In 2020 we faced major challenges, from one of the longest running droughts in memory to major bushfires and the Covid-19 crisis.
We began the year in the midst of a devastating summer of bushfires. Sydney New Yearâs Eve 2019 provided the City of Sydney, ABC News and Red Cross Australia the opportunity to raise $13.3 million for the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery work for the communities affected.Â
And when the coronavirus pandemic hit Sydney, we responded quickly. We closed our community facilities, increased our cleansing and waste collections, and launched a $72.5 million support package targeting our creative and cultural sector, small business and community sectors.
We established a free business concierge to help businesses navigate the support available and provided assistance with Covid-19 Safety Plans.
Our grants were a lifeline for many businesses, particularly in our cultural and creative sector where theatres and performances closed almost overnight.
We donated $2 million to OzHarvest and other community groups to help feed vulnerable communities, including international students, and we purchased 20,000 reusable masks to give to rough sleepers and people in social housing.
In May, Council approved a Community Recovery Plan to guide our economic and social recovery. We launched new grants to help our community adapt to Covid restrictions, and extended our popular outdoor dining program â providing more footpath and road space, and waiving outdoor fees until October 31.
The economic shock of Covid-19 devastated the lives and jobs of many â particularly in our cities. And Sydneyâs economy was particularly hard hit. Prior to Covid the City economy generated around $140 billion; 7 per cent of Australiaâs economy. City output has suffered a cumulative total decline of about $7 billion. We also suffered more unemployment than other parts of the city and state, because our economy is strongly reliant on sectors disproportionally impacted by Covid restrictions including tourism, hospitality, events, arts, entertainment, leisure and higher education.
To encourage people to return to the City, we co-funded and launched Sydneyâs Al Fresco Summer with the State Government â a program of events and festival across bars, restaurants, and an outdoor stage in Cathedral Square to reactivate the city, coupled with a significant expansion of outdoor dining opportunities for our cafes, bars and restaurants.
And this provided work for our performers as well as the hospitality and small business sectors.
The City will continue to work with the State Government to promote the economic recovery of the city, and I look forward to participating in the NSW Treasurerâs Summit tomorrow to forge new ideas to attract people and workers back into the city.
And we have introduced new planning controls that allow existing shops and businesses to trade both in the city centre and local areas from 7am to 10pm over seven days, without additional approval.
While Covid-recovery is our immediate concern, taking action on climate change remains our top priority and what is also clear is that action on climate change is vital to ensuring a sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic. We need a green-led recovery to ensure Australiaâs prosperity into the future.
ENVIRONMENT â ACTION ON ACCELERATING CLIMATE CHANGE
The City has long worked in partnership with the private sector to reduce emissions city-wide.
Our leading programs include the Better Buildings Partnership, CitySwitch Green Office, the Sustainable Destinations Partnership and the Smart Green Apartments program. Thank you and congratulations to these partners for all that they have achieved.
The Better Buildings Partnership is an example of how action on climate change can be good for business â and the economy. The Partnership currently represents 59 per cent commercial office space in the city centre, with members including major building owners like Dexus, Lendlease, Mirvac, GPT as well as the UTS. They committed to our Sustainable Sydney 2030 goal of 70 per cent reduction emissions by 2030 and have already reduced their emissions by 55 per cent and they are tracking toward an 83 per cent reduction by 2030.
And they have reduced their water use by 26 per cent since 2006 and saved over $30 million a year. While partners that own 88 buildings have committed to achieving net zero emissions, or becoming carbon positive, on or before 2030.Â
Since 2006, our City economy has expanded by 53 per cent, in that time emissions declined by 21 per cent. If it had been business as usual they would have increased by 57 per cent.
We â the City of Sydney switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity in July last year, which will enable us to reach our 2030 target of 70 per cent emission reduction, six years early in 2024 and at the same time save our ratepayers half a million dollars each year for 10 years. And we have created jobs in regional NSW in wind and solar farms at Glen Innes, Wagga and in the Shoalhaven.
We also brought our net-zero emissions target forward by a decade and we are now aiming to be a net-zero city by 2040.
The accelerated target will form part of the Cityâs new long-term strategic plan, Sustainable Sydney 2050.
This is already driving new initiatives, like the Cityâs proposed new requirements for Net Zero Buildings. Development applications for office buildings, hotels and high-rise apartment blocks will have to comply with minimum energy ratings and achieve net zero energy output from 2026. Under this policy, for the first time our planning system will reward buildings that either use or purchase renewable electricity. In 2020, we trialled new electric garbage trucks and expanded our food scraps collection trial to another 20,000 city residents.
I look forward to briefing Minister Keane on this initiative in the coming weeks, and how it can support the delivery of his Renewable Energy Roadmap.
In March this year, we also set exciting and ambitious new 2030 targets to make Sydney even greener.
We are aiming for 27 per cent canopy cover and to meet this target, we plan to plant at least 700 trees a year.
Weâve earmarked 377 million dollars between now and 2031 to invest in green roofs and walls, streetscape gardening and improved urban forests across the whole LGA.
We are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. By 2050, urban heating is predicted to increase temperatures between 1 point 5 and 3 degrees, so itâs vital we plan, invest and adapt.
We see trees and green spaces as essential infrastructure, as effective and extensive canopy cover can help reduce temperatures on the ground by up to 10 degrees.
Greening our city has been a top priority since our newly amalgamated Council was elected in 2004. One of our first actions in 2004 was to purchase land for $11 million from the State Government to create Pirrama Park in Pyrmont and in 2011 we negotiated substantial new public parkland in Harold Park as part of the redevelopment of the paceway and we have created over 24 hectares of new parkland and we have invested $23 million to transform Sydney Park into a 40-hectare oasis.
We have also completed upgrades of 132 other parks and 61 playgrounds; planted over 15,000 street trees, installed 249 raingardens, and completed over 100,000 square metres of landscaping with 800,000 new plants which has made the City one of the only Councils in Australia to increase its canopy cover over the past decade.
Under Greening Sydney 2030, weâll continue this vital work using innovation and design to create more planting opportunities â practical ways to green roofs and walls and our 383 kilometre network of laneways and narrow streets â and introduce planning tools to ensure weâre greening equitably across the City.
Covid reminded us just how important access to parks, playgrounds and open space is and as Sydneyâs population grows, we continue to provide the parks and open space to keep city living attractive and healthy.
We have renewed open spaces from Glebe to Rosebery, Darlinghurst to Beaconsfield â which we opened in the pouring rain. And when the Drying Green at Green Square is open, it will be the biggest of more than 40 parks weâre delivering together with developers in that area.
We also continue to argue for 20 ha of the 46 ha Moore Park Golf Course be dedicated as public parkland. More than 10,000 residents responded to our online survey, highlighting the importance of this issue to our community. Itâs now up to the Planning Minister!
The quality of our open spaces was internationally recognized with the prestigious Jury Award at the Architzer A+ Awards in New York, one of a number we have won over the past year.
CYCLING AND TRANSPORT
Covid prompted even more people to cycle while space on public transport was limited due to social distancing â cycling has grown by 40 per cent during Covid. We worked with the NSW Government to introduce six pop-up cycleways, to better connect our bike network and help people travel around and to our City safely when public transport was at limited capacity due to social distancing.
We completed the Lawson Street cycleway past Redfern station, allowing resident/workers in Redfern and Newtown to pedal into the City while avoiding major roads.
Work has started on Saunders and Miller St in Pyrmont, the final piece of separated cycleway connecting the ANZAC Bridge to Pyrmont Bridge.
There are over 2,000 bike trips on Oxford Street every day, and for them it is about to get a whole lot safer.
Last year, we joined the State Government in announcing plans for a new cycleway on Oxford Street to Taylor Square. Now the Federal Government is joining us to extend that cycleway to Centennial Parkâs Paddington Gates â providing a critical link to the Eastern Suburbs.
It is terrific that all levels of government are working together to invest in the future of Oxford Street. This cycleway will help calm traffic and create a more pleasant environment for pedestrians, and the many businesses along the strip.
We are continuing to advocate for a metro station and mass transit options to service our rapidly growing Green Square neighbourhood.Â The Government has confirmed there will be a metro station in Pyrmont.
The light rail in George Street is the fulfilment of our vision going back to 2004 to transform this street into a world class, pedestrian-friendly boulevard, and the business community played a key role in persuading the government that this would be a game changer for George Street â and it is. Thank you to all who were involved. Through Spring and Summer, the Zelkovas have been in bloom and stylish seating has replaced the temporary concrete blocks.
And weâre now extending pedestrianisation all the way from Bathurst Street to Rawson Place, so we will have a beautiful paved pedestrian boulevard from Central to Circular Quay.Â Â
Weâre also planning for future public space, with a new public plaza at Circular Quay due for completion in 2022, Internationally renowned architect Sir David Adjaye (Ad-jay) and award-winning Sydney-based contemporary Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd have been chosen to design an inclusive public square, plaza building and suspended artwork, which will sit 20 metres above the ground, providing a new place for workers and visitors to take respite from busy city streets. By working closely with Lendlease, we have been able to secure this spectacular public artwork and meeting place for city dwellers, office workers and visitors. The new plaza sits between the FJMT-designed EY building and the Kerry Hill Architects-designed One Circular Quay building that is currently under construction.
And we look forward to working with the State Government to progress our vision for a new Central Square over the next decade.
The CBD isnât the only part of our City getting a new outdoor setting. A small section of Devonshire Street in Surry Hills has been pedestrianised between Chalmers Street and Elizabeth Street, and Macleay Street in Potts Point is getting a much-needed upgrade.
CULTURE AND NIGHT-TIME ECONOMY
There was a collective sigh of relief, especially by young people, musicians and hospitality workers, when the lock-out laws were repealed in the CBD and Oxford Street at the end of November 2019 â and another when they were removed from the Kings Cross in February this year.
And while we havenât been able to enjoy the full extent of what our nighttime economy can offer during Covid, some fantastic work has been done to ensure when we get over the pandemic, we can enjoy Sydney after dark.Â Thank you to our Creative Sector and Night Life Advisory Panel for their invaluable contribution to this work.
Just this year Council adopted our Open and Creative City Reforms which will as I mentioned previously enable shops and small businesses like hairdressers or bookshops to stay open until 10pm without needing Council approval. It will also make it easier for our creatives to use shopfronts and warehouses for cultural activities and gigs.Â
The State Government released its first 24-hour economy strategy last September and Parliament passed major amendments to the Liquor Act in November. The strategy and the Liquor Act reforms complement the work the City has done over many years and, including many of the recommendations the we made to the Parliamentary inquiries into the Music and Arts Economy and Night-Time Economy. The strategy includes a commitment to late-night public transport, so people can get home at the end of a good night.
The government has also announced the appointment of Michael Rodrigues as the stateâs first 24-hour Economy Commissioner and I look forward to working with him as he leads the implementation of the Governmentâs 24-Hour Economy Strategy.Â
Meanwhile, we have been reviewing the planning controls for Oxford Street to revitalise this important street as a significant creative and cultural precinct, and support local businesses. Our consultations last year showed clearly that Sydneysiders want us to preserve and celebrate both its First Nations and LGBTIQ history, as well as plan for its future. And we are not forgetting that in 2023, Sydney will host the WorldPride celebrations, welcoming thousands of visitors to our inclusive and diverse city.
So our planning controls for Oxford Street will need to reinforce the many possibilities, supporting growth and diversity, protecting heritage and character and promoting day and night-time economies.
Last year we leased three City buildings which make up 40 per cent of the street frontage from Oxford Square to Taylor Square to the investment group Ashe Morgan. The company has committed to renewing the buildings with office spaces, cafes, small bars, restaurants and â importantly â maintaining our subsidised creative spaces.
The City is continuing to respond to homelessness committing $6.6 million in services over the next three years.Â
Covid-19 presented new challenges for supporting this vulnerable community, and we worked closely with the State Governmentâs Sydney Rough Sleeper COVID-19 Taskforce. We helped Minister Wardâs efforts to ensure people got temporary accommodation as quickly as possible when the crisis began, with the aim of getting people into long term stable housing. And on the ground our staff distributed information and masks to protect them from the virus.
And at the beginning of 2020, I participated in the opening of the new HammondCare facility in Darlinghurst just opposite Bar Coluzzi, that is caring for older people, especially older women, who are homeless and have complex, high-care needs. The City provided $1.5m in seed funding which enabled the project to get off the ground and itâs so wonderful to see it open and caring for some of our cityâs most vulnerable.Â
The City is continuing to advocate for and to do our bit to invest in affordable housing in our City.Â
Early last year, construction started on an important social and affordable housing development at Gibbons Street Redfern. This will deliver 160 social and affordable apartments, as well as a community hub and office space for St George Community Housing.
The City made this possible by selling this former Council Depot site to St George at a significantly discounted value. I look forward to this building being finished mid-year.
The doors opened on two affordable housing complexes in the past year, on former city sites sold at a discount to City West Housing. This has provided 99 affordable housing units in Blackwattle Bay and 75 in Harold Park â the final development on the Harold Park site.
The City is doing what it can to ensure the NSW Land and Housing Corporationâs planning proposal for Waterloo South achieves the governmentâs mandated yield, while improving amenity and social and environmental outcomes â as well as importantly increased social and affordable homes.Â
Land and Housingâs original proposal had heights and densities greater than the CBD that would have created massive overshadowing and wind impacts, and which did not have adequate accessibility, paths, or green spaces and trees.
As you saw earlier, in February we opened the beautiful Gunyama Park Aquatic and Recreation Centre in Green Square. This is the first aquatic centre in Australia to hold a 5-star rating under the Green Building Council of Australia Design rating scale.
The architects â Andrew Burgess Architects and Grimshaw and landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean say they were inspired by Sydneyâs unique and much-loved ocean pools and designed a 50-metre heated outdoor pool set within a larger pool. Thereâs a 25-metre indoor pool with a moveable floor to change depth for swimming classes or to play polo! For children thereâs a shallow pool for waterplay, with slides, spraying devices and a tipping bucket, as well as an outdoors toddler pool, and there is a beautifully designed hydrotherapy pool.
There is a huge gym and fitness studios and outdoor yoga deck as well as consultation rooms and two small meeting rooms available for hire, and a creche and cafÃ©. The multi-use synthetic sports field can be used for a variety of sports and there is also an outdoor fitness area as well as passive parkland yet to be created.
And we opened Sydneyâs most exciting and fabulous skatepark at Sydney Park and we are building another â under the light rail viaduct arches in Federal Park in Glebe.
We also have a number of great projects that are just getting started, including the Collins and Turner designed plan for indoor sports courts in Alexandria, and our former heritage Haymarket Library which is to become the Museum of Chinese in Australia.
The construction industry has continued unabated during coronavirus last year and I participated in a number of topping out ceremonies and openings. Especially important is the Greenland Building which will houseÂ a five-storey creative hub, for dance, music and community groups in the heart of our city on Bathurst Street. This was negotiated by the City for ninety-nine year lease at a peppercorn rent.
The City has also been able to move forward with our Central Sydney Planning Strategy which will allow for growth in specific parts of the city, while protecting important parks and public spaces from overshadowing.
Iâd like to acknowledge the excellent work done by our Planning and Urban Design teams under the leadership of Director Graham Jahn and also thank the excellent work of our Design Advisory Panel on both City projects and private development.
RECONCILIATION ACTION PLAN Â
This year, the City adopted a new âStretchâ Reconciliation Action Plan which has over 131 aims, including increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at the City from 2.4 per cent to 3 per cent, spending $2 million annually with Indigenous businesses, and encouraging staff to take part in cultural learning activities. Thank you to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel for their advice and input during the year.
Just before Covid lockdowns in 2020 we celebrated Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras. Our Sunset Piazza concerts in Cathedral Square over summer were a wonderful highlight of our Al Fresco Summer initiative with the State Government.Â
This year, we will finalise our work on Sustainable Sydney 2050, the next iteration of our Sustainable Sydney 2030 work, and our long-term vision, to continue our transformation of Sydney as a great place to live and work.
It has been a demanding 15 months, and I hope we feel weâve all come through and I thank you for your collaboration and we look forward to working with you for the rest of 2021.