The Guardian February 19, 2003


Carr Government's harbour plan under fire

by Peter Mac

A fortnight before the state elections the NSW Government has launched its 
Integrated Land and Water Access Plan concerning public access to Sydney 
Harbour.

The plan proposes welcome innovations such as cycleways and boat ramps. 
However, it does not adequately address major issues such as the public use 
of North Head. This stunning gateway to Sydney Harbour includes the former 
School of Artillery and the Australian Artillery Museum (which are 
currently being transferred from Commonwealth to state ownership). The 
other areas, including the former Quarantine Station, the Sydney water 
treatment works, and the natural areas with their magnificent lookouts and 
beautiful small beaches, are all state-owned.

The National Trust, the Friends of Quarantine Station, Defenders of Public 
Land and other community groups have called for integrated planning for the 
use of this wonderful headland and the conservation of its unique wildlife 
and architecture.

Unfortunately, this approach was compromised several years ago by the Carr 
Government's proposed lease of the Quarantine Station to a hotel chain for 
adaptation as a swanky resort, with minimal public access.

Despite overwhelming public opposition, a Commission of Inquiry last year 
concluded that this proposal could go ahead, but imposed conditions that 
severely limit the lease term and the proposal's economic attractiveness.

It is possible that the deal could fall through, but if so it will not be 
because of the Carr Government, which has doggedly defended the proposal.

The Quarantine Station debacle wasn't the Government's only appalling 
planning decision.

They tried (and failed) to flog off a prime chunk of the old Callan Park 
(Balmain Hospital) foreshore site several years ago, and last year again 
proposed selling 10 percent of it.

Public opposition again forced them into ignominious backdown, and with a 
state election looming they're now loudly championing the cause of public 
use of public lands!

The new plan also offers little regarding the key issue of public transport 
to harbour sites. NSW Greens parliamentarian Ian Cohen noted that the Plan 
"offers no relief to those wishing to connect with the Sydney Harbour 
foreshore from the outer west, south-west and northern beaches. (They) are 
deprived of an efficient public transport system, particularly a rail 
system to the northern beaches.."

A northern beaches railway system has been discussed for decades, but the 
Government has only offered a widening of the bottleneck at Spit bridge as 
an election sweetener. The Liberals, not to be outdone, have proposed 
building a tunnel from Cammeray to Balgowlah  a huge project  but 
again, to carry motor vehicles only!

Ian Cohen remarked: "Sydney Harbour foreshores are among the most beautiful 
and remarkable in the world. Everyone should have the chance to access it 
and this will only be possible if the state government commits to a range 
of public transport options."

Regarding public comments on the draft plan, he added: "this is the chance 
to let the government know, as a majority voice, what is really needed to 
make this city a great one to live in."

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