All posts by mickdaleyo

About mickdaleyo

Writer, musician.

Behind Closed Doors

Posted in the City Hub
http://www.altmedia.net.au/behind-closed-doors/130291

A Sydney Morning Herald article last week on housing market inequalities caused by government rezoning is only half the story, according to activist Maire Sheehan.

The one-time Mayor of Leichhardt says that confidential rezoning decisions made between developers and planners are driving property prices up and encouraging ‘Hong Kong’ style residential high rises to be built in Sydney’s suburbs.

“These developers are pushing the boundaries based on the known state government agenda to develop at all costs,” Sheehan told the City Hub. “Big developers hire people who know the system and can put their arguments behind closed doors as to why things should be swayed one way or another.

“No-one knows what’s going on in those conversations and a lot of those decisions in those meetings are based on judgement. There are not very specific rules involved and when you get decisions based on an individual’s judgement, people can be swayed one way or the other.”

The SMH story cited a Reserve Bank report saying that land zoning determines up to 70 per cent of a house’s value. Development restrictions therefore have been found to contribute to the runaway inflation of housing prices.

In Sydney, this adds around $490,00 to the cost of house.

Jimmy Thomson, who writes the Flat Chat columns on strata living for the AFR, says that zoning in the City of Sydney is a farce.

“NSW is a complete mess. We’re now having rezoning by stealth, driven by a company in San Francisco that pays no tax in Australia and I’m talking about Air B&B.

“We’re now having residential apartments encouraged by the government to be turned in de facto hotels. That’s just one tiny part of the zoning issue, but anybody who has bought into property in NSW with a specific zoning who thinks that’s something reliable they can depend upon for the next twenty years, they’re kidding themselves.

“Commercial interests will prevail over public policy every time.”

Manipulation of zoning decisions is indeed big business, according to Sheehan. She says that developers often arrange pre-DA (development application) meetings behind closed doors, in order to have Planning Controls altered and arrange rezoning in their favour.

“The context of that is the state government is pushing increased residential development for the increased population coming to Sydney and developers are the ones really benefiting from their decisions.”

“There are three clear examples in recent history where developers are getting in ahead of the game, before announcements are made on particular areas, before plans are signed off.”

Sheehan pointed out that the old Bourbon and Beefsteak building in Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross, had been zoned mixed use, but was regarded as hot property by investors.

“The proposal was to knock it down, rezone it as residential and increase the density of a high rise building. The developers went in and had a pre-DA meeting with the City of Sydney. They’ve come out with this plan and the locals are really annoyed about it, because it requires an up-zoning and a demolition.”

Another proposed development in Lord’s Road, Leichhardt has raised the hackles of residents and Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne, so much so that he’s considering referring it to ICAC.

The area was zoned light industrial, being full of craft breweries, art studios and small startups.

“There is quite a mix in there,” said Sheehan. “A development company have bought a lot of it and are pushing to rezone it. Well the planning panel for the Inner West knocked it back on the basis that there was a lot of employment in that area. From there it went to the Department of Planning and Environment to get signed off. But it’s been there a while and hasn’t been signed off.

“In another case in Strathfield a business went to council and said they had a small technical issue that needed a tweak on zoning. They said ‘we should have special consideration because we’re a big employer’ and they presented a letter saying ‘here are our plans for the future’. So a report came back that said yes, that minor technical adjustment is no problem.

“Five months later it turns out the business had sold that land to a development company who wants to rezone and put in high rise residential

“The council did the assessment, but the decision was made by the Planning Department. The owner of land was saying one thing and doing something quite different several months later. And they got away with it.

“Is this corruption? Technically no. All this flexibility has been made legal. In other countries corruption has been made visible but in Sydney, and in Australia in general they’ve just changed the rules so they have this flexibility to make it all justifiable.

“And because it’s so embedded in the system it’s hard to untangle. The whole thing is complicated further by such things as the older generations locking young people out of housing. There’s a story in Crikey on how the Grattan Report says that those opposed to high density housing in established suburbs are partly responsible for driving up the cost of housing.”

In an apparent attempt to mitigate the opaque dealings of its bureaucrats, the Department of Planning and Environment has legislated Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPS) to consider contentious development applications, from the first of March this year.

Councillors, property developers and real estate agents will not be part of these panels.

Although fifteen Greater Sydney councils already use IHAPs, it’s been on a purely voluntary basis until March.

Concrete quarrels

http://www.altmedia.net.au/glebe-island/130027

Published in the City Hub, Feb 28, 2018

The future of Sydney’s working harbour has been a controversial issue of late, with massive residential construction threatening to overwhelm its viability. Steered by the government-owned Urban Growth Corporation (UGC), these developments have reduced the working harbour to 39.7 hectares.

But it appears that lack of government oversight, compounded by the differing agendas of successive administrations, is creating inevitable confrontations in user amenity.

Greens MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker, said that inadequate planning is to blame for the cascading problems.
“The bays area has been mismanaged by state government after state government,” he told City Hub. “And that’s one of the reasons why the current government gave this whole Bays Precinct to Urban Growth; so one body could be charged with managing that whole area.
“It hasn’t been particularly effective, considering that Westconnex has now taken the whole Rozelle good yard area and Sydney Ports has been really adamant about ensuring that Glebe Island remains industrial use.”

Nowhere has this issue created more controversy than in the suburban conglomeration at Pyrmont, adjacent to Glebe Island, zoned as an industrial facility for over a century. Sydney’s Port Authority are proposing the construction of a major ship loading depot and the movement of Hanson Concrete to the island, with industrial activity on a 24/7 basis.

A report in the Domain’s Commercial real estate publication has documented white-hot anger from residents who claim they were assured by developers they were buying into a purely residential sector.
Originally an industrial hub itself, Pyrmont boasted only 530 dwellings in 1991. That figure has swelled by a factor of 12 in recent decades.
The residential redevelopment of the current Fishmarket site will presumably amplify new buyers’ dissent against the functions of the working harbour.

But the facts seem to be against them. Glebe Island, along with White Bay and Rozelle Bay, are still zoned waterfront industrial. Sources claim that apart from the loading facility, Glebe Island is proposed as the major transport hub for all the tunnel digging and aggregate from the Metro and Westconnex excavations.

A Port Authority spokesperson told the City Hub, “There is a crucial need for Sydney to import critical construction materials due to the depletion of local sand supplies. Glebe Island is in close proximity to CBD construction, urban renewal and a construction boom driven by $70 billion of major infrastructure projects.”

She pointed out that a single vessel will replace up to 1500 truck movements.
“The proposed short-term facility would … feature internal truck receival and delivery facilities to reduce noise emissions. It would operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week as required.”
The Authority, she said, is currently seeking community feedback on the proposed facility.

UGC sent City Hub the following statement: “The Bays west area is envisaged as a mixed-use precinct with a focus on high value ‘jobs of the future’ and the working harbour. UrbanGrowth NSW is working with industry, community and government partners to determine appropriate uses for the area.
Port Authority is responsible for the development of its own facilities at Glebe Island.”

Alex Greenwich, Independent MP for Sydney, says that the Pyrmont community has received mixed messages from the government as to what the usage of the site would be.
“I myself along with residents have met with representatives of the Premier’s office urging them to have a more coordinated approach … to make sure we get the balance right.
“People understand that we have a working harbour and that does come with noise, congestion and other impacts. But when we see something that’s going to be so intense and has come for many people out of the blue, that obviously raises red flags.”

Elizabeth Elenius is a long-term resident of the area and member of local community groups Glebe Island White Bay Community Liaison Group and Pyrmont Action. She says that Pyrmont residents have been misled by government and developers.
“You don’t surely think people make real estate decisions on what a government facing election might or might not promise? That would be foolish. What you do is you buy property on the basis of what’s in the documents relating to the land,” she told City Hub.

“I live in the building closest to the proposed facilities and when I bought it ten years ago Glebe Island was an active port. It always has been a port and will be a port for the foreseeable future.
“This will have an impact on me personally, but if people want peace and quiet they go and buy somewhere in Wahroonga or Turrumurra. Not beside a busy port.
“This is Sydney’s last deep water area. The island is also a facility for receiving gypsum and sugar and other essential goods. I don’t believe that anyone has the right to object to the facility per se and the best we can do will be to ensure that the conditions are very high standard and are monitored.”

Jamie Parker says part of the problem is that residents tend to get considered last.
“When these developments happen they’re of a very poor quality like we’ve seen with the White Bay cruise ship terminal. It’s had an incredible impact on resident’s health and amenity. It should be possible in 2018 to make an industrial facility on an island to have minimal impact and that’s what needs to happen.”
The Port Authority seems intent on such an outcome, with its Review of Environmental Factors surrounding the Glebe Island facility.
Submissions can be emailed or posted to Port Authority of NSW, PO Box 25 Millers Point NSW 2000.

Elizabeth Elenius says a member of her group will be suggesting a unique solution.
“It is that a condition be made that they line the rooftops of their (proposed) building with solar panels and have an electricity generating facility available to the ships and other industries around. It would give the community back something from an amenity they might feel they have lost. It would be environmentally an absolute landmark for the government and certainly my organization will be putting in a submission to that effect.”

Doof Warriors, Turning parties into protest

Here’s one from June 17th 1999, when I used to write for the City Hub newspaper in Sydney while on holidays from London, where I worked freelance for TNT magazine. It was a front page story.

In 1965 a group of infamous hippies called the Merry Pranksters embarked on an archetypal American odyssey in a purple bus that would later being immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s book ,’The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test’. Their mission was to take lots of drugs whilst expanding their consciousness and indeed that of the American nation then preoccupied with killing people in foreign countries in the name of preventing people from being killed in foreign countries

While not much has changed as far as America’s preoccupations go, the modem descendants of the pioneering Pranksters are alive and well and marauding aroundAustralia in their own bus. In their case its a graffiti drenched old state transit bus crewed by a gang of technoid doofers travelling under the banner of Ohms Not Bombs (ONB).

They’ve been staging impromptu dance parties at contentious environmental sites such as Goolongook (in the Gippsland forest), and the Jabiluka uranium mine camp and Timbarra. Indeed the bus has become a familiar site at protests and parties all over the country. Last time I saw them was at a Timbarra mine protest march in Sydney in February.

ONB trawled along Macquarie Street broadsiding doof beats from huge speakers poking out of the luggage bay like cannon from an eighteenth century galleon. Cops chaperoning the procession sniggered at the dB addled freaks. But in the austere offices of Parliament House the politicos must have thought they were about to undergo an alien invasion. And indeed the luminous techno travellers swarming around the bus and chanting fiercely might easily have been mistaken for stormtroopers spearheading a generations demands that deadly radioactive elements and cyanide mining by banned from their countries fragile ecosystems.

Pete Strong, an ONB stalwart, was aboard the bus. A platinum haired cheerful chap with an internationalists accent, he talks about ONB’s approach to protest politics.

Adding a Vibe

“Dancing is a good way of adding a different vibe to a protest. As you can see with Reclaim The Streets it’s a pretty unstoppable form of people power”. ONB is a collective of about twenty loosely knit individuals that evolved from an earlier mob known as the Vibe Tribe.

They were a hedonistic crew operating on the fringe of radical protest events, feeding on the zeitgeist and translating its energies into their wild trance acid beats and performing in a blaze of fluoro and dreadlocks and exotic piercings, riding the early waves of 90’s freak power.

Their illegal squat and street parties were attracting up to a thousand people at a time in the mid nineties they were attracting too much media and police interest and the collective split. Half of them went to Byron Bay and the other half stayed in Sydney and became ONB.

The ONB crew are no less radical, but they have pared back the energies and focused them on activism. They still attract a fair level of notoriety but Pete says it’s a cleaner act.

Going off on Guarana.

“With the Vibe Tribe there was a lot more drugs happening at the parties. Now we get more activists and its less drug oriented. I myself only have the odd joint these days. People are going off on herbal things like Guarana”.

Since doofing on the lawns of Parliament House through the 1995 protests against French testing in the Pacific, ONB have been cruising the country terrorising peaceful, uranium loving folk. Reactions to their brand of dance activism have been extreme.

“In ’95 there was a riot in Sydney Park when the police turned up to one of our events. We tried to negotiate to turn it down but they came in with dogs and batons and tried to carry off the generator and it became a full scale riot” (the writer of this article made a mistake accredited this Vibe Tribe event to Ohms Not Bombs)

Despite these wild scenes, ONB are definitely into NVA ( Non violent action).Pete espouses their credo.

ONB have been cruising the country terrorising peaceful, uranium loving folk

 

“We believe that people have gotta become autonomous, break away from the government. People have got to stand up against governments all over the world against militarism. Our aim is to form a convoy on the road that’s self sustaining, going on the road and making clothes and music.

“We’ve got sound systems, samplers, synths, drum machines, mixers. We run workshops as well. Kids in regional towns who have never come across this music before can come along and see how it’s done. We want to get more of that stuff happening, teaching people about the issues as well”.

He runs his own business making and selling techno clothing. Other people work in sound systems hire lighting and sound rigs”, says Pete, “some people work in clubs. I make my own electronic music with Organarchy Sound System crew. We just did a JJ mixup, mixing politics with the music, documentary style. You’ll have music, beats and loads of voice overs about an issue like Jabiluka. It’s like an alternative newscast”

ONB are based in a lot in Redfern known as the Graffiti Hall of Fame, it’s wall’s dominated by the spray can Da Vinci efforts of the local homies. It’s owned by Tony Spanos, a philanthropic businessman renowned for his generosity to community groups and fearless support of ONB’s activities.

Here they store the bus and sound systems and plan their tours. They have their own website and publish their own PR. Recently they put on ‘The Goodwill Festival’, an enormous dance weekend at the Warnervale Music Park on he central coast. Pete “The Goodwill Festival was a massive production, the techno stage was a huge spaceship that took hours to set up. This festival was the first time we’ve worked legally with the council and youth groups. It’s a big step for us, being accepted by the mainstream with our radical politics.”

Last year they packed their sound systems and techno baggage into the bus and embarked on a four month tour.

Soundtrack to Revolution

“We put on about 30 events all around the country from the cities to the desert right out near Alice Springs, the first open air Doof to be held at Uluru and right up to Darwin where we assisted the blockade at Jabiluka mine. On the big day of action where everybody got arrested with John Howard masks on we were playing Yothu Yindi’s “treaty” really loud as everyone got put in paddy wagons, so it was like the soundtrack to revolution.

“Next year we’re working towards a big convoy to head to Earthdream 2000, the Solstice. Everyone’s gonna get vehicles together and meet in Port Augusta in May and go all the way to Jabiluka via the red centre for a huge party that’s been talked about for about eight years in the international dance scene. We plan to have the internet on the bus so that we can do updates all the time and let the world know what’s going on out there.”

As you can see with Reclaim The Streets it’s a pretty unstoppable form of people power

 

The Pranksters’ brand of collective consciousness carousel might have run aground on the reef of ’70’s fashion-fiasco but right now saving the planet is definitely in fashion and ONB are riding that wave. Pete Strong reckons its a mutually beneficial fusion.

“The mixture of activism and dance party culture has been really positive y’know,’cos the dance party culture needed something to dance for, and the activists needed a bit for cavalry, the numbers you can get when you have a sound system somewhere

 

Frydenberg’s hubris hits a Trumpian scale

Published in the Fifth Estate 8/3/2018

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/local-government-energy-lead/frydenbergs-hubris-hits-a-trumpian-scale/97973

There’s been an interesting exercise in prevarication from energy minister Josh Frydenberg in the AFR this week. He’s written a homily on the resilience of the energy market that recalls the gall of his former boss Tony Abbott.

The Greens cop enormous brickbats for Taking Credit for Things, but Frydenberg has taking this kind of hubris to a new level.

Given his party’s slavish underwriting of the obsolete fossil fuel industry, it takes a special kind of chutzpah to take credit for a rebounding energy market. But that’s exactly what Frydenberg has done in laying that wreath at prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s feet, despite the PM being dragged screaming into the present only by events such as the closure of Liddell power station and SA premier Weatherill’s defiance in proving the viability of renewables.

Frydenberg casually attributes the newfound gravity in gas prices to Turnbull’s intervention in the market, a fiction that conveniently ignores the PM’s implicit approval of flagrant price gouging and distribution manipulation.

Turnbull has been happy to allow gas companies to market our natural resources overseas, without the distraction of paying taxes to ensure domestic wealth like those radical Norwegians.  Claiming to have salvaged 70 petajoules is a bit rich: having been belatedly reined in, gas companies are finally coming to account for charging Australians exorbitant rates to buy their own gas back.

For some time now Turnbull and Frydenberg have been attempting to bribe, coerce and strongarm the states into accepting the alleged inevitability of coal seam gas, such as was foisted onto an unsuspecting Queensland in the 1990s. That experiment was a morass of unbelievable high-level corruption, lies and disinformation from both industry and government, as claimed by whistleblower Simone Marsh, among others.

The energy minister’s claim that Queensland is doing the heavy lifting in the gas market is doubly exasperating; it assumes that the country, nay the planet, needs more emissions, a damaged Great Artesian Basin and yet another source of fossil fuel; secondly that Australians agree with the Coalitions views on CSG.

His blithe amnesia over environmental concerns about gas extraction only adds to an apparently portfolio-wide credibility deficit. In an era where the disruption of the Polar vortex is causing serious consternation among leading scientists, this is rather more than concerning in a federal minister than, say, the behaviour of Barnaby Joyce.

Concerning certainty and job creation from his pet projects, Frydenberg calls for an evidence-based approach; it’s hard to imagine better evidence of effective innovation than the Tesla battery experiment, hard to conceive of any more compelling proof of climate change than the apparently unfixable problem of the Earth’s air-conditioning. While jobs from renewables look to soon outstrip those in mining and lock in dispatchable power to the grid, the evidence for conventional energy investment seems to exist nowhere outside government white papers.

Well, we’ve dealt with the alleged volatility of South Australia’s energy market – as far as our business leaders are concerned it’s a done deal. In the shadow of that groundbreaking experiment we have a prime minister, lauded by Frydenberg for his “pipeline reforms”, looking for sneaky ways to fund the Adani mine.

But when such internationally renowned analysts as Jeremy Rifkin claim we’re on the brink of “the first new economic system that’s entered onto the world stage since capitalism and socialism”, when such trifling events as the Third Industrial Revolution and the fossil fuel industry becoming the “biggest bubble in history” are casting Frydenberg, Turnbull and their fellow coal enthusiasts in the same light as the inexhaustibly spurious Donald Trump; that’s when we can assume that aspirational opinion pieces like this one are the dying gasps of mouthpieces who prefer the charity of their political donors to the good graces of posterity.

Finding Safe Harbour

Published in the City Hub, 17/1/2018

http://www.altmedia.net.au/finding-safe-harbour/129344

Sydney Harbour’s reputation as one of the finest in the world owes everything to its superb geographical advantages. But a working harbour requires infrastructure, and from post-Invasion to post-reality, commercial shipping and recreational boaters depend upon the wharves and safe waterways that enable every aspect of maritime endeavour.

Ex-mayor of Leichardt and inner-West activist Maire Sheehan says that unhinged development is endangering the nuts and bolts infrastructure of Sydney’s working harbour, part of an agenda by successive state governments to gentrify the harbour into a purely tourism and residential amenity.
She says that this began with the staging of the Olympics in 2000, when pontoons and marinas were scattered around the harbour to facilitate wealthy visitors.

“Those pontoons were built for luxury super yachts whose owners were unlikely to be locals. The story at the time was that they’d be temporary but of course it’s not temporary, it’s permanent.”
Sheehan says that such creeping developments are marginalizing the essential services provided by established industries and pose a real risk to the continued viability of the working harbour.

Waterway Constructions in Rozelle Bay have been a part of that industry in Sydney for 25 years. They build and maintain wharf infrastructure around the harbour, as well as in other Australian ports. Employing 180 people around the country, they’re a vital part of the maritime community.
Mal Hiley, a founding director of the company, agrees that working wharves are vital to the functional capacity of the harbour.
“It’s an essential service and you need a location which is sufficiently close to the centre of the city for emergency response in the event that a ferry hits a wharf or whatever else. So there needs to be space for working harbour activities.”

Hiley says that government departments have generally been sympathetic to this requirement, but that it’s an ongoing task to ensure that vigilance.
“Development around the harbour is clearly reducing opportunities in the space for people like us, but we’ve been in consultation with the relevant government departments for many years and there would appear to be a good level of understanding of the requirements for waterfront contractors and working harbour activities. But there’s always a risk that people don’t fully appreciate the space that’s required, so there is a pressure and a concern. You can’t be complacent. It’s a question of being constantly vigilant and expressing our position.”

Sheehan says that the Urban Growth Development Corporation (UGDC), the group charged with ‘managing and securing the orderly economic development of five Growth Centres (including the Bays Precinct) across metropolitan Sydney’, has compounded risk.
The Bays Precinct comprises 5.5 kilometres of harbour frontage, including 95 hectares of mostly government-owned land and 94 hectares of waterways in Sydney Harbour.

UGDC’s online literature assures the public they’re carrying out their charter with all the highest environmental, public transport and business motives in mind.
Last year they instituted an online survey to canvas public opinion on the requirements for a responsible harbour development. They claimed the results would inform their impending ‘master plan’, but these have not yet been released and the website appears to be touting a well-formed and pre-approved vision for the future;
“The Bays Precinct will transform over the next 20 to 30 years into a bustling hub of enterprise, activity and beautiful spaces.”

Sheehan says UGDC’s vision for the Bays Precinct emphasises tourism and housing over the working harbour.
She’s been quoted as saying that the community have been finding UGDC’s data “inaccurate” and they’ve been left to make assumptions, such as whether or not there is a need for more schools and other facilities.
“What they talk about is turning the harbour into a tourist destination, a tech hub as the main focus and in various sites residential developments,” she told the City Hub. “They’re moving the fish markets to the head of the bay and their plan is for three or so residential towers there.
“It’s a shift from being a real working harbor, in terms of providing services, to becoming a recreational harbour.”

Sheehan says that community action is needed to support the work of industries such as Waterways, which are an integral part of the community infrastructure as well as the working harbour.
“Waterways has been part of the community for years. They have a respected apprenticeship programme and a history of collaborating with high schools in the area. They’re part of the community. They’re not an industry that blows in and blows out.
“Our working harbour has gradually been eroded. The last remaining parts of it are in Rozelle Bay, but they are the remnants of the old working harbour and Waterways are the longest standing.”