Councillor Tracie Sonda
Mayor, Sutherland Shire Council
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my pleasure as the Mayor of Sutherland Shire to welcome you all here to this morning’s forum.
When talking about issues surrounding development and urban sprawl, I believe that one could not find a more appropriate place than the Sutherland Shire. The Shire has suffered the effects first-hand of overdevelopment, and urban sprawl is an issue with which we all have to deal, living as we are in a city with a population growing by an incredible 55,000 a year.
But Sutherland Shire is also a great example of what can be achieved when the community and governments work together.
The words "community", "consultation" and "sustainability" are synonymous with the efforts this council is making towards ensuring we do our best for the future. And in this Shire, they are more than just words. Sutherland Shire Council has undertaken many on-going initiatives over the past couple of years, which are all guided by "community", "consultation" and "sustainability".
Our community is integral to how we shape our future. In the course of the Our Guide to Shaping the Shire to 2030 strategic planning process, more than 18,000 Shire residents and business people participated in surveys, workshops and consultation over two-and-a-half years.
The Guide gives us five main directions determined by our community. Those directions are to:
At the last State election, development was a major issue in the minds of voters in the Sutherland Shire. Development was a major issue in other parts of Sydney, also.
Community concern about the nature and rate of change in our suburban areas is a matter that cannot be ignored or dismissed as "the grumbling of a small minority wedded to the past". Governments that fail to address this issue will do so at their peril.
At the State level, there is a vacuum. What plan does the State Government have to redirect growth from Sydney to areas that are seeking new development? What goals does the State Government have for redistributing population?
In the absence of any State Government leadership, local communities and their councils are required to confront and manage the local consequences. The Sutherland Shire has faced this dilemma in the same way as other communities. Two years ago the people of Sutherland Shire expressed their concern about overdevelopment and spoke overwhelmingly at the polls on the local government election day in 1999.
The council that I lead was elected to provide a new approach to dealing with the broad issues of growth and development – to better manage the natural and urban environments.
The people had spoken but the need to keep all residents involved in the debate was, and is, essential. Sutherland Shire Council believes that community consultation is essential to planning for the future. And here in the Sutherland Shire, we are seeking to foster informed and meaningful debate.
Today’s forum will contribute to promoting informed and meaningful debate. And we are fortunate to have several eminent speakers here today whose experience will undoubtedly increase our understanding.
To achieve real change in our city we need to resolve some of the major issues that determine the nature of the metropolis. Issues such as development and what types of development the community wants for our future. At our own local level, Sutherland Shire Council is reconsidering all of the assumptions and principles that have provided the framework for planning the Shire’s future.
Through the "Peoples’ Plan", we are addressing those issues and listening to what the community wants so we can ensure we provide the best future possible. The new plan will be built on principles formulated through this partnership between council and the community.
Council is also currently producing a discussion document – the Blueprint for Action – which will provide a basis for community consultation over the next few months. It is the first step in establishing the new plan. The new plan will take into account all land uses in the Shire, embodying 17 strategies under the major themes adopted in the Guide. At the end of the day, this plan belongs to the people. We will not only listen to what the people say, but we will act.
Importantly, council must also consider how any plan is implemented. Local government is not the only player in helping communities achieve the vision that people want for their area. Successful implementation requires residents, council, State Government agencies and other stakeholders to work collaboratively. So today, we bring all those parties together.
Our aim is not to promote a single agenda. Our aim is to find a common purpose and to promote debate. And our aim is to establish a basis for better planning to ensure the sustainable future of our city and our state; planning that reflects the desires of our communities.
I look forward to hearing today’s discussions which I’m sure will provide a great opportunity for us all to learn, ponder and debate.
I thank all the speakers and representatives from various organisations who have joined us here today.
I would also like to thank and congratulate the sponsors and organisers of today’s forum: the Combined Precinct Residents Associations of the Sutherland Shire; Sutherland Shire Environment Centre; EcoTransit Sydney; and the Total Environment Centre.
Many of the issues on today’s program are emotive. But they are issues we must discuss if we are to establish and maintain happy and healthy communities in our Shire, City and State.