OPINION | Wollondilly Council draws line in the sand

Wearing thin: “Trust us, we’re the government” and “Hey, let’s start building homes, and we’ll get onto those other pesky things like jobs, roads, transport and services a bit later on” are two lines that Judy Hannan is a bit suss on.

Wearing thin: “Trust us, we’re the government” and “Hey, let’s start building homes, and we’ll get onto those other pesky things like jobs, roads, transport and services a bit later on” are two lines that Judy Hannan is a bit suss on.

Judy Hannan last week said what many of us want to say.

The mayor of Wollondilly drew a very public line in the sand: “Wilton…a great new town – or no town at all.”

If we’re going to be hit with growth, let’s do it right.

It’s tempting to imagine Judy using the same tone of voice as Cuba Gooding Jnr in the film Jerry Maguire – “show me the money” – but this was no stunt.

Judy is known for her no-nonsense eloquence. She is also the strongest voice in our region, untainted by party politics, as Macarthur’s leading statesperson. Her rarely-issued media statement was a warning shot the government needs to hear. 

Wilton New Town is supposed to be “masterplanned” for an eventual population of 50,000, but – shock, horror – there are delays in finalising the plan to deliver public transport, health and education infrastructure. But, hey, let’s start building homes anyway. We’ll get onto those other pesky things like jobs, roads, transport and services a bit later on.

That’s the attitude faced by Wollondilly Council, and I suspect Cr Hannan knows what a load of garbage it is.

She just has to cast her eyes up the freeway to poor ol’ Campbelltown, where a track record of ‘hey, let’s start building homes anyway, and we’ll get onto those other pesky things like jobs, roads, transport and services a bit later on’ has passed as government planning policy for half a century. (Instead of a swan, Campbelltown’s coat of arms should feature a cart in front of a horse).

It continues to this day: a huge housing estate approved for Menangle Park with no extension of the electric rail. A housing estate for Gilead, next to a deadly goat track called Appin Road that the pollies won’t fix. A business park proposed for gridlocked Narellan Road, with no other exits or entrances. And so on.

I describe such policies as consecutive and repetitive asinine prevarications (or crap, for short). Judy Hannan is too diplomatic to use such a phrase; she describes the current approach as “ad hoc”.

This is Wollondilly Council saying it wants infrastructure and good urban design at Wilton BEFORE thousands of houses are built, or the council will withdraw its support. Hear, hear! Judy added: “I am sure the department of planning, the developers and [the council] will all use a bit of common sense.”

That’s where her argument might fall short. Common sense is not a key motivator. This was made clear in online debates this week in which certain Liberal identities blamed Campbelltown people for all the recent broken promises and shortfalls by the government, because the electorate had switched back to Labor at the last election. We obviously deserve to be punished.

That says it all. NSW planning policy is not based on needs, growth and priorities but payback. The previous Labor government did the same thing. Both parties declare us a growth centre, then fail to give adequate growth centre funding. 

Cr Hannan made the point that there is only one public high school (bursting at the seams at Picton) in all of Wollondilly: “We have local children travelling to about 17 different high schools outside our shire.” So, this my question: If the government can’t provide for the students ALREADY HERE, why should we believe vows that future students will be catered for?

The government needs to do a Tom Cruise impersonation and show us the money.

If they can’t cater for residents already here, why should we believe promises that future residents will be catered for?

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