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City seeks volunteers to help count the homeless Featured

PARRAMATTA City Council (PCC) will conduct its annual homeless street count on the night of Monday, February 25 and early hours of Tuesday February 26, from 11.30pm-2:30am, to better understand and address the issue of homelessness.

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Lord Mayor, John Chedid on Parramatta River in a row boat. Featured

PARRAMATTA Lord Mayor, Councillor John Chedid has brought back row boats to Parramatta River – the first time they have been seen on this part of the River since early colonial days.

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Sientists electrofishing in Parramatta River. Featured

BARRAMUNDI, a fish native to northern parts of Australia, have been found in Parramatta River, upstream of the Charles Street Weir, a recent survey, commissioned by Parramatta City Council has found.

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SHELL’S Clyde Refinery, the longest operating oil refinery in Australia, having been built in the early 1920s and operated by Shell since 1928, on the Camellia peninsula, has ceased refining operations.

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Chris Brown. Featured

By Mike Walls

AS the founding chairman of the newly created Parramatta Partnership Forum by Parramatta City Council Chris Brown has a mandate to engage big business to bolster the reputation and opportunities of Parramatta.

While his Council brief is Parramatta centric, Chris Brown has the entire Western Sydney region in his sights. He sees Parramatta as the gateway to the region’s prosperity and promotes a policy of inclusion with the LGAs that make up the Western Sydney region.

Top of his list for regional initiatives is the development of a second Sydney airport to be located at either Badgerys Creek or Richmond, or a combination of both.

Chris Brown spoke exclusively with WSBA editor, Mike Walls and shared his thoughts and views on the development of the region.

Thoughts of Chairman Brown

Western Sydney needs and deserves an airport

• West at risk of becoming largest dormitory suburb on earth

• UWS should be renamed Whitlam University

• GWS Giants need to rethink their purpose

• West rugby league support facing challenges

• Next federal election to be decided in Western Sydney

WSBA: Greater Western Sydney is a diverse region. Do you subscribe to the view that regional tribalism is a block to progress?

Chris: Look, I don’t think the debate benefits by doing hierarchies of western Sydney. Parramatta has a leadership role to play. It has to, in some ways, be a better brother to some of its fellow cities in western Sydney. The whole push towards Parramatta’s growth isn’t about subjugating Penrith or Liverpool or Blacktown or Campbelltown or Castle Hill. It’s about a hub-and-spoke approach. It’s about western Sydney needing a focus. Parramatta is a logical hub. But it’s also a gateway. It’s also at the eastern edge of western Sydney. It’s a gateway to western Sydney. So I think we have in Parramatta, avoided this fight of it’s me or it’s me or it’s me. It’s all of us against the entrenched situation of jobs don’t matter unless they’re not in Martin Place mindset. Our future isn’t tied to the golden mile of George Street and Pitt Street. If we don’t do something it becomes the biggest dormitory suburb on earth. And I don’t think anybody wants to see western Sydney as some baby factory for the office blocks of the east. Everything is so entrenched around the Sydney CBD – every rail track, every bit of tarmac, every job, every investment, every theatre, every whatever. And so we have to be proactive to change that. It’s not revolution, but it’s certainly an aggressive evolution.

WSBA: So it starts at Parramatta and spreads?

Chris: You have the opportunity, say, in Parramatta, to be the best of both worlds. With the potential Rydalmere redevelopment, you could have the world’s best business park there – a hi-tech business park – on the absolute fringe of the CBD. UWS is a classic example. To have UWS in some downtown space, just adds vibrancy. The great cities of the world are university cities. Look at what’s at Wellington, on our doorstep. Venice is a wonderful university city; beautiful, dynamic, bright students roaming the streets, adding to the intrinsic value of the place and its attractiveness. Parramatta could be the best of both worlds.

WSBA: Is it possible to brand the Western Sydney region?

Chris: I think you can’t brand Western Sydney. I think Parramatta can brand itself. I think Penrith can and has branded itself; it’s hard to brand western Sydney and GWS (Giants) is struggling with that as well. I don’t think you need to. I think cities brand themselves. I don’t know that regions are brands, as such.

WSBA: In what sense are the GWS Giants struggling?

Chris: I’m a little biased, because I’m a league man to my bootstrap. I’m an Eels fan. If they’re Greater Western Sydney, why are they all living at Cabarita? Why are they all playing at Cabarita? Let me tell you, it’s a long time since anybody in Penrith’s considered Cabarita to be of the west. I say good luck to them – live where they like – but they made a lot of noise about we’re coming to the west. We’re going to be the voice and the face of the west. Well, they bolted. They didn’t like going to Blacktown. They said, enough of this, we’re not hanging around here. We’re bolting back to the safety of Cabarita. Well, good luck to you. Everyone makes the decision. But about time they changed their name, isn’t it? Maybe the Inner West Giants.

WSBA: We come back again to the branding issue.

Chris: Well, Parramatta’s brand isn’t the capital of western Sydney. Parramatta’s brand is the centre of Sydney. This is the heart of Sydney – its geographic, its demographic, its cultural, beating heart. This is the very heart of Sydney. I’m sick of what people call Sydney. They think it’s, you know, the five-square miles from Balmain to Bondi. It’s not. Parramatta is the very heart of Sydney. When I joined the Board of UWS the first thing I said was, I’m going to let you know, guys, I’m happy to serve. I’m delighted you invited me to join but I won’t rest until we rename this thing Whitlam University.

WSBA: Did Parramatta Council approach you to set up the Parramatta Partnership Forum?

Chris: I’ve been asked just to bring the group together as Interim Chairman. I’ll do that and our first meeting’s in November, and that will set an agenda of where we go from there, and then the whole new world for next year. I think that was appropriate. I mean, that is just an absolute cracking list, and that just pays tribute to western Sydney, to Parramatta, to the potential that’s there. Most of those people don’t have any intrinsic connection; they’re not, you know, like me, a good old Parramatta boy.

WSBA: What value of the forum in a practical sense?

Chris: I see the individual human capacity in the people involved. So, I want to tap into the intelligence, the commitment, the experience of those people. Plus, work with so many others. And we’ve particularly got four or five associations represented by their CEO there. There’s a multiplier effect; suddenly you’re accessing all of the membership of all of those organisations.

WSBA: To do what?

Chris: To, one, sell a message and to listen. You know, the first thing we’ve got to do is listen – what do people want, what is our future? We’re not a lobby group we’re setting up. We will be a business partner to the Council, to give it advice on strategy. If you get enough talent around the table – and there’s plenty of it – then I think that will just go with its own life, which is great. And I’ve got to pay credit to the Council. It’s easy for all of us – and I’ve done plenty of it, bagged governments over being gutless weasels and all that sort of stuff. We all whinge about governments; well a government that had the balls to go out and say, we’re going to get a group of people in who we’re not going control, but we’re going to work with them and ask them, and get their advice.

WSBA: Do you think we have too much local government control in the region?

Chris: I wouldn’t make a case about western Sydney; I’d make a case about Sydney.  Anyone will tell you that having 45-plus local government areas in greater Sydney isn’t an appropriate governance structure. I defy any human being to say, look, if we were designing it now, let’s go with 45 of them. I am a great believer in scale. I think that benefits come with scale. I want a scale like the Gold Coast, where you can go and build a light rail system for the Gold Coast on its own. I want scale that provides talent and opportunity.

WSBA: Is there a role for say, a Western Sydney Economic Development Authority? 

Chris: Yeah, look, we had one. I think I used to be involved with it years and years ago. With all due respect to the people involved, I don’t know the world changed as a result of it. I think what we need is those modern business partnerships, things like the Forum, who will spark innovation and ideas. We need governments facilitating private investment.

WSBA: Is that really going to happen?

Chris: Well, who would’ve thought this would have happened? We’ve got a council that’s taken control of its brand, it decides it needs a brand and who has the courage to say, we’re not going to sit back and just get scraps off the CBD table the rest of our life. We’re going to step up as the heart of Sydney, work with all of our partners across WSROC, with Parramatta as the partnership builder with other councils. The light rail program has seven or eight councils involved as partners in the project. What we ought to be talking about is the right provision of infrastructure that allows people to access jobs, education and recreation in Parramatta, the right planning settings. Why is there a CSPC – a Central Sydney Planning Committee – for Sydney, and not for Parramatta? Why do we have the old LEP? The Local Planning Act for Parramatta is the same as they have in Merrylands, or Hornsby, or anywhere else. Parramatta has ascended to another level. I mean, I studied all the State Government’s transport blueprint, and Parramatta, for the first time, was identified as part of the global city. If we look at the developments of say North Sydney’s it’s a bit of an artificial construct. You want to avoid that. You want to avoid an antiseptic city because it’s not authentic.

WSBA: Some groups have said that the Premier has failed to adequately address his Minister for Western Sydney portfolio. What’s your view on that?

Chris: It’ll be the first group ever who said we want less Premier attention. I don’t subscribe to that. I want to help all of the local MPs in the area to stand up. We’re in this Government, you know, in the new Liberal enclave that is western Sydney. I want them to stand up and be as loud and proud as they can be. But I would never sign onto the fact, well, let’s give the Premier up as Mr Western Sydney. I fought too hard to get him to take the role.

WSBA: Do you think that the Liberal domination at council level in western Sydney is a good thing for the region?

Chris: I am apolitical in this, but I just want to see the partnerships. I want to see people able to work with the State Government and with the Federal Government. The sweep across western Sydney showed that there is a changing dynamic in western Sydney and to their credit, the Liberals tapped into it. I’m halfway through a major project for the rugby league. There’s an argument there that there used to be two great institutions in western Sydney – the Labor Party and NRL. One literally got its arse kicked, from hell to high water across the region, because it wasn’t listening. It was taking the place for granted, because it didn’t deliver. Rugby league is in danger of the same thing.

WSBA: That’s a big call. Rugby league is embedded in this region.

Chris: Andrew Demetriou was Barry O’Farrell. He came along when people weren’t looking, spoke their language, made them feel part of it, and they got his tick. Rugby league’s fighting back. I’m yet to see Labor fight back. It wouldn’t need any sense of panic. You’ve got four great clubs. But, reality was rugby league as a code is taking the area for granted a little bit too much. The new Commission has stopped the rot. They are well and truly investing out there.

WSBA: What are your views on the Federal political environment as it affects this region?

Chris: The problem is, this area was taken for granted by one side of politics for a long time. Politicians get lazy. Like all of us they get tired and they take things for granted. We all do. And they took a region for granted. What we want in western Sydney is a good, vibrant political debate, so that we’re not left behind. The next Federal election will be decided in western Sydney, as the last one was. If Labor falls in western Sydney, there’ll be a Liberal Federal Government. So this is the battleground for the next Federal election. 

WSBA: If you were Minister for Western Sydney what would be your priorities?

Chris: The first one would be mechanism. Something like a Macquarie Commission – something that brings together the important stakeholders, and not some five-year long review looking up our own jumpers. Lock five smart people in a room for three months and then say, right, what is the solution? And a mechanism of how each level of government can play its role. What are the predominant infrastructure requirements? You know, a bit of a gap analysis. That Committee reports back in three months to the Premier and to the Prime Minister, to get something done. Number two we must have an airport. I can’t speak on behalf of the Council but I do speak on just having spent two years of my life reviewing that issue. And no matter where it is, we cannot say to two million – and soon four million people - you don’t get an airport. Hobart has one with what 50 people in it? We’re bigger than Adelaide. They’ve got an airport. Why shouldn’t we have an airport? Why should we say to our children: you don’t get access to the export-ready jobs.

WSBA: Where would you put the airport?

Chris: We did a report that showed you put it at Badgerys Creek, but I favour a mix of Badgerys and Richmond. I think you need both. We have to bite the bullet, bring the airport in, because airports bring smart jobs. This community deserves smart jobs. This community can’t be told, oh, I’m sorry, if you don’t go to a fancy private school in the eastern suburbs, you don’t get a smart job. Well, bugger that. I’ve had enough of that. It’s time for us to step into the 21st century, engage with the global market, and there’s only way to do, and that’s through an airport.

WSBA: When would you build it?

Chris: As soon as humanly possible. You build it at a time that matches. Sydney Airport’s got a bit of capacity yet. These things take a long time to build. You build it as a slow rollout to meet demand, so that it makes it viable. You have to have land transport links. How did we get all of the great sporting facilities we’ve got?  We hosted an Olympic Games. How does western Sydney get the land transport link it needs? It builds an airport.

WSBA: What should our regional aspirations look like?

Chris: We could cure cancer at Westmead; we could, at UWS, get a Nobel Prize. I mean, these are the things that we should aspire to. We should, as western Sydney, host a Commonwealth Games. I mean, let’s stop being held back by history. Let’s unburden the future because we have to change thinking. If we think ourselves we can do it, we’ll do it. If we get governments to deliver the infrastructure, then we have our role to do – to create jobs, create amenity, create brands, and nurture brands. The centre of Sydney’s pretty much - I’m not saying its best days are behind it, but it’s got a glorious past. Ours is an unbridled future. So that’s the challenge. Who should rise to the challenge? Everybody; every single person in western Sydney should rise to the challenge and say how can I play a part?

About Chris Brown

Christopher Brown is the interim chairman of the Parramatta Partnership Forum. He has led the national lobby group, the Tourism & Transport Forum since 1992, is founder and deputy chairman, of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and established the Australian Cities Roundtable. An adjunct professor at the UTS Business School, he is a member of the NSW Transport Blueprint Panel, the joint Federal/State Commission on Sydney's Future Aviation Capacity and the Commonwealth Advisory Panel on Heritage. He is a founding director of the Greater Sydney Partnership Ltd and chaired the NSW Ministerial Taskforce on Tourism, Investment & Planning. 

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By Geoff Lee

State Member for Parramatta

AT the State of the Region address Premier Barry O'Farrell gave the 'green light' for a Parramatta Heritage Precinct Master Plan.

This will incorporate the major public owned historic assets in Parramatta - a move that will see preservation of the area’s heritage assets and an expected injection of an estimated $1 billion into the precinct.

Parramatta's heritage assets include: Parramatta Gaol; Parramatta Stadium; Old King's School; The Parramatta Female Factory; Parramatta Girls Home; The Old Roman Catholic Orphanage and other buildings on the Cumberland Hospital site. This is the largest and most notable group of early colonial and European settlement structures. 

Collectively the sites are unparalleled and differentiate Parramatta as a significant tourism destination for both local and overseas visitors.  This will be achieved by opening up the public areas for boardwalks, cafes, restaurants, social and cultural hubs.

Covering over 90 acres the master plan needs to consider the appropriate residential, commercial and mixed-use development of the precinct.

In this way it will create thousands of jobs during the construction phase, and importantly breathe new life into publicly owned sites in Parramatta.

In keeping with the NSW Government's firm commitment to fiscal responsibility the Heritage Master Plan must deliver a cost neutral solution. For long term sustainability, the restoration and refurbishment of these assets must be offset by a viable "adaptive re-use model".

This is a major initiative for Western Sydney and employers should participate in the consultation process to optimise the benefits for their businesses.

The potential advantages for businesses are many. A vibrant cultural and social hub will help businesses attract and retain high quality staff.

Turning the precinct into a major tourism attraction will draw in a significant number of tourists and provide a much needed boost to the bottom lines of many local businesses.

Finally, an adaptive reuse model will also open up significant potential investment opportunities for enterprising businesses.

We must however avoid the pitfalls of the past. For decades these assets have been under-utilised. The first step, after years of neglect and indifference is to address the situation that has left us with far too many rundown and underutilised buildings.

Parramatta can ill-afford to discourage investment and development of surrounding sites. We need to find the right solutions for today's economic challenges and remove barriers that limit opportunity through over regulation.

For as long as I can remember, politicians on all sides have been proponents of preserving Parramatta's historic assets – particularly around election time. Development is not, in my view in conflict with those who want to preserve the sites and open them up for public access.

Since coming to power last year I have actively advocated for a Master Plan that can marry the requirements of economic sustainability, public access and preservation. This can be delivered for the people of Parramatta and NSW providing there is political will and community and business support.

We need to broaden our vision for Parramatta and its unique attributes. The potential is enormous. Unlocking the economic potential is the best prospect for preservation, sustainability and access.

This is a significant win for Western Sydney and will make a solid contribution to the continued the economic development of Sydney’s second CBD, while ensuring our heritage assets are rejuvenated and protected.

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Premier Barry O'Farrell ckecks his notes at the recent State of The Region address. Featured

By Red Dwyer

BARRY O’Farrell passed up the opportunity to impress a captive audience with his grasp of the significance Western Sydney, domestically and internationally recently.

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Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) covers the business and community issues of the Greater Western Sydney region of Australia. WSBA is the popular media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities and networks.