We've kept you in the dark, now tell us what you think!

By the time you read this, you’ll have just a few days left to get your submission to the State Government on what you think of its plans to redevelop the Parramatta Road.

It’s a multibillion-dollar, 20-year project that affects 60,000 people. So you’d better get it right.

Where, for instance, should population density be greatest? In which suburbs should housing blocks tower over the community? Where should the schools go? The childcare centres? The transport hubs and hospitals?

Of course, the State’s planners have had years to work this out. But they’ve given you
just eight weeks. Oh, and you’ve only got half the information because the transport plans aren’t yet public.

The consultation exercise ends on 12 February. Good luck!

Not to worry. There’s a friendly official at the North Strathfield shop front to help run you through the issues. Didn’t know it was there? Nor did we. 

You see, the advertising campaign that was supposed to accompany this exercise in public consultation was cancelled. No one is quite sure why.

There would have been barbecues and information nights. A 40-man team was going to walk the length of the Parramatta Road calling in at schools and community centres armed with leaflets and asking for your thoughts.

According to State Labor, which won the right to view hundreds of emails and letters on the subject, the body charged with recreating the Parramatta Road from Hell Highway to Paradise Boulevard planned a textbook consultation exercise. But suddenly, it was axed.

Strathfield’s State Labor candidate and shadow planning minister Jodi McKay blames Planning Minister Pru Goward.

“UrbanGrowth had planned 170 activities over three months, but almost all of these were cancelled at the stroke of the Minister’s pen,” she said.

“The agency had even planned for a team of 40 members to walk the entire length of Parramatta Road to tell residents and businesses about the Government’s plans to redevelop their community.

“The Minister’s own agency – UrbanGrowth – delivered a rigorous and comprehensive plan to inform the public of this large-scale project, but Pru Goward’s clear intent is to keep residents and businesses in the dark over her plans for Parramatta Road.”

There are two public meetings – one at Granville last month, and the other at Ashfield on 7 February. Strangely, there is not one planned for Homebush – which everyone concedes is bearing the brunt of the plan to repopulate the road thanks to its proximity to three rail stations. Yet initially there was.

The Scenerevealed in November that an information barbecue had been scratched after UrbanGrowth pulled advertising to residents.

The details available for residents attending the two meetings or sending in submissions is – you’ve guessed it – available on a website.

It’s pretty slick – reminiscent of those glossy real estate pamphlets that tell you a 12-storey block fronting a car yard is going to “redefine luxury”. Big on sell, light on fact.Strathfield Council has sent out a leaflet – so at least someone is ensuring we know what’s going on. And Ms Goward gave the Scenean interview last December warning that we’d better get our submissions to her quick smart.

“Growth is coming and there is a WestConnex,” she said. “There will be developers eyeing off that land for all sorts of opportunities. If the community doesn’t say, ‘This is what we would like done’, then they will end up living in a community that doesn’t reflect their interests.”

That’s fine. Except it is hard for the community to say, “This is what we want” when not all the information is available to make a judgment call.

There have been briefings. You, dear reader, just weren’t invited.

Charles Casuscelli admits he’d been informed about the consultation exercise, and as far as he is concerned it is taking place exactly as he was told it would. Strathfield Councillors and managers were also briefed. But they were “sworn to secrecy”.

Mr Casuscelli told the Scenethis week: “Consultation is going ahead in the way I was told it would. We’ve said all along that we have a strategy and we want residents’ comments before we turn it into a plan.”

Public consultation is an incredibly important part of the democratic process. Strathfield has been consulted on a number of occasions recently, but not always to good effect.

Our Local Environmental Plan involved enormous public consultation. The State Government overturned many of its most important parts, including those that recommended public recreational space at
the Enfield Intermodal Centre.

A special meeting of the Planning Assessment Committee heard from 200 residents opposed to the expansion of the Australian Catholic University, complimented them on their arguments and ruled in their favour. The appeal court last month tossed out their ruling.

And, of course, in the case of council amalgamation, a poll of residents last year showed 70 per cent were against merging Strathfield to produce a mega-council of 400,000 people.

Yet the State Government has now asked councils to prove they are “Fit for the Future”, whether their residents want them to stay or not.

So if people are starting to feel their views are not being heard, those who keep asking questions then ignoring the answers only have themselves to blame.

Next month, there is another consultation exercise in the form of the State Election.
At least this is one poll no-one can ignore.


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