The public consultation on the Six Cities Region Discussion Paper has been a political sham, lacking substance and devoid of any real community engagement, according to the Community Environment Network (CEN).
“The CEN has today written to the Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport and the Chief Commissioner for the Six Cities Region with a simple question ‘what’s the rush?’,” said CEN’s Chair, Mr Gary Chestnut.
“The discussion paper may only be 68 pages long, but it is the absence of detail on how this ‘vision’ for a mega city stretching from the Illawarra to the Hunter will deliver on its promise of ‘local liveability’ that has many in the community scratching their heads,” Mr Chestnut said.
“It’s an attractive document but the Minister for Infrastructure, Cities and Active Transport, Mr Rob Stokes, surely won’t be comfortable with the incredibly low level of community engagement demonstrated by the live statistics on greatercities.au and the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website (https://www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/six-cities).
“The discussion paper consultation period is due to end on October 30, which is only five days away. However, there are less than 60 comments on the 94 ideas included on the “brainstorming” page, which can hardly be considered adequate community consultation from a population of six million.
“The document and website promise more consultation following the release of plans for each city, but this process already feels like a run-away train and the community has been left standing at the station.”
Mr Chestnut said that “reading between the lines” the Six Cities Region is about the NSW Government overpowering local communities, local councils and local development controls to “shoehorn in enough new housing for an additional two million people, along a climate-impacted coastline by 2040”.
“The discussion paper acknowledges the risks and reality of the climate crisis including heat waves, bushfires and floods but offers very few solutions.
“It is silent on some very real issues already confronting the regions the NSW Government is now calling its Six Cities – sea level rise, coastal erosion and species extinction due to habitat loss from land clearing.
“This silence is an indicator that the Six Cities strategy completely lacks common sense, which may be why Minister Stokes and Chief Commissioner Geoff Roberts have opted for such low-key consultation on the discussion paper.
“Perhaps they are more worried about their developer mates and political donors than about the quality of life for those living in these new ‘cities’.
“We have been told the Six Cities Region strategy has bipartisan support and will remain in place if there is a change of government in NSW in March 2023. Surely if both the Perrottet Government and the Minns Opposition have both predetermined that the Six Cities strategy will be the future for six million people, the current government should take its time and consult properly.”
CEN has written to both Minister Stokes and Chief Commissioner Roberts asking for the consultation on the discussion paper to run until the government moves into caretaker mode prior to the March election and for each of the six City Commissioners to hold public workshops, drop in sessions and webinars on the discussion paper to ensure as many people are able to comment as possible.