Parramatta Road information campaign shut down

-->

Originally published: The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 2015.

By Nicole Hasham

EXCLUSIVE

Barbecues were planned, shopping centre stalls were booked and staff were rostered on. But weeks before a massive public information campaign on the reinvention of Parramatta Road was due to kick off, Planning Minister Pru Goward apparently intervened to shut it down.

The mysterious move to scrap plans for a three-month information blitz, comprising 170 events, forced bureaucrats to devise what they termed a "survival strategy" to garner public faith in the project.

It has prompted claims the government is keeping the public in the dark over its plans for the congested Sydney eyesore, which is set to be developed once heavy traffic is diverted to the WestConnex motorway.

It has also emerged that the wrong map is being displayed at one of the few places the public can view the proposal to build 50,000 apartments in eight suburbs - Homebush, Granville, Auburn, Burwood, Taverners Hill, Kings Bay, Camperdown and Leichhardt.

A broad plan for the project, released in November, shows the population along Parramatta Road is set to skyrocket from 18,000 to 69,700 by 2031. Ms Goward said community feedback would be used to devise a more detailed proposal, which will also involve rapid bus routes, transport interchanges and cycle paths.

Internal documents obtained by NSW Labor show that UrbanGrowth NSW, the government's property development arm, had painstakingly planned a three-month information campaign to mount the case for renewal and gather feedback.

It included shopping centre displays, community stalls, barbecues, workshops with councils and community groups, university lectures and an information kit for schools. In one event, 40 staff members would walk the length of Parramatta Road, distributing information and talking to the public.

The documents show staff were rostered on, deposits for venues had been paid and workshop dates were set. However, the events largely did not eventuate.

A document outlining UrbanGrowth NSW's dramatically reduced public engagement plan, entitled "survival strategy", includes just two information sessions, as well as media coverage and letterbox drops.

Labor's planning spokeswoman and Strathfield candidate Jodi McKay said the government wanted to "keep residents and businesses in the dark".

Labor has previously said the plan fails to detail where new schools, childcare centres, parks and playgrounds would be built to support the development.

"Many residents have no idea of the scale of development planned for Parramatta Road … the community must be genuinely informed and have an opportunity to participate in the process in a meaningful way," Ms McKay said.

"It is staggering that a minister would go to so much effort to oppose genuine consultation with the community".

Leichhardt Greens mayor Rochelle Porteous said the information provided was "unacceptable", including a map being shown at an official project display at North Strathfield that shows the WestConnex route running under Parramatta Road. The route has since changed.

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said UrbanGrowth NSW had signed a deal with the council to ensure that the community was consulted on the project and the government "must ensure the community plays an active role in decision-making".

A spokesman for Ms Goward did not address questions on why the consultation plans were scrapped or what deposits were lost, saying only that "extensive consultations are continuing".

He said Sydney has "suffered for too long from a lack of cohesive planning" and communities along Parramatta Road could consider the renewal plans "in the context of the broader metropolitan strategy", which was released in December.

The plan is open for feedback until February 12.

Originally published as: Parramatta Road information campaign shut down