Let's be open and honest with community engagement

Road map: Georges River Council is hosting workshops with the community where they will have the opportunity to share their vision for the future. Picture: GRC Facebook
Road map: Georges River Council is hosting workshops with the community where they will have the opportunity to share their vision for the future. Picture: GRC Facebook

My wife and I recently attended a meeting held at our local library (South Hurstville) organised by Georges River Council ostensibly to discuss ‘‘zoning changes, building heights, housing types, land use, infrastructure and how these issues may affect the community’’.

However, it became apparent that the meeting was really about the fact that many areas that are presently zoned low density or R2 would soon be rezoned medium density or R3 and more alarmingly possibly high density or R4.

I understand that densities have to be increased to accommodate the growing population of Sydney, but why introduce this issue under the guise of a general discussion on (and this was spelt out in the pamphlet I received) housing, public spaces, mobility and the environment?

At the meeting it was all about housing. Public spaces, mobility and the environment were touched on but it was housing that had the focus.

Looking at the information supplied at the meeting it was obvious that the main thrust was on getting those attending to be prepared for not only increased densities but also increased building heights and quite possibly in areas where previously it had been mostly low density.

The important issue of infrastructure barely got a mention and yet we all know that increasing densities will place enormous pressure on existing infrastructure which was designed for a low density environment.

At the meeting it was all about housing and it seemed to me the bigger the higher the better. 

In the introductory pamphlet under the heading public spaces the question was asked ‘‘what should our town centres contain?’’

Well what they do contain whether we like it or not is lots of shops, offices and of course high rise apartment blocks.

A small nod has been given to public space in the form of a somewhat uninviting square of concrete slabs which at the moment allows people to walk through from crofts avenue to forest road no one seems to linger there.

Under the heading mobility the question was asked ‘‘what transport options do our communities need?’’.

I should have thought the answer to that is blindingly obvious. Stuff that takes us where we want to go.

And under the heading environment the question was posed ‘‘how can we connect our green spaces and our community hubs?’’ 

Well if you can find any of the rapidly dwindling green spaces I would suggest a well placed map of the town showing where they are.

So let’s get real about what is going to happen over the next 20 years. In all the commercial centres high-rise aparment blocks will be the go -regardless of how they look or what impact they might have on the surrounding area.

If Georges River Council genuinely wish to engage the community in the future planning of this area, and I believe they do, then let’s have an open and honest discussion about all the aspects which may impact on the community.

It’s understood that the state government brings pressure to bear on local government regarding increased densities but their agenda I would suggest is quite different to that of local government. 

Georges River Council has direct interface with its community and I don’t think council would want to be seen as riding rough-shod over the feelings and aspirations of the good folk who live in this area.

The series of meetings planned over the next two weeks between council and the community could, with goodwill on both sides, produce some genuinely worthwhile outcomes. 

So let’s aim for that and avoid clouding important issues with conflicting agendas.

Don Skinner, South Hurstville