Planning Minister Pru Goward

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Planning Minister Pru Goward has ended rumours surrounding the abolishment of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority with the announcement of an alternative plan this week.

Speculation surrounding the future of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority arose last month when the Daily Telegraph printed that the NSW Cabinet would consider a proposal to abolish it entirely and return governance of the harbourfront to the City of Sydney Council.

At last Monday night’s Council meeting (August 25), Lord Mayor Clover Moore expressed her in-principle support for the transfer of the foreshore back to the City, while also noting she had received no information regarding the transfer from the NSW Government.

“While we have not received any formal notification or been consulted by the Government on this proposal, notwithstanding its significant financial and operational consequences, we have consistently supported and advocated for the return of local government responsibilities in development areas that have been excised from the City and are controlled by the UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Barangaroo Delivery Authority,” said the Lord Mayor.

It was announced last week that the transfer of responsibility would not go ahead. Instead, Minister Goward announced that a new committee would take over the governance of the Sydney Harbour foreshore. The announcement included no mention of the role of the City of Sydney.

“Sydney’s harbour and foreshore is our city’s number one asset. We cannot rest on our laurels – the foreshore deserves a plan for the future,” Ms Goward said.

“That is why a committee is being established to have over-arching responsibility for developing a vision for the foreshore, and bringing together all the agencies and entities which have an interest, for the benefit of every Sydneysider.”

Minister Goward said the committee would be “high level” and involve “key government agencies” and would consult “stakeholders”, however none of these individuals or bodies were specified.

Minister Goward’s office did not respond to requests for further clarification.

The announcement also confirmed the ongoing existence of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority by announcing its new chair, former head of the Roads and Traffic Authority Les Wielinga. Mr Wielinga is coming out of retirement to chair the committee.

Labor councillor for the City of Sydney Linda Scott said she is concerned the new committee represents a move towards further commericialisation of the harbourfront.

“Any step to set up a Liberal state government authority is incredibly worrying because of the language the Minister is using. The Minister has described Sydney Harbour as our greatest asset, which implies it being ready to be developed and sold off,” Cr Scott said.

The Minister for Planning refuses to guarantee there will be public access to the foreshore and this is incredibly worrying. Frankly, nothing I have seen has suggested this is anything other than a great plan to develop our harbour and sell it off.”

Cr Scott said she believes the best approach to the government of the harbourfront would be to return it to the City of Sydney, as was originally speculated.

“I support a move to return governance of Sydney’s harbour foreshore back to the City of Sydney.”