PASSWORD RESET

Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

NSW: High rise dystopia

The Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy demonstrates a clear collusion between the Liberal state government in NSW and developers.

The sale and privatisation of the existing T3 Bankstown train line to Hong Kong developer MTR, in exchange for mass rezoning of the suburbs to allow high rise property development along the rail corridor, clearly shows that entrenched corruption dominates this dirty plan.

More so, the process of forcibly amalgamating councils and sacking elected councillors in affected electorates and replacing them with government appointed administrators during the consultation and submission process has been a clear attempt to slipstream through a hugely unpopular proposal while democracy is suspended. The Inner West councils that have been amalgamated are those who are waging the biggest fight against WestConnex and the privatisation of their bus services.

The subsequent change in laws, to strip councils of the power to consider development applications worth $5 million or more, proves beyond doubt that this government does not care about the best interests of the community, and is driven purely by its relationships with private developers.

Democratic processes such as local referenda on urban expansion locations have been ignored, and countervailing community interests have not been part of this decision.

The rail-plus-property model is termed “value capture” — a broad term for the finance model that works to capture the windfall gain in land value that property owners experience when public infrastructure is built nearby.

This can include levies, rates and taxes from places where a private company builds the railway line and station and is given development rights for surrounding land. In the case of the Bankstown train line, the NSW state government will rip up an existing heavy rail line and newly refurbished stations and replace them with MTR tracks, trains and stations.

It is clear from reading the environmental impact statement that the line is not primarily being built to increase the capacity and coverage of Sydney’s rail network. It will serve no new suburbs with the exception of Waterloo, where existing public housing will be demolished to make way for expensive private apartments. This will destroy the community and force the current residents to move away from the support and services they rely on.

The question then has to be asked, “What is the real reason to build a metro line along the chosen route?”

The answer is that the NSW state government is building the line to justify the redevelopment of large tracts of the CBD and suburbs in non-Liberal Party held seats. This is the same part of Sydney that will have the WestConnex mega highways ploughing through their suburbs and unfiltered smoke stacks in close proximity to schools and homes.

In response to news of unfiltered stacks on the North Shore, the now Minister for Education, Rob Stokes said he wouldn’t countenance unfiltered stacks near schools in his electorate, the affluent North Shore suburbs, despite the fact that he has approved unfiltered stacks near schools in St Peters, Rozelle, Haberfield and Kingsgrove. This government clearly believes it can ride roughshod over the Inner West.

The Sydenham to Bankstown corridor is home to one of the largest concentrations of lower-income renters in Sydney. We can be sure than the 35,000 new apartments along the renewal corridor won’t be pitched at the pockets of those that live there now. And what of the 5,000 existing houses that need to be demolished to make way for this development? The NSW state government won’t even show us where it is placing services, such as new schools and open spaces that the expanded population will need.

This entire project highlights how the rules are stacked in favour of big developers and the parties that represent them. The system needs to be overhauled with the priority placed on people’s needs. Unless we have proper community involvement we will see social and environmental infrastructure like green spaces, as well as community health and education, deprioritised. The liveability of the city will be compromised for decades to come.

The process of forcibly amalgamating some councils has been a partisan rort by the Liberal Party. While non-Liberal Party seats have been forcibly amalgamated, and had their democratic decision-making abolished, wealthy Liberal-held seats have been protected. What we have here is a government behaving like feudal overlords who hold communities in these suburbs with utter contempt as it pursues an agenda to benefit corrupt developers only interested in amassing huge profits.

By Amber Naismith