07 August 2019
Watch Dr Marjorie O'Neill's speech here: https://www.facebook.com/MarjorieONeillCoogeeMP/videos/421045805431439/
Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (19:00): Tonight I speak about planning in my local area, in particular the impact of out-of-control spot rezoning on my community. For those who do not know, spot rezoning is the rezoning of a specific area of land different from the zoning of a neighbouring property. In theory, it can be used to help meet important community and business needs—for instance, permitting a school or light industry in a residential area, or the building of culturally significant structures such as the Opera House. Such considerations have always been important and a focus of decision-making at local government level by elected and appointed officials whose job is not only to recognise the community's interests but also to balance them with the broader public interest, including the needs of future residents and the State, nation and even global requirements.
Let us be clear: Spot rezoning has been used very successfully by developers, and the interests of communities all over New South Wales have been trodden into the ground. The overriding of local government control and the exploitation of rezoning by developers are interrelated. Put simply, spot rezoning in New South Wales has resulted in a major shift of power and influence from the community to developers. Under this Government, the needs and wishes of local communities have been ignored, scorned and laughed at. Control over the future of our suburbs and how they will look has changed for the worse. The endless construction of apartment buildings, bridges over roads going nowhere and replacing roads with freeways have already destroyed the character of many areas.
The abandonment of community say and influence is best demonstrated by this Government's spot rezoning provisions. The Government's low regard for local government and its elected representatives is embodied in its preference for key development applications, including spot rezoning, to be exercised far from the communities most affected by the decisions. The Government's disdain for ordinary citizens and for their duly elected local councillors is truly shocking and is a major attack on the democratic process—although I doubt this Government's capacity to understand or care about the implications of its actions.
We have before us a government that is fixated on toll roads and poor governance, that sees infrastructure only in bricks and concrete, and that lacks the capacity to understand the value of the people, their lives and their values. This Government sees no value in history or tradition, in old buildings or tributes, or even our Anzacs; it is afflicted with a fascination for the new. In my electorate of Coogee the implications of spot rezoning are enormous and fiercely contested by the community. For instance, in the eastern suburbs, Waverley Council twice rejected a proposal to build two 12-storey apartment blocks overlooking the heritage-listed Centennial Park between Oxford Street and Syd Einfeld Drive at Bondi Junction, known as the West Oxford Street development. The independent planning panel recommended the project for approval, despite major concerns about potential overshadowing of the park, demolition of heritage terrace houses and traffic congestion.
Spot rezoning has become common place. The planning Minister has drawn decision-making powers to himself and annihilated the power of the community and its elected local government representatives. Spot rezoning has become the norm; the Government has successfully replaced the power of the community with the power of developers. I am a great advocate for local government. I have huge respect for those representatives of the community who, with very little remuneration or benefit, spend many hours disseminating information, talking with residents and generally working to achieve the best outcomes for their community. As a councillor on Waverley Council, I know firsthand the great job being done by elected and appointed local government officials all over the State. Underpinning the current spot rezoning scheme is a prejudice that officials at this level are somehow unable or unwilling to make brave decisions and that necessary rezoning would not occur.
I have huge respect for those members of my electorate who continue to stand up for the community and seek better outcomes for their suburbs—people such as those currently fighting the overdevelopment and loss of local culture at the old Bronte RSL Club site, in Charing Cross, at West Oxford Street and at the Waverley Bowling Club. Those people deserve better governance and fairer decision-making structures than they have experienced in the past few years. As a person who loves my electorate deeply, I would also love to see greater respect paid to our history and to the preservation of our buildings and environment.