Endless placatory meetings to keep the community engaged and informed. Photo: Jim Anderson

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BY JOHN MOYLE

Waterloo Estate’s fate was sealed when it was declared a State Significant Development.

Once a project is classified a SSD by the order of the Planning Minister, the full weight of the State Government is brought into play to ensure that it happens at all cost, as with Sydney Olympic Park and Barangaroo.

The 2,600 officially registered public housing tenants of Waterloo Estate are adept at dealing with Family and Community Services (FACS) over tenancy and upkeep issues, but they never saw the time coming when they would have taken on the skills of town planners, lawyers, communicators and interpreters of fine print often written to obfuscate.

But Waterloo Estate has been under the pump before.

Back in 2004 the Carr government had plans to raise the Estate and sell of the land to private developers to support 20,000 new residents.

Luckily for Waterloo Estate and Sydney, that plan never got legs.

But the seed for a real estate gold rush had been planted and we are now going to see it play out over the next 20 or so years, not just in Waterloo, but across much of the southern and western part of the inner city, bringing into question a lot of issues that will affect Sydney well beyond the perimeters of the Estate.

As Waterloo Estate finally moves towards a master plan, the only clarity is that various government agencies are creating an enormous project and fattening their fiefdoms without taking into account the large scale development already occurring across inner-city Sydney.

The question must be asked: is the Government creating a behemoth without plans for its integration into existing infrastructure or much in the way of planning for future infrastructure to support what is essentially the additional population of a major rural city?

“The City of Sydney is not part of the master planning process,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.

“The Department of Planning and Environment has invited and the City has agreed to participate in the assessment of the proposal and will be part of a review panel that includes representatives from the Department of Planning and Environment, Government Architects Office and Transport for NSW,” the spokesperson said.

The lack of any traffic assessment has not gone un-noticed to the Estate’s residents, who have been trying to get answers to concerns since the idea of developing Waterloo Estate was first mooted.

“REDWatch have been asking for some time to see a traffic assessment for when all the developments in Green Square, Waterloo, Australian Technology Park, North Eveleigh and Sydney Park, and this was some of the things that UrbanGrowth NSW was supposed to do as part of their Urban Transformation Study, and they never did,” Geoff Turnbull, REDWatch member said.

The City of Sydney has expressed their concerns with key infrastructure provisions for the area, including: a land area large enough to support active open space; the provision of streets, plazas and other public areas; community facilities and social infrastructure; plus sustainable initiatives to include improved energy and water efficiency and urban ecology.

“They are talking about 15 per cent of the land area on Waterloo Estate but then we don’t know how much of this is going to be private and how much public,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Eighteen months ago the relationship between the City of Sydney and the then minister Rob Stokes (Minister for Planning 2015-17) was more adversarial but there seems to be a better dialogue these days,” Councillor Philipp Thalis, City of Sydney said.

In June 2017, Roads and Maritime Services announced additional road building to feed the beast that ate Sydney, also known as WestConnex.

This project has been given the passive nomenclature of the Alexandria to Moore Park Connectivity and is intended to improve the traffic flow in the area south of Waterloo estate and facilitate the integration with the light rail.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said at the time that the road widening would erode inner-city liveability, while MP for Newtown, Jenny Leong, claimed that it was a ‘stopgap solution’ to deal with the tens of thousands of cars funnelled in from the new motorway at St Peters.

“At the end of February the RMS are putting put a plan for WestConnex and the Alexandria to Moore Park Connectivity that will go straight through the southern end of Waterloo, a six lane highway that will break into public housing land,” Richard Weeks, chairman, Waterloo Public Housing Action Group said.

Others on the Estate may disagree that they will lose public land, but what cannot be in question is the quality of life living next to a six lane highway for the relocated public housing tenants and their new private residential neighbours on an area of the Estate that is expected to be one of the first parcels of land to be developed.

Waterloo Estate tenants have also been questioning the plans for the Waterloo Metro Station that is bounded by Botany Road, and Cope, Raglan and Wellington Streets.

While the station will be located underground with entrances at Raglan and Cope streets, the above ground area will support an unknown number of retail shops and apartments.

So far there have been no answers from New South Wale’s transformative agency, UrbanGrowth, who are in charge of developing the master plan for the Waterloo Metro, to questions Waterloo Estate tenants have on how the developments will impact on each other.

Sydney is under siege from Government agencies flexing their muscles and the rapacious greed of developers who swim in their slipstream as they scoop up public land and other publicly owned assets across the city.

After all, they are our assets and we should have the say in their future. Oh, I forgot; we have elections for that.