Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [12.56 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak in debate on the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015. I am pleased also that the Leader of the Opposition, and member for Auburn, led for the Opposition in debate on this bill. The Leader of the Opposition clearly outlined a vision for Sydney, particularly in the lead-up to the last election when he proposed the Greater Sydney Commission. As the Leader of the Opposition said, there were differences of opinion on some key points, but there is a bipartisan approach to this commission. I urge the Government, as did the Leader of the Opposition, to take advantage of that bipartisan approach with the establishment of this commission.
I have an interest in this legislation for a number of reasons, most importantly because it will impact on my area of the inner west. Obviously, Strathfield, Homebush, North Strathfield and Burwood are areas that have been earmarked for enormous population growth, particularly within the Parramatta Road renewal plan and some areas outlined by the Leader of the Opposition around the Olympic precinct. It is good to see the member for Drummoyne in the Chamber today as we work well together. My area—
Mr John Sidoti: Our area.
Ms JODI MCKAY: Our area will experience significant growth. In the Parramatta Road renewal plan about 50,000 dwellings are proposed, with more than half of those within the electorate of Strathfield. Developing those dwellings will present enormous challenges and I would appreciate a discussion with the Minister on whether the plan comes under the remit of the Greater Sydney Commission, once it is established. At the moment the work is being done from a strategic perspective by UrbanGrowth, but the plan currently being presented in draft form for consultation indicates that UrbanGrowth will remove itself from further work on this plan once it has been ticked off. This is disappointing because we need a coordinating body. I urge the Minister to consider this.
In the past we have not had a shared vision. This has resulted in "planning wars", a term used previously, in which proponents of development have opposed those who want to see their communities remain the same. Both sides, in their vision, have got it wrong because we need to meet the challenges in regard to population growth and dwelling numbers, as the Leader of the Opposition has outlined. We also need to take the community with us. There will be community consultation within the regulations; however, I believe that should be within the legislation. I note the shadow Minister will talk more about that in the other place. As the Leader of the Opposition outlined, we also need to consider the interests and needs of everyone. That includes those who are concerned about congestion and high-rise development, and those who just want a place to live but do not have it at the moment.
I will comment briefly on how the Government proposes to constitute the Greater Sydney Commission. There will be a chief executive officer, who will report to a chair. That makes sense. I have some concerns about the executive staff being located within the Planning and Environment cluster. I hope that does not in any way impact on the independence of the commission. The commission needs to tread a fine line particularly in regard to working with other agencies and ensuring an integrated approach but it also needs to challenge agencies on some important issues. I note the appointment of commissioners and six district representatives. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we urge the Government to consider also the appointment of education and health commissioners because those two areas are constantly mentioned when communities talk about missing infrastructure and services. Planning for schools and hospitals is important. I note that the Department of Education engaged in that process in the Parramatta Road renewal plan by allocating the number of classrooms that were needed but there was no word from Health, which was disappointing.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, we believe the commission should report to the Premier. It is a sensible and powerful way of sending a message to the community that the Government is serious about the role of the Greater Sydney Commission. There should also be parliamentary oversight. A key criticism of planning generally is the lack of transparency. Making the commission report to the Premier is one way of ensuring that the Government acknowledges and deals with the transparency issue. We want to work constructively with the Government. The Minister for Planning, for whom I have a great deal of respect, has been working well with our shadow Minister. That again demonstrates a bipartisan approach to the bill. The remit of the commission seems sensible overall. It will have carriage of the metropolitan plan and district plans for six regions.
I find it interesting that the Minister for Local Government spoke in debate on this bill given that in his second reading speech the Minister for Planning made no mention of how the commission will work with councils when it comes to decision-making, particularly around the preparation of local environment plans and development control plans. I would like to hear more from the Minister on that important issue. This bill comes at a time when the Government is pursuing council amalgamations. Bigger councils equal less transparency and accountability to local communities, so I would like to hear from the Minister exactly how it will work. At a time when the Government is giving councils supposedly more power and encouraging them to focus on driving their efficiency and preparedness for dealing with these issues it seems a little odd to me to be taking away some of that work and giving it to the Greater Sydney Commission. I would like to hear more about that.
The dreaded pre-gateway review is included in the remit. When the Minister was a backbencher he and I shared our concern about the pre-gateway review process. Certainly the community has been badly treated by that process for the Flower Power development within my electorate. It is a second chance for developers but unfortunately the community has been locked out. I am keen to know how that process will be improved by its becoming a function of the Greater Sydney Commission. It is interesting that when the Government first proposed the commission it was very much focused on strategic planning. It has now moved into the area of development assessment. I am not necessarily opposed to that but it is important that the Minister acknowledge how it will work. My understanding is that joint regional planning panels will be abolished. The criticism of those panels in the past was that they did not consider the interests of the community. I hope that the commission will look at community interests in its planning assessment role.
That brings me to community consultation, which I thank the Minister for recognising in his second reading speech. It is important. When I held the shadow planning portfolio for a short time the issue came up time and again. It is a complex and contested issue that is not easily solved. Embedding community consultation in legislation and requiring the commission to report to Parliament will give the community confidence that those issues are important and the Government is looking at them seriously. I note it is mentioned that community consultation will be in regulation but I think it is important to embed it in legislation.
I have talked about community concern about the lack of infrastructure and services that accompany planning decisions. For example, while the Department of Education took part in the Parramatta Road renewal plan NSW Health was silent and simply referred to another plan it had underway. There is also no mention of light rail from Parramatta through Olympic Park into Strathfield, for which the member for Drummoyne and I both advocate. For instance, there was no mention of the North Strathfield station upgrade that is desperately needed, given the enormous growth that will occur in that area.
Mr John Sidoti: That we are both advocates for.
Ms JODI McKAY: We also share that. We recently took part in an article in the Inner West Courier about the upgrade. I thank the member for Drummoyne for working constructively with me on that issue. The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the importance of the Australia Avenue roundabout that leads into the Olympic Park precinct. Infrastructure projects such as those are extremely important. They send a very strong message but we keep messing with them. I hope the Greater Sydney Commission will be able to deal with the issues. I will touch briefly on housing supply and affordable housing. In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned a target of 50,000 new homes, but the target needs to be about more than just numbers. It needs to be about quality design and sustainable development.
It also needs to recognise that the crafting of communities is not simply a number that fails to give people confidence that their community will be enhanced rather than impacted negatively by development. If that is a key performance indicator [KPI] that will be met, it needs to be more than that. I am interested to see how the other KPIs will be met. As I said, this bill is supported and there has been a bipartisan approach to it. I hope that it will lead to new era in planning. We have to amend the planning laws and recognise the importance of the challenges before us. I am pleased to be able to support the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015. I commend the bill to the House.