Letter to the Editor: Lessons from Barangaroo

DEAR News Of The Area,

RESIDENTS of Coffs Harbour should realise that if the State Government sells its foreshore land to a development corporation what we get in the tin will not be what was on the label. Building projects in Coffs are usually monitored by the City Council as the consent authority.

The project must conform to the approved plans, which in turn must comply with prescribed planning controls.

This process will not prevail at the foreshore.

The Government will declare the project to be ‘state significant’.

This shifts the consent authority from the Council to itself.

There will be no local control over the evolution of the project whatsoever.

And evolve it will.

Neither the developer nor the Government is obliged to comply with the present proposal.

The developer’s only obligation is a legal one to act in the interests of its shareholders.

It is free to negotiate modifications with the government as it sees fit, and the Government from day one has shown an unshakable determination only to maximise the monetary value of its land holding by rezoning it from public recreation to residential.

The foreshore is not an easy place to build multi storey buildings.

The mooted basement parking to all buildings will entail building below the water table.

Possible but expensive.

The ground is largely contaminated fill requiring remediation.

The present road network is embryonic and the utilities infrastructure (water, sewer, power) virtually non-existent.

All these on-costs will be horse traded with the Government for concessions on number, density, height and bulk of buildings.

The Government, with its cheque banked and politically anxious to have the project done and dusted will agree.

If anybody doubts this will happen I refer them to the history of the Barangaroo development on Sydney harbour.

A government undertaking to ‘revitalise’ Sydney’s outdated industrial waterfront turned into a prodigious cash cow for the developer (who now owns the central commercial towers outright) and a retirement village for the super-rich.

In the words of Philip Thalis, the architect of the original award winning scheme who has since scathingly disowned it “it stands as an enclave of exploitation, the triumph of private greed over public benefit”.

Coffs Harbour.

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