GREAT WALL OF SYDNEY
The development dividing line between east and west
SYDNEY has been split by a great housing divide, with the congested west forced to suffer the construction of thousands of new homes and towering unit blocks while the wealthy east and north shore remain relatively untouched.
The disproportionate burden of development shouldered by Western Sydney has been revealed in a council breakdown of residential building approval figures — and is rapidly becoming a major political issue.
The figures show that Parramatta signed off on 2305 applications for houses or units in just five months to November 2018 while Mosman had just seven.
Over the same period Blacktown ticked off 2159 building approvals, The Hills dealt with 1230 and Liverpool and Camden had more than 1000 each.
In stark comparison, there were just 18 in Hunters Hill and 105 in North Sydney while Woollahra and Waverley in the eastern suburbs had just 168 and 138 respectively showing the extent to which they have been insulated from Sydney’s growing pains.
As mushrooming apartment towers transform previously sleepy suburban hubs to the fury of local residents, Liberal MPs are now protesting to their own government.
Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons has taken her fight to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, asking for a moratorium on high-rise development in Moorebank. He refused because land was zoned for such a purpose.
Oatley MP Mark Coure this week took to social media to post “Stop Over Development” because of a nine-storey apartment block at Narwee in his seat of Oatley.
They followed Finance Minister Victor Dominello who successfully petitioned Premier Gladys Berejiklian to put the brakes on development in Ryde amid fears he could lose his seat at the election because of public anger.
Dubbed a “developers’ Disneyland”, Ryde had been lumped with an extra 13,000 residents in five years. In December the Premier ordered the Greater Sydney Commission to review Ryde City Council’s town plan.
The commission’s fiveyear housing targets pushing councils to build thousands of properties by 2021 are fuelling the development problem.
Western Sydney suburbs are bearing the brunt of the targets with Parramatta racing to build 21,650 homes while Blacktown must add 13,950, Camden 11,800 and Liverpool 8250. Areas outside of the eastern suburbs have nine of the top 10 targets for new homes by 2021.
But wealthier suburbs have the lowest targets. The target for Hunters Hill is 150, Mosman 300 and Woollahra 300.
The great divide has become a political battleground with Labor accusing the government of treating the west with contempt.
“The Premier and her Planning Minister love to play favourites and nowhere is it clearer than in the dwelling targets,” shadow planning
minister Tania Mihailuk said.
“Sydney under the Liberals is a tale of two cities when it comes to the rate of development and it’s grossly unfair.”
Ms Mihailuk criticised the government for “politicising” planning, saying the Premier halted development where it suited but allowed rampant construction elsewhere.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said Labor’s plan was bad news for Sydney because it would make homes more expensive and hit jobs in the construction industry.
“Careful planning based on all the evidence will be cast aside because Labor wants to bring back unplanned chaos,” Mr Roberts said. “The only planning policy Labor has is not to have a planning policy. When Michael Daley was Shadow Minister for Planning for almost three years he didn’t release a single policy.”
Mr Roberts said councils’ Local Environmental Plans guided their planning decisions and were “used to ensure local development is done appropriately”.
But he said it was no secret new migrants were attracted to Australia’s big cities, which has placed pressure on Sydney and Melbourne.
Sydney’s population is forecast to grow by 2.5 million people to 7.5 million by 2046.
Last year new laws were introduced requiring councils to obtain the support of the Greater Sydney Commission for any local strategic planning statement. The commission was also given new powers to request information from councils.
Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller said the west was bearing the burden of Sydney’s growth “which needed to happen in the right places”.
“We are doing the heavy lifting in the west,” Ms Waller said. “What we ask for is the investment in infrastructure to support growth.”
She said there were new residential apartments in the Liverpool CBD, close to transport and jobs, as well as continuing demand for housing in new release areas such as Edmondson Park and Austral.
Social demographer Mark McCrindle said demand for affordable homes, infrastructure and politics were driving the west’s development.
“Generally speaking those living in the west are people busy living, paying off their mortgages, who are less politically tied compared to the connected, well-informed parts of eastern Sydney that are able to lobby for policies that suit them,” he said.
“People in the eastern suburbs already have access to good schools and shops for 50 years and have nothing else to gain from development so they are trying to preserve what they have.”
North Ryde couple Ryan and Nicole Gooch are worried at the prospect their house could be impacted by towers.
“It’s gone crazy with development in the past two, three years,” Mr Gooch said.
They frequently attend a park on Halifax Road that is surrounded by unit blocks.
“Our place is on the other side of the road (from the park) and we hope they don’t built (high-rise) there that will overshadow our property.”
Ryan and Nicole Gooch, of North Ryde, pictured with their son Harper, are worried about the impact of high-rise units. Picture: David Swift