questions. This challenge calls on us to be strong and persistent in our fight for our community. I am following this issue closely and I look forward to working with you to campaign for better outcomes.

In solidarity,

Irene Doutney