Edward Mandla
Lack of Vision for City Properties in Lower Oxford Street

Published On: 03/11/2014

I seldom find myself having cause to quote from John Lydon, formerly of the Sex Pistols, but on this occasion it’s irresistible. As Johnny Rotten would put it, this motion seeks “to fob people off with a third rate version of reality”.

The starting point when we consider the use of the property entrusted to us by Ratepayers is beneficence. What achieves the most good for the most people?

Anyway you slice it this proposal does not meet this test.

This motion reveals the lack of vision and lunacy of policy consistent with a tired administration.

We hired the right consultants but as always we gave them the wrong brief. Place are a respectable consultancy and we have used them like a drunkard uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination in our ongoing attempt to Bonsai the City of Sydney. I wonder how many people at this chamber read the Consultants report?

Our residents, ratepayers and businesses expect that we are busy making Sydney “future ready”. When our residents visit cities like Singapore with their new Cyber hubs and gleaming retail and residential areas, they must wonder what our plans are to stay competitive and retain high value added industries such as technology, banking and finance.

The seriousness of this should not be understated as this Council demonstrates little ability to make the City future ready.

Every year we continue our slide in the banking and finance centre rankings. We are now one rung above Toronto and in another published last month, just above Buenos Aires.

And what is our response to this?

It is to lease at a peppercorn corn rent, retail space to creative enterprises that make amongst other things $85 pasta dishes and in another skateboard accessories. Singapore is planning a future of high value industry. We are riding skateboards.

Are we seriously telling the people of Sydney that when we face the competitive gale force winds of the world’s financial centres that our response is to offer pasta dishes and skateboards? Is that the really the best we can come up with?

In Committees, all we heard was how successful this peppercorn rental program of some of the world’s finest property was, as the tenants activate the local area by apparently buying sandwiches for lunch from local businesses.

We were all told by Memorandum last December that everything is going well because a Mexican Food Outlet opened up. As we always do, we endeavour to attract skinny support by quoting anecdotal evidence.

Then we endeavour to dress these matters up in metrics, quoting $12,000 a week in aggregate purchases. No one else in this Chamber seems to understand that this amount is mere chump change.

So I asked in Committees whether the City considered the area now activated. They answer was ”Yes”. So why do we persist with this project?

When I reflect on the merits of the business vote legislation this year, proposals such as this leave me in doubt that we did the right thing. This administration is clearly not in touch with the kitchen table concerns of the residents nor is it aware that whether we like it or not, we compete with sophisticated urban cities such as Singapore that have vision and are busy creating cities of the future with real industry, good quality residential, commercial and retail development delivered on time.

Edward Mandla
November 2014

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