Published November 19, 2014 - Leesha McKenny and Deborah Snow
The state government wants to build 16,000 new homes in Sydney's inner harbour, a figure seized on by critics as proof an upcoming summit on the future of the Bays Precinct is "nothing more than a sham".
Treasurer Andrew Constance revealed the target for the first time on Tuesday, contrary to statements by the government agency driving the redevelopment which last week said it had no housing target for the 80-hectare precinct stretching from White Bay through to the Sydney Fish Market.
"The Bays Precinct Urban Renewal is expected to create approximately 16,000 dwellings for the state," Mr Constance told a curtain-raiser for this week's international summit on the future of the precinct.
But five days ago, UrbanGrowth's chief executive David Pitchford told Fairfax Media no such detail would be determined until after plans for the area were finalised in July-August next year.
"We have no dedicated target or yield for Bays Precinct and nor do we have for any of our other projects yet, and we won't have until such time as we work out what the strategic plan is," Mr Pitchford said on Thursday.
Project planning for what will be the largest single urban renewal program since the Sydney Olympics is due to start in September 2015.
Premier Mike Baird has likened the area to an "urban wasteland" four times the size of Barangaroo.
Mr Constance told Tuesday's event the Bays redevelopment "provides the opportunity for the community to benefit from the revitalisation of world-class locations that have been neglected for too long".
The Treasurer nominated a continous foreshore walk as one of the project's objectives, and "where appropriate, new larger waterfront open spaces".
But developments like the Bays Precinct "need to make economic and financial sense in their own right," Mr Constance said.
"It is essential that UrbanGrowth captures a fair return on the value of the Government's land assets and commensurate with their development potential," he said.
The proposed 16,000 figure redevelopment would dwarf that already underway in the area. Mirvac's Harold Park project near Glebe features 1250 new homes.
Leichhardt's mayor Rochelle Porteous branded the summit due to start on Wednesday as "nothing more than a sham" in light of Mr Constance's housing figure, which she said revealed that the government was only prepared to listen to developers.
"If they are going to build 16,000 new dwellings you are not going to have much room for anyting else, are you?" she said.
Greens MP Jamie Parker said the treasurer "has exposed the Government's intention to hoodwink the community with bogus consultation".
Labor's planning spokesman Luke Foley said he was not opposed to residential development in the precinct, but the public interest should be the government's central objective "not simply commercial gain".
"The future of the Bays precinct should be about more than just housing targets," Mr Foley said.
Mr Constance also revealed the task of developing land on Sydney's fringe would in future be left to the private sector, with UrbanGrowth to phase out its work in greenfield areas by the end of next year.
"This Government has formed the view that the market can deal effectively with greenfield and retail property development," Mr Constance said.
"The primary role of UrbanGrowth is to lead development of key urban renewal site[s] such as the Bays precinct."
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