(1) Notes the Government's failure to consult with the people of the inner west and Granville on the Parramatta Road renewal project.
(2) Notes the Government removed the Transport Plan from the draft Parramatta Road renewal strategy before releasing the plan publicly.
(3) Notes the amenities improvement plan for Parramatta Road is underfunded by $200 million.
(4) Notes that around $2 million has been wasted by the Government in delaying and then cancelling community consultation activities planned by UrbanGrowth.
(5) Calls on the Minister for Planning to implement UrbanGrowth's Parramatta Road Urban Renewal community engagement strategy, and fully consult the people of the inner west and Granville on the Parramatta Road Urban Renewal report.
I support the revitalisation of Parramatta Road. Anyone who has driven along Parramatta Road knows it needs revitalising and renewal. However, what concerns me, and what is at the heart of this motion, is the way this project has been managed to date by the New South Wales Government. We know what has happened with the project because in the other place last year there was a Standing Order 52 request for documents. Thousands of documents were produced under that standing order and so we know what did and did not happen with the Parramatta Road renewal project over the 12 months to December 2014.
I refer to paragraph (1) of my motion. We know the Minister at the time went against the advice of her own agency on what was required to engage with the community on this project. The documents show that UrbanGrowth put together a very impressive engagement plan with a wide range of activities to reach the community, including barbecues, shopping centre stalls, school visits and workshops. There was even a plan to have staff walk the entire length of Parramatta Road with iPads talking to residents and business owners.
We have been able to find evidence that at least 170 activities were planned. Unfortunately only two went ahead—an information session at Ashfield and one at Granville. So that means 168 community engagement activities were in fact cancelled. There was no information session in my community, for instance. Some 43 per cent of the 60,000 dwellings proposed for Parramatta Road will be in the electorate of Strathfield. In North Strathfield in particular about 16,500 dwellings are proposed. I believe UrbanGrowth has tried to do the right thing—the community engagement strategy it prepared was detailed and comprehensive. I would even go so far as to say that it was impressive.
But the Minister at the time not only refused to implement what her own agency advised but also deferred the project time and again. So the minimal consultation that did occur happened over the Christmas-New Year period. We all know that when government wants to hide something it schedules it over the Christmas-New Year period. By examining the documents, we can see that the project launch was planned and then cancelled at least five times from May to November 2014. On the last occasion, the Premier's office had confirmed his attendance. But again the launch was cancelled—this time with just four days notice. Of course these delays came at a huge cost. We have been able to account for at least $2.5 million in waste caused by the Minister's incompetence.
This brings me to paragraph (4) of my motion. I will just touch on some of what we have been able to find out from an expenditure perspective. More than $990,000 was spent on stakeholder engagement and communication officer roles, $871,000 for consultation and media advisers, 216,000 for issue management programs and $186,000 for social media services. Consultants, charging up to $250 an hour, were put on the payroll and had their contracts extended—all for community consultations that never happened. There was even an interactive audio visual presentation that was developed at a cost of $229,000 and never used. Those iPads which were to be used along Parramatta Road cost about $11,000 in hiring fees. They were never used. Paragraph (3) of my motion is about the shortfall in funding for the amenities plan. This plan was proudly announced by then Premier Barry O'Farrell on 19 September 2013. I quote from the media release:
In consultation with local communities, the NSW Government will spend $200 million on new footpaths, green space, bus lanes, trees and the removal of power poles.
But we know now from the documents that there is at least a $160 million shortfall and the Minister is going to stump up barely half of what is required. We know this because independent surveyors and consultants calculated the cost of the project at $360 million. According to the documents, that estimate did not take into account legal and development management fees, compensation to property owners, widening of existing roadways, kerb and gutter replacements, work associated with the National Broadband Network rollout, bus shelters, and the list goes on. I turn now to paragraph (2) of my motion. Put simply, the Premier's office instructed UrbanGrowth to remove the public roads and active transport plans from the draft Parramatta Road strategy.
How do we know this? We have the email from the Premier's office. How can a government possibly release a draft Urban Renewal Strategy that does not have a land use plan, that does not have infrastructure and services and that does not include a transport plan? While all this was going on councils were, in good faith, waiting on a memorandum of understanding from the New South Wales Government. That memorandum of understanding was signed off by Minister Hazzard in April, within four days of receiving the document from his agency. With the change of Minister in early May due to the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry, it took Minister Goward more than six months to sign the agreements—even though they were ready to go as early as April last year.
The final paragraph of my motion calls on the Minister for Planning to implement UrbanGrowth's Parramatta Road urban renewal community engagement strategy. This highlights the failure of the Government to consult with the community. I thank Minister Rob Stokes. He in fact has done just that. Minister Stokes agreed to meet with me. He then came to my electorate office. Certainly as an Opposition member I am deeply grateful for the support he has given to this project. This was very badly managed until Minister Stokes stepped in, for which, as I said, I am deeply grateful. We met with the local media on the corner of George Street and Parramatta Road in North Strathfield. We spoke about the fact that this project needs to be a bipartisan effort. All I have asked is that the urban renewal community engagement strategy be implemented. Now it has been. There will be issues over which we disagree but certainly I am very pleased with the response of Minister Stokes.