Clean Up Victoria Street

(Rex Centre, Kings Cross)

Hello, everyone. I’d like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

We’re here tonight to talk about Victoria Street issues and problems including back packer vehicle sales, and also problems with rubbish and rats.

The Clean Up Victoria Street Working Party has been discussing these issues with staff at the City, and I want to update you this evening about some of the steps we’ve taken to respond to your concerns.

I have been working as Lord Mayor and State MP to get a solution to these problems. I know it is affecting your amenity and parking availability for you, your visitors and customers.

Backpacker Vehicles
Rangers have significantly increased their presence and in the last three months spent 1056 hours enforcing parking restrictions in Victoria Street. They have ‘valve stemmed’ more than 14,000 vehicles, issued 1251 penalty notices, 302 of these to suspected backpacker vehicles. Since August last year, 33 vehicles have been towed.

Dealing with the backpackers is a real challenge. Their vehicles are usually parked legally, the owners stay close to their vehicles and if they see the rangers, they move their vehicle to another parking space across the road. Unlike community land, parks and beaches, rangers can’t stop people from selling their cars on the street and, as long as drivers obey parking restrictions it is difficult for Council to take action.

I have repeatedly requested changes to the Local Government Act to allow Councils to prohibit the sale of vehicles on public roads.

I have repeatedly asked the State Government to change the legislation and have written to the former and current Minister for Local Government, Premier and Minister for Roads and Ports asking for change in legislation to enable us to stop the sale of backpacker vehicles on local roads.

Last Thursday I asked the Minister for Local Government a question on notice. Copies of this question are available here tonight.

On 6 May I used a private member’s statement to tell Parliament about the problems caused by these sales.

On 11 May I asked the Premier a question in Parliament requesting he change the legislation so Councils across NSW have a mechanism to deal with this ongoing problem. The Premier pointed to action that other Councils have taken suggesting they have been successful.  I understand their action is either bluff or illegal action or it involves backpacker vehicles parked on Council owned land and not roads.  Councils have more powers there.  I’ll get Garry Harding to talk to you some more about this.

Our staff are also working with the Department of Local Government to ensure that they understand exactly what Council’s powers are to deal with this.

I am preparing a Private Members Bill to ensure Councils have the powers to we need to deal with these problems.

I encourage you again to write/email to the Premier and Minister for Local Government asking for a change in legislation to prevent vehicle sales on local streets.

Following requests at the first community meeting, the City consulted locally about the possibility of introducing metered parking in Victoria Street to deter backpacker vehicles from overstaying. We will not proceed with this proposal due to lack of community support.  However, this severely restricts the action we can take until we get law reform.

At the last meeting you told us that you wanted the Kings Cross car market to be reopened at the Kings Cross Car Park. Garry Harding, Director of City Operations will provide you with more detail on the work the City is doing on this.

Rubbish and Rats
We discovered when we investigated this that our cleansing staff had been so efficient in removing rubbish that it was often gone before the rangers arrived in the street, meaning they had no opportunity to investigate.

Once we realised this was the situation, the cleansing section and the rangers collaborated to investigate unauthorised rubbish dumps.

Our ordinance rangers – who have authority to investigate and issue fines for rubbish dumping, make regular early morning inspections along Victoria Street. They then remain discreetly in the area for about three hours, two or three times a week, in an effort to catch illegal dumpers.

They also go through any rubbish they find in order to try to identify the person responsible.

The ordinance staff visits are in addition to the parking ranger patrols, which spend at least 80 hours a week in Victoria and Brougham Streets.

We have given Jenny Green of the Working Party the 24-hour contact numbers for Garry Harding, our Director of City Operations, for Alan Coleman, Manager of City Rangers, and Simon Anton, Team Leader of the Ordinance Rangers, and we’ve asked her to notify them whenever she sees rubbish dumped which has not yet been inspected.

I’m happy to say that we’ve had no notifications from Jenny over the past four weeks.

Drainage
The major drainage line for Victoria Street is owned by Sydney Water. The City owns the minor pipelines and gully pits, which feed into the main Sydney Water pipe. This means the performance of our system depends on the Sydney Water system.

Last year, our drainage pipes and gully pits were blocked and damaged by tree roots.  Our staff made the needed repairs last October and in December installed additional drainage pits to improve water collection.  Our system now operates at 100 per cent capacity.

We have repeatedly requested that that Sydney Water repairs similar problems affecting its drainage line. They won’t commit to a timeframe and would only say that the work would be listed for a future capital works program.

However, we understand that earlier this month, Sydney Water began some drainage works there and we believe they are clearing the tree root blockages and carrying out a CCTV inspection of the system.

If they find the pipelines, these can be repaired under their maintenance budget and done immediately.

I have asked the Minister to ensure Sydney Water’s line is repaired promptly so that the drainage system can function as it should.

Street Improvements
There are several works being considered by the City which will improve Victoria Street.

Two traffic islands which are currently paved could be landscaped and we will schedule these works in the next three months.

We’re also planning line marking to more clearly define parking and vehicle travel paths in Victoria Street, north of Hughes Street in the next 12 months. I have asked the CEO if we can go ahead with the planned pedestrian crossing near the Kings Cross Station entrance at the same time.

We could also introduce footpath gardens in some locations, mostly at the northern end, but these would need to be supported and maintained by adjoining residents, as happens in other areas. City staff are happy to discuss this with interested residents.

A number of projects are underway in Macleay Street including a new pedestrian crossing and kerb extensions at Macleay Street and Orwell Street, and at Macleay Street and Rockwall Crescent.

At the Challis Avenue junction there will be kerb extensions and a footpath widening in Challis Avenue itself.

Two new pedestrian crossings are also planned at Greenknowe Avenue and Challis Avenue in our 2011-12 program.

Victoria Street Kirketon Road Centre
The State Government has lodged a DA for the use of an existing building as a clinic and offices for the Kirketon Road Centre. This will be a nurse led clinic for high risk sex workers which will provide women’s health checks and testing for STDs.  Clients will also be able access sterile injecting and safe disposal equipment but this is not the primary purpose. It is proposed to operate between 1.30pm and 10.00pm, Mondays to Sundays.

They will also provide a security guard on afternoons when St Vincents College students are going home past the site. 

They plan to review the Clinic in 12 months and reconsider its operations if there are problems.

Approximately 200 submissions were received, about 30 in support and a large number from parents and associates of St Vincents College.

This DA is a Crown DA, which means Council cannot refuse it without approval of the Minister. We cannot even attach conditions without the approval of the applicant or the Minister.

Council still has to consider the DA. Staff are preparing a planning report for Council which may be finalised in time for Council’s Planning, Development and Transport Committee for the meeting on 18 July. Council officers will notify everyone who made submissions about when it is coming to Committee.

More news

To read more news from City of Sydney, visit sydneymedia.com.au

To read my speeches to the NSW Parliament, click here.

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Acknowledgement

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I also acknowledge the people of the 200 nationalities who live in the City of Sydney.