Money talks – but it’s also fleet of foot
Money talks – but it’s also pretty fleet of foot.

We at Crikey listen out for its voice and pay closer attention to what it says than many of other people.

However, we also know how quickly funds that people have to invest can
move around. If, say, Sydney isn’t a good bet, we understand that
the dollars can turn up pretty damn quick in Melbourne or Brisbane or
the Gold Coast.

Do Clover Moore and her supporters?

If they don’t, they are about to get a sharp reminder.

They, no doubt, are still celebrating winning control of the Sydney
City Council – and their achievement is a remarkable one. They
have won five out of 10 places on the Council in their own right.
With Moore’s casting vote as Mayor, this means they can carry the day
when any votes arise.

The outcome has been a spectacular slap in the face to the power grab
by Bob Carr and the bovver boys from Labor HQ down on Sussex Street.

But as Moore and her team and their supporters celebrate their triumph
over “developers” in the inner city and their supposed influence, they
need to remember a few basic facts.

First, why does development occur?

It happens because there’s a buck out of it – because changing lives
and changing lifestyles mean that some people are prepared to pay other
people to provide them with new kinds of housing and new kinds of
businesses and services in the older, inner suburbs and the CBD.

In other words, it happens because people want it to. Developers turn desires into reality.

And, second, what is development?

Development is spending money and creating jobs.

Moore and her team and her supporters have become obsessed by the “new” part.

New developments stand out because they’re, well, new. Dumb, but it needs to be stated.

And, yes, some developments can be pretty sloppily constructed.
They can be obtrusive. They can change the character of an
area. Bring new people in. Bring more people in.
Change the traffic flow. Put new demands on infrastructure.
Putting them up is a noisy, dirty business and creates other kinds of
disturbances, too.

But Moore supporters should remember the money and jobs aspects, too.

Why do we talk about “liquidity”? Because money is like water. It moves. It flows.

Water doesn’t run uphill. It follows the path of least resistance. So does money.

Politicians at all levels need to remember that – because where money
goes, jobs follow. Stop the money flowing and – well, you get it.

At Crikey we’re well aware of the all too-cosy relationships that
sprout between politicians at all levels and special interest groups –
particularly special interest groups with plenty of money. We
know that they have flourished particularly well in the business and
political climate of Sydney for a long, long time.

And just as people are drawn to the inner city because of the freedom
to express less orthodox sexual orientations, we know that there is
also a unique set of political permutations there that would scare the
horses in simpler and more innocent parts of the land.

It is a matter of finding the balance.

Finding the balance

The inner city “character” that Moore and her team and supporters want
to preserve is what is drawing all the new people to the area.

And both groups would agree that that “character” isn’t run down old
terraces and deserted and derelict – and maybe contaminated –
industrial sites.

Inner city voters spoke on March 27.

However, responsible developers are making sure that their voices aren’t drowned out – or being caricatured.

Within days of the election, the property industry and the state government bodies in charge of land management were moving.

They are already staging a fight back of their own.

Sharp reminders

The Sydney Sunday Telegraph spelt out the issues in a story on the post election cityscape this weekend.

It ran a fire-and-brimstone sermon from Moore on the sins of developers that would do the fiercest fundamentalist proud.

It then switched to one of the targets of her ire, Australand, and
their redevelopment of the old Carlton & United brewery site on
Broadway:

“Australand managing director Brendan Crotty says that in the absence
of certainty and in an environment hostile to development, it would be
logical to focus business elsewhere.

” ‘Fortunately we have the rest of Australia to play in,’ he says.

“If consent for the CUB development is not given, Crotty says the
company will cut its losses, having bought the site last October
conditional on those consents being given.

” ‘We’d just shrug our shoulders and move on,’ he says.

” ‘Developers will go where there is a demand for their product and the capacity to get consent.

” ‘There is no point having big arguments with the planning authorities. That’s not the way professional developers operate.’ “

” ‘Responsible developers deliver fairly good community outcomes,’ Crotty says.

” ‘The problem is that most objectors say it is too dense, the scale is
too large, too high, it generates too much traffic. But they
forget that a lot of residents already live in apartments in the same
area. It’s like saying, “We are here and no one else can be.” ‘

The reality is…

Sunday’s Telegraph continued:

“Moore supports the State Government’s push for urban consolidation if
essential infrastructure is in place. But without high density,
how do we house Sydney’s ballooning population, growing by 1,000 a
week?”

Good question.

The Smellie went to Darren Vaux of Summit Projects Australia looking for an answer.

He said that there are only two options.

“You can either increase the density in the existing urban area or release land in the south-west corridor.

“The rate at which you can do land release doesn’t match the population
increase. If you have a view that is against high-rise, what you are
really saying is that you have a preference to increase three-storey
walk-ups and townhouses.

“You end up creating a monotonous density across the urban
fabric. I don’t think we, as a city, have the luxury of saying,
‘Not in my electorate.’ “

What the Telegraph didn’t ask was what would happen if Crotty and
Australand – and all their rivals – decided to “shrug their shoulders
and move on”.

What would it mean for jobs – maybe not in the areas around the
contentious developments, but jobs in greater Sydney, nonetheless?

And what would happen to the sites?

The brewery, say, would get a little more vandalised? A little more decrepit?

How’s that benefit social amenity and the current residents? Or
even though it’s not that impressive visually, are they happy to settle
for the peace and quiet of a derelict factory on their doorstep?


Step one

The Sunday Telegraph also spoke to representatives of some of the other
inner city councils whose residents revolted last month, like
Leichhardt Green and potential mayor Jamie Parker.

He spoke about how he wants a close working relationship with Moore and his political ally in Marrickville, Sam Byrne.

Parker told the Smellie “We see it as an opportunity for a Sydney-wide approach”.

Byrne said the prospect of greater cooperation between Leichhardt,
Sydney and Marrickville was one of the exciting developments from the
election results.

“Working together is a logical step,” the Telegraph had him saying.

Ah. Working together.

Now we know it’s a radical move – more radical than merging Sydney and
South Sydney Councils – but why didn’t that intellectual giant Bob Carr
think of that? Where were all the bright, ambitious leaders of
tomorrow from Sussex Street? Not all out stacking branches,
surely?

Working together.

Not stopping the clock.

And not packing up and going away.

Developers, as we said, are driven by money.

If there’s a chance of a bob, they’ll stay.

Yes, they do have other options.

Like Crotty said, they have the whole of Australia to play in – at least companies the size of his do.

But if they have already spent money planning developments in inner-city Sydney, they won’t want to see that wasted.

They’ll be prepared to negotiate. To compromise. To… work together.

Which is lucky, considering that where the money goes the jobs follow.

We know that Moore and her pals are very concerned about development, but what about jobs?

They talk a lot about community.

Will they be prepared to work together too?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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