Presentation to GSC Ryde Assurance Listening Sesssion

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

I gave this presentation on the 7/2/19 at Ryde-Eastwood Leagues Club.
I am not presently planning to stand for the next NSW State election, but
I do hope that I can nevertheless make a worthwhile contribution. If anyone
wants to support me standing as an independent, let me know!

While development is much more a local government and state issue rather
than a Federal Government issue, this presentation illustrates my view of
the problem - informed by the nuanced economic viewpoint developed by
the Pirate Party, though the Party does not necessarily have detailed
policies in these areas.

My name is John August. I'm going to talk about problems I see in the
Ryde area, though many of them also occur all over Sydney.

There's a lot of concern about development. People point to the stress
and disruption it causes. Applications claim there will be no impacts
on neighbours, and those neighbours note in letters to the editor saying
there are indeed impacts without any clear recourse. It is a
consequence of "Certified Development", with direct control being taken
from council. In principle, this means that developments
which would otherwise be approved merely happen faster, but in fact
means that valid concerns which would be brought up at council can be
bypassed, not to mention the sort of false assurances I've already

It also means that deeper issues can be papered over and ignored. At
the extreme, we have outcomes like we have seen in the Opal Tower, where
it seems quite apart from residents being steamrolled by the current
framework, developers are steamrollining purchasers.

As I understand it, medium density developments can be done anywhere in
that zoned area, but from the residents point of view, they would expect
the development to be evenly spread without concentrations of
development and considerations of the cumulative effect of nearby
development. But I can't understand how certified development allows
for these sort of considerations.

Apart from which, when development is overseen by Council, it is my
feeling that developers ignore the conditions of the Development
Applications and get away with it because there are insufficient
resources put into ensuring they are followed.

The question needs to be asked - where are the pressures towards
population growth, and also towards the development we see? The
question is not whether you are pro or anti development, but rather
asking where these pressures come from, and whether they are being
recognised. If the pressures are being set by the state or federal
government, this should be resentfully recognised on every page, rather
than being something that is just accepted. Quite apart from the
general concerns I have mentioned, recent arrivals to Sydney talk about
how we are getting more and more competitive with less community feeling
- and I feel that development we are experiencing is one pressure
towards this.

We see an infrastructure deficit - where the development comes first,
and the infrastructure lags behind. It seems that we have promises
of schools which lag well behind the population increases, when in fact
the schools should be built - not talked about - parallel with the
developments taking place. It would be interesting to find out how the
ratio of population to related infrastructure has changed over time -
and indeed how it relates to policy changes by government -
but the idea that you will somehow solve the question of road congestion
when you are building developments surrounded by already congested roads
- just makes no sense at all.

Priority Precincts, Urban Activation Precincts - or whatever they are
called now - were set up in the promise that after proper community
consultation about what the community goals were, the development would
then go ahead without problem. The only sensible reply is : "What could
possibly go wrong?". In any case, they represent a definite source of
development, population growth, and possible infrastructure deficits
that needs to be identified. The ability of Ryde council to deal with
the imposts made on it needs to be considered.

Then there are the various large developments that take place, with
changes to the height limits based on so-called voluntary planning
agreements. If the height limits can be changed, you wonder - why were
they there in the first place? I have heard other stories about this -
that councils have a gun pointed at their head if they refuse, because
otherwise the developer will challenge their decision at court, and they
will end up even worse than they were to start with. It does have a
feeling of the wild west, with the threat of an outcome having almost
the same force as the action itself.

There are claims that development is needed to keep prices down. However,
the focus is on new development rather than considering land banking
and otherwise useful land which is not used to live in. It is
generally acknowledged that 90% of the investment flowing through
negative gearing is to make existing property more expensive, not
to in any meaningful way increase supply. The urban form we have,
apart from other issues, stands in the shadow of a much contested
perverse system of taxes and incentives that hinders rather than helps.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. Quite apart from any
issues I have brought up, I look forward to finding out detailed
statistics on the area - for example, population to infrastructure
ratios, amongst others. I think the problems around us are quite
clear - but have extra numbers will certainly also help, and I
look forward to them being revealed.

I closed with a comment that I was not able to engage Ms. Turnbull
face to face, having to focus on reading the presentation because of
the difficulties in fitting this amount of material into 5 minutes.