How angry do we think the former VicGov made voters with its crazy-free-for-all development approvals?
And how angry do we think the residents of the inner or near city Melbourne will be when they see these ungainly things without thought or care for quality, culture and humanity start reaching for the skies, side by side. Cheek by jowl?
So in Sydney why has the man previously known as the- premier-who-can-do-no-wrong managed to “do a Malcolm” and toss away a lovely trove of political goodwill on planning issues?
In nearly each case of voter anger strong enough to throw out a state government planning is the nasty worm at the heart of the problem.
In Sydney this worm has been a few hundred years in the making, and attempts at resolution seems to simply breed more of its ilk.
We had planning reforms that were defeated by a rise of popular dissent.
We had a metro system that was derailed by residents because of two dumb decisions: one that the designers of the system tried to bulldoze a much beloved local square, at Pyrmont, and second because no one talked about it and explained that indeed this was a very good scheme that deserved to be built.
It took former senior government staffer explain the true story to The Fifth Estate, but well after the project was mothballed. If the message hadn’t penetrated to the media, in this specific industry, how exactly did the Metro planners they think they would win over the regular community?
No-one’s got any idea either why this man who may soon be formerly known as premier, decided to push ahead with a road that is big, dumb and expensive (as so many big dumb things are), the WestConnex. And why he decided to push through with ripping down beautiful big old trees, 100 years old, to appease one set of interests, so a good thing, the light rail, could be built. That too is an expensive decision. In votes.
Big price to pay, Mr Baird. Expensive choice.
The thing is there is a bad moon on the rise and political sentiment has now been shown to be a volatile and vicious thing. (And we haven’t even mentioned coal seam gas.) People are wising up to the power they have and increasingly they want fair and equitable and they don’t want big dumb and expensive. Contrast the difference in sentiment you get when you read about Meriton and pals with the feeling you get when you read about Lang Walker gets two buildings into the climate bonds frame, along with Pembroke Real Estate and Charter Hall, and Grocon signs up with a new social enterprise based real estate agency.
Ordinary folk are the same.
How angry people are was shown last week with the City of Sydney’s railing against densities mooted for the Waterloo precinct in the Central to Eveleigh redevelopment corridor.
- See our last week’s coverage here, Battle of Waterloo as UrbanGrowth and City of Sydney trade blows on density
On Thursday there was an excoriating serve from Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH focused on the loss of good planners from our city development. By the end of the day the piece had racked up more than 3000 Facebook hits (or likes… whatever.)
If anyone has become lost in the dense dark matter that’s engulfed Green Square region in Sydney already they will know what horror and fear is… this is ugly stuff. Like we said, big, dumb stuff that has a big price attached.
In this case much of the price has been paid by the community and the proceeds handed to the perpetrators, people such as Meriton’s Harry Triguboff who this week emerged as the nation’s richest man. You can almost hear him laughing in his forever bemused insouciant grin: “Thanks folks, that’s all folks, it’s been nice knowing you.”
He’s not alone. But is it the developers’ fault? It’s our rules and our standards and what we are prepared as a community to accept that enables this. Not everyone in the world is motivated by a social conscience and fair value. We sometimes need to insist and enforce the outcomes we want.
Contrast Central Park and how nice that place feels. Dense? You bet. Thoughtful carefully designed environmentally conscious? There may be failings but no one is ever truly angry or even a bit angry if people showed they at least tried quite hard to “do the right thing”.
This week’s excellent special report on the topic of density by Sandra Edmunds is long but worth reading from start to finish.
The argument are difficult. There are numbers that need unpacking. And sorting and putting into their right context. Not just thrown around at random.
There are issues that need to be identified.
Earlier this week industry experts we spoke to about density and planning said at its core this mistrust and anger from the community comes from a reluctance of the government and its agencies to talk and reveal what they are planning. “They say they want public input but they don’t share the information”, our sources said.
Tim Horton, architect and well known agitator in the space, these days registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board, says UrbanGrowth is actually doing good work behind the scenes but it was “behind the scenes”. No-one would ever know.
We’re messing here with the thing that gives us meaning and connections, our “hood” our space is fundamental on the hierarchy of human needs.
What do the people who live know or understand about the changes that are about to take place in their hood?
It’s all under wraps under crisis management.
New ideas are needed. Actually a revolution
During a visit to Arup headquarters this week we heard some fantastic and innovative ideas on ways for government to do development approvals that challenge the norm.
Perhaps government should stop looking at a DA as a “thing” – a brick and concrete box with a physical footprint and instead get the developer to tick the social and economic outcomes that the project would bring.
It turns the thinking – and the design imperative – on its head. And by design we mean all the elements of design, which include the nature of the financing. To understand this you only have to look at the Nightingale Model in Melbourne that makes the development costings transparent and forsakes mega profits. Just 15 per cent profit instead of the standard 30 per cent (if indeed 30 per cent is still standard).
The bigger figure is there to mitigate risk. The community is not stupid and would understand this if this was explained. The lower profit is a trade for the lesser risk. Having guaranteed buyers and a collaborative lower cost environmentally favourable design ethic mitigates risk on all fronts.
Another innovation is to stop speculative profit by buyers. This ensures community outcomes. A foreign buyer who wants to lock the thing up and then watch the local property lobbyists yell about needing “more supply” won’t probably be interested in such a property.
As Arup’s Therese Raft told us this is just a fragment of the new thinking that breaks down all the old preconceptions. A kind of uber hit to the property industry?
It’s certainly needed.