JOHN AUSTEN – Inquiry into Sydney Metro (Part 1)




JOHN AUSTEN – Inquiry into Sydney Metro (Part 1)


We are told Sydney Metro will overcome capacity constraints on Sydney’s rail network. 

This is false. 

Only a public inquiry can reveal the truth and advise on what to do.

This is the first of two articles following-up John Menadue’s call for a Sydney Metro inquiry.

It cites further evidence that Metro is:

  1. Inferior to Sydney trains;
  2. In the wrong place;
  3. Disastrous for Western Sydney.

A later article will deal with why an inquiry into these matters is needed, and what the inquiry should cover.

Metro is inferior to Sydney trains

While Sydney Metro is presented as ‘rapid transit’ it is not.  Most of its characteristics –

66km length, long distance between stations etc. – are not rapid transit.

Sydney Metro’s only rapid transit characteristic is few seats on trains.  This makes it very inferior to Sydney Trains for commuters.

The reasons given to the public for Metro boil down to a claim it can carry more people per line – sitting and standing – than Sydney trains.

It supposedly can run 30 trains per hour conveying 40,000 people compared with 20 Sydney Trains carrying 24,000 people.  This is said to reflect it’s 3 door single-deck carriages not needing as much station stopping time – dwell-time – as double-deck trains.

However, those claims are false.

Metro has a lower capacity per train which is not offset by its (theoretically) shorter dwell time.

Advice to NSW agencies was Sydney Trains lines today can carry more than 24,000 people per hour. If enhanced as announced by the State Government’s ‘Paris and London’ train control technology, Sydney Trains could run at least 24 trains per hour carrying at least people.  Some media reports implied it could run 30 trains – which might be able to carry over 52,000 people.

Metro is in the wrong place

Rapid transit systems e.g. in London and Paris are usually in central city areas.  Short journeys are typical and short distances between stations are what attracts the passengers as they don’t have far to walk to those stations.

Sydney Metro is largely in the suburbs. The routes are therefore longer, and trains on those routes require plenty of seats – more than Metro offers.

Moreover, at least some Metro routes are very problematic.

The North West route requires ‘conversion’ of a vital Sydney Trains line – Epping-Chatswood.  This substantially reduces existing network capacity and hamstrings new services to Western Sydney, including to Badgerys Creek airport.

Advice to NSW was scathing about the idea of a North-West Metro.

The South West route requires ‘conversion’ of another vital Sydney Trains line – to Bankstown.  The route was chosen over better candidates such as to Kingsford Smith Airport and Infrastructure NSW’s recommendation – towards Parramatta.

The route across the harbour and CBD may be an even bigger problem.   In 2010 Sydney’s most respected railwayman, Ron Christie AM, expressed deep concerns about whether the route undermines the entire rail network.

Disaster for Western Sydney

The real effects of Metro are neither tunnelling triumphs nor the rail and road chaos coming in the 7-month closure of the Epping-Chatswood line followed by ‘all-out all-change’ at Chatswood for several years.

The effects will hit Western Sydney.  The Western Sydney rail ‘plan’, developed by State and Commonwealth officials, argued for at least three different rail networks – for passengers to change between possibly 4 trains to get to Badgerys Creek airport – was a first indication.  The ‘City Deal’ which opted for the wrong rail connection to the airport was the next sign.

The NSW Transport Minister’s rejection of a $3bn gift for Western Sydney rail was another.  His reason – new passengers would ‘overwhelm’ inner parts of the network – confirms Metro is reducing the effectiveness of the existing network (conversion of the Epping-Chatswood line cuts effective capacity on Sydney Trains’ lines near the CBD) and disadvantaging Western Sydney.

Compared with this the high-profile problems of light rail – cost blow-outs, construction delays, litigation against the State by affected businesses and contractors, CBD traffic problems and loan guarantees to keep the project going – are minor!

Can the situation be recovered – say by Metro and other trains sharing infrastructure – as suggested by Infrastructure NSW?  It is not obvious how.

As John Menadue said, Sydney Metro tunnels are too small for the commuter fleet.  This echoes Paris’ 19th century small tunnel experience, the problems of which started to be addressed 60 years ago by bigger tunnels taking both metro and commuter trains – at tremendous cost.


Public evidence is Metro isn’t motivated by transport needs or demands. If lack of capacity on the existing network is a problem, why further reduce that capacity? Why the small tunnels?

An oft repeated view is that Sydney ‘needs’ rapid transit – but that is a ‘solution’ looking for a ‘problem’.  The evidence is that successive NSW Governments searched for a place to start Metro – to ‘play trains’ – in preference to assessing transport needs and ignoring Metro effects.

Sydney’s north-west was a political move – a rail link to that area was an ironclad election promise.  However, it is one of the worst places for Metro’s quasi-rapid transit; a mistake compounded by small tunnel sizes and inappropriate routes for extension.

The Sydney Metro ‘solution’ is exacerbating and creating new transport problems.  It will divide Sydney and lead to booming car use especially in the Western suburbs.It must be urgently addressed.

The next article will show why a public inquiry is needed to untangle this mess.

John Austen is a happily retired former  senior official of Infrastructure Australia  living in Western Sydney.   Details are at


Rev Fred Nile neglects to disclose company shares, positions




Rev Fred Nile neglects to disclose company shares, positions


NSW parliament’s longest serving MP and leading morals campaigner, the Christian Democrat elder Reverend Fred Nile, has failed to properly declare his business interests and positions in associations for at least 10 years, a Herald analysis reveals.

The pecuniary interest disclosures of Mr Nile, which are required by law to be updated each year, are inaccurate and inconsistent, the analysis shows.

Reverend Fred Nile's pecuniary interest disclosures are inaccurate.
Reverend Fred Nile’s pecuniary interest disclosures are inaccurate.Photo: Jon Reid


Mr Nile, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), is the sole shareholder, director and secretary of Family World News, which was created in 1994 and produces a monthly publication by the same name, according to ASIC documents.

But he did not declare he held an interest and positions in the Family World News company until 2014-15 and 2016-17, under “part five: interests and positions in corporations”. In the year between, he omitted any reference to it.

“There are no director fees, I have not received payment from Family World News,” Mr Nile told The Sun-Herald.


“I am the honorary director and honorary editor and honorary editor-in-chief. As founder of the Family World News, I received nominal shares with no value.”

Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile has been a Member of Parliament for 37 years.
Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile has been a Member of Parliament for 37 years.Photo: Jon Reid


As a 37-year veteran member of parliament and a member of the Privileges Committee – Mr Nile scrutinised the interest disclosure regime several years ago following the corruption watchdog’s investigation into corrupt former MPs Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid.

The CDP’s balance sheet for 2016-17 also shows it handed $28,320 to its leader’s Family World News.

Asked whether this transaction was ethical and appropriate, Mr Nile said the amount was “for the printing and mailing of Family World News to CDP members each month. I do not receive any funds personally from Family World News or from the CDP”.

A short newsletter called Focus on Parliament is inserted into each issue of Family World News.


Fred Nile's bid to become a state senator knocked back


While Mr Nile uses his parliamentary staff to produce Focus on Parliament, concerns have been raised that his staff, on taxpayer-funded wages, are also working on Family World News, which he said in his disclosures cover “political moral issues” and “Christian news”.


“Parliamentary staff have assisted me with the Family World News in their lunch hour and after work,” he said.

Asked how he enforced this, he did not respond.

In 2014-15 and 2016-17, Mr Nile also failed to disclose he held shares in Telstra. He mentioned them the year in between.


Prior to 2014-15, he reported he held shares in Telstra and IAG.

“I told my financial adviser to sell my Telstra and IAG Shares in 2015, which I did not purchase but were given to me by these companies due to a registration of the companies,” he said.

“I have sold the IAG shares and am waiting for a report on my Telstra shares.”

Mr Nile also neglected to report he held positions at Family World News, Australian Christian Nation Association and CDP between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

He did so in the years prior, but from 2014-15 onwards he either left section six “positions in trade unions and professional or business bodies” blank or wrote “nil”.

“The positions I do hold … are all honorary positions with no payment from any of these organisations,” he said.

He did not answer whether he recognised there were inaccuracies in his disclosures or whether he would correct any previous disclosures.

“I have made many donations to the CDP, which are all reported. When Family World News is short of funds I have paid some of their outstanding invoices,” he said.


Esther Han is a health reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald. She has previously been consumer affairs editor and also covered food and wine.






The NSW LNP has razed the Darling Harbour precinct to the ground having lasted no more than 30 years.

How likely such demolition will be repeated at Barangaroo, Green Square, Mascot, Wolli Creek, Wentworth Point and Rhodes?

With Macquarie Park and North Ryde to follow?



Sydney’s high-rise towers risk making us sick: architects

Some of Sydney’s leading urban designers have called for a rethink on high-rise residential developments with warnings that long, dark corridors, balconies too windy to sit on and apartments with no cross-ventilation are damaging people’s health and wellbeing.

“Physically, these buildings are sick,” said Benjamin Driver, architect and senior urban designer with Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects. “In the long term, they make us sick.”

The ugly: Topsy-turvy development in Green Square.
The ugly: Topsy-turvy development in Green Square.Photo: Wolter Peeters


About 1500 Sydney architects, urban designers and members of the public gathered this weekend for the 12th annual Sydney Architecture Festival, which has as its theme: “What makes a building truly great?”

The national festival aims to applaud the best projects, admit the worst excesses, promise better and educate the public on best practice.

Mr Driver has called for public support of “gentle urbanism”, a planning strategy that rejects the bulky footprint of 10- to 30-storey-plus towers for slim footprint buildings with generous setbacks, landscaping with deep soils and mature trees and scope for three- to four-bedroom apartments.


The good: International House, Barangaroo, by Tzannes.
The good: International House, Barangaroo, by Tzannes.Photo: Ben Guthrie


A survey of 2000 NSW residents by NSW Architects Registration Board found that the most important factor in people’s home life was the availability of natural light.

“Long corridors, deep corridors, closed-off corridors where many apartments might share the one lift – this is not considered best practice any more,” Timothy Horton, registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board, said.

The bad: Darling Harbour was a city precinct that did not last more than 30 years, architect Laura Harding, said.
The bad: Darling Harbour was a city precinct that did not last more than 30 years, architect Laura Harding, said.Photo: Christopher Pearce


Where towers rise too far above the street, apartment owners may gain views but can no longer step out and talk to friends on the street below, Mr Driver said.

“In fact, many balconies are too windy to sit on at all. We are well above the tree line and so are exposed to the elements, particularly the heat.

“We are reliant on lifts and unable to use the stairs – limiting regular exercise and interaction with your neighbours.”

Andrew Nimmo, president of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects, said far too many apartment developments were not delivering on the basic needs of good natural light, natural ventilation and creating a place you would want to call home.

He nominated The Rochford in Erskineville by Fox Johnston as a development that gets the basics right, a winner of the NSW Architecture Awards.

The 19th century, he said, had left the city a legacy of industrial and warehouse buildings “screaming to be adapted and reused”.

Another winner, The Griffiths Teas building in Surry Hills had languished for 30 years and fell into disrepair until Popov Bass architects adapted it into 38 new apartments, retaining the best qualities and romance of the old warehouse.

Winner: The Griffiths Teas Building in Surry Hills.
Winner: The Griffiths Teas Building in Surry Hills.Photo: Supplied


International House Sydney at Barangaroo by Tzannes, Australia’s first fully engineered timber building, had been built from sustainably managed plantation forests. It locked in 2700 tonnes of carbon sequestered in the floors, beams and columns, had 350 photovoltaic roof panels and achieved a six-star Greenstar rating. “It also happens to be a calming place to work where the gentle scent of timber pervades”, Mr Nimmo said.

Urban designer Laura Harding, who appears on a panel Sunday that looks at ethics in an age of excess at Sydney Opera House, believes the city had allowed private interests to have the first option on key sites.

Residential development in Burwood: High-rise towers are not the answer, says Benjamin Driver.
Residential development in Burwood: High-rise towers are not the answer, says Benjamin Driver.Photo: Wolter Peeters


“Once they’ve claimed their spoils – we squeeze an apologetic and compromised public realm into the remnants. The city cannot endure, or renew itself if it is conceived in this limited way.

“The public realm has a lifespan that is much longer than individual buildings and we should not tolerate it being shackled by developers in this way.”

Ms Harding, also with Hill Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects, pointed to the mistakes made at Darling Harbour 30 years ago.

“We made a disconnected and dysfunctional place apart – albeit with a few worthy individual buildings and spaces, but with many more poor ones.

“When it was recently decided to replace the building stock – we razed the entire precinct to the ground to do it. We made a city precinct that did not last more than 30 years. We made a disposable city. What an unprecedented failure of civic imagination and, in sustainability terms, utter lunacy.”

Those mistakes had been repeated at Barangaroo, at Green Square Town Centre, Mascot, Wolli Creek, Wentworth Point and Rhodes, she said.


Linda Morris is an arts and books writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.










As Canberra’s ties with Beijing come under pressure, Chinese-Australians are facing a new kind of discrimination

Jieh-Yung Lo says failing bilateral ties have created a new form of distrust and suspicion in Australia towards all things Chinese

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 7:12pm

China-Australia relations are at their lowest point in years. And judging by recent events, such as Canberra banning Huawei and ZTE from taking part in the country’s 5G network, and preventing the former from building an undersea internet cable connecting the Solomon Islands, Beijing censoring the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, and the growing strategic competition between the two sides in the Pacific, the relationship seems unlikely to improve any time soon.

As key stakeholders from both sides continue to engage in megaphone diplomacy and public rhetoric on geostrategic and geopolitical matters, Chinese-Australians have been caught in the crossfire and, as I have long feared, become collateral damage in an environment of poor relations.

I have witnessed and experienced first-hand over the past few years how the public debate on foreign influence, investment and interference in Australia has unintentionally and inadvertently created a new form of distrust, anxiety and suspicion towards China and all things ‘Chinese’, including Chinese-Australians.

In recent times, Australian academics, journalists and politicians have made allegations that immigrants of Chinese descent and Australians of Chinese heritage are working against the nation’s interests by holding direct secret allegiances to China. Even former Prime Minister John Howard joined the fray by warning that migrants from China, and to an extent Chinese-Australians, potentially pose a risk to Australia as they are susceptible to Chinese influence.

To claim that people have allegiance to China on the basis of their race and cultural heritage without an evidentiary base is deeply damaging to our reputation and leaves us open to further discrimination, vilification and the breaking down of trust.

Being an Australian of Chinese heritage, I’ve added my voice to the debate and urged Australian policymakers and commentators to use greater nuance in their engagements with China, and ensure Chinese-Australians are appropriately and accurately represented. In response, critics have challenged my loyalty to Australia and questioned my “Australianness”.

Unfortunately we have reached a point in the public debate where any logical and rational approach to China is deemed “soft” and the only way to prove your “Australianness” is to publicly condemn it. The polarisation of the issues, the public debate itself and the fear of being labelled “pro-China” or “Chinese sympathiser” has discouraged many Chinese-Australians from speaking out.

What I have gathered from speaking to Chinese-Australian community leaders and representatives is that a new form of Sinophobia or anti-Chinese sentiment is emerging.

This is unlike the racism and xenophobia experienced by Chinese-Australians and migrants before and during the days of the White Australia Policy. It is more subtle as it goes beyond just hate speech and racism and seeks to undermine confidence and trust.

Like all minority groups living in Australia, Chinese-Australians are severely under-represented in senior positions of Australian institutions such as parliament and corporate boardrooms. Despite numbering about 1.2 million and being one of Australia’s oldest, largest, most successful and best educated communities, Chinese-Australians, like all Asian-Australians, continue to fight bias and racial stereotyping in the workplace.

With this added layer of mistrust and suspicion, it is going to be even more difficult for them to break through and be given opportunities to serve in positions that wield greater authority, influence and power in Australia.

A Twitter user I came across summed up my fears regarding the new Sinophobia by saying: “it’s hard to trust Chinese people in Australian politics due to the CPC [Communist Party of China] interference”.

The increased questioning of Chinese-Australians’ sense of belonging and commitment to Australia, and distrust of anything and anyone who looks Chinese or associates themselves with its culture has resulted in us being seen and treated as second-class citizens.

At a recent public forum hosted by ABC Radio National, a prominent Chinese-Australian leader said he had been made aware that senior bureaucrats within Australia’s public service had highlighted the risks of involving employees of Chinese heritage in certain internal conversations and even expressed thoughts of thinking twice about hiring such people.

Other than an actual war between China and Australia, one of my biggest fears is seeing the Australian public lose its trust in and turn against Chinese-Australians.

To prevent this new form of Sinophobia from expanding, political leaders need to provide Chinese-Australians with an assurance that we are indeed part of Australia.

First and foremost, they need to condemn racism and discrimination when it occurs in the public sphere. Second, they must adopt new attitudes and approaches, and discourage the use of racial politics. Third, they must acknowledge the contribution made by Chinese-Australians to the country and recognise that their skills, experience and leadership could help Australia to build a greater understanding and closer relations with China.

Fourth, they should welcome and encourage more Chinese-Australians to serve as leaders in government, business, the media and the academic sector. And fifth, they must commit to resetting the bilateral relationship.

As Australia’s relationship with China becomes increasingly complicated, Canberra should realise that Chinese-Australians are the biggest asset it has in trying to understand Beijing. And for us to make a difference, we need to be in the room, not kept out.

Jieh-Yung Lo is a Chinese-Australian writer, researcher and commentator. He tweets at @jiehyunglo



Left Hanging … How they’re killing the KOALAS OF WILTON



-relentless semi trailer and car traffic barrelling through core koala habitat

-koalas are now facing a 17,000-lot residential development to engulf this rural area

-court transcripts indicate the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017

Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees

-Council Environmental Officer on viewing the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions

QUESTIONS  raised for the DOPE …

HOW can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

WHY were the Walker zones rammed though with so many unresolved issues?

… Obviously they are happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.




Sunday, 30th September 2018


Text: Mick Daley


Stand on busy Picton road at the bridge over Allens Creek, near Wilton NSW and you’ll get a picture of what a koala has to deal with to get to its feed trees. The relentless semi-trailer and car traffic barreling through this core koala habitat has resulted in at least twelve koala deaths over the past two years. But that’s nothing compared to what they’re facing when an anticipated 17,000-lot residential development engulfs this rural area.

The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) has designated this as the Wilton Priority Growth Area under its Western City District Plan. Just 80km south west of the Sydney CBD, it’s part of the NSW government’s vote-winning solution to the city’s congestion and housing problem. But it’s coming at a high cost.

The Department of Office Environment and Heritage (OEH), the Rural Fire Service (RFS), an independent scientist and the local Wollondilly Council have all weighed in against the existing proposal, saying it goes against long-standing scientific advice and ignores State planning laws. It also threatens the survival of the largest chlamydia-free koala population in NSW.

The DPE’s developer, the Sydney-based Walker Corporation has twice been successfully prosecuted for having illegally cleared areas of sensitive koala habitat, earning them the largest such fine in NSW history. That’s just one of a raft of irregularities that have plagued this controversial project.

Wollondilly Shire Council has lodged an appeal against the DPE in the Land and Environment Court, saying that the rezoning of land in the Wilton South East Precinct ignores scientific advice from the OEH.

Judith Hannan, the Wollondilly Shire Mayor, says Council is not against the development at Wilton. “We’re asking for the reversal of the rezoning, until we get a solid conservation plan sorted out. We feel like there’s a tidal wave coming at us and the koalas are sitting in the path of it.”

Hannan says that long term planning has been inadequate for such a large-scale development and there are insufficient jobs and infrastructure to support it. “There is no reliable public transport to the area, no provision for employment, no integrated health service. How many other things would you like? It’s a nightmare and we don’t have much ability to stop it.”

She says that the koala road-kill problem is at crisis-point. “Even during the last council meeting, someone sent us a live photo of a koala in Appin in the service station and that evening that koala was dead on the road. It was horrendous.”

Councillor Matthew Deeth goes a step further.

“It beggars belief how the planning department makes these decisions. There’s no transparency at all and there’s no response to any of the concerns that council has raised,” he says. “I can’t point to any letters or anything to show they’ve even considered any of our concerns.”

Council’s environmental education officer, Damion Stirling has been at the coal-face of this issue.

“What triggered this for us was the southeast Wilton rezoning (from rural to residential),” he says. “We weren’t informed (by DPE) when that rezoning dropped, we found out through social media. They’ve (DPE) made reference that council had been consulted, but any submissions made were not adopted.

“They even reference measures to minimizing the impact on koalas, but they’re words on the page and we haven’t seen that detail.”

Stirling showed me the roadkill hotspot at Allen’s Creek, in the southeast tip of the proposed development. He says the creek constitutes part of an east-west running corridor that is vital to the survival of these koalas.

This was identified as far back as 2005 as a likely primary koala corridor by Professor Rob Close of the University of Western Sydney, with sightings going back into the Nineties.

The Wilton area was officially recognised as a primary koala corridor in 2007, by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), the precursor of the OEH.


An OEH spokesperson has confirmed that core koala habitat and primary movement corridors have been identified within this region.

In mid-2016 a pilot study between Appin and Wilton found eight koalas in a week. That was enough information for OEH to fund the Wilton Koala Conservation Project, granted $200,000 from the Saving Our Species fund – the second highest funded project in the state. It’s tracked koalas through the area, specifically along Allen’s Creek, which features a good selection of koala feed trees.

Cate Ryan, a long-time WIRES carer, knows the inevitability of koalas seeking food or mates in the vicinity of Picton Road.

“They’re trying to disperse to other areas and they’re becoming roadkill. The issue with all the koalas is if they become landlocked they’ve got no escape. There’s no feed for them, so they’re coming out onto the roads and they’re getting killed. If they’ve got no underpasses or overpasses they can’t get to other breeding stock, so they become genetically compromised, because they start inbreeding. We’ve already noticed some conditions – smaller koalas, smaller eyes and irregular eye shapes.

“There’s no food out there and what’s up here is dying because of the drought. It’s horrible. I’d hate to be a koala.”

Ryan says the biggest fear is that chlamydia-infected koalas from colonies to the south may move towards Wilton for the same reasons, compromising the health of the local koalas.

“Because these guys here are disease free, they could be used in breeding programs as stock to repopulate areas where they’ve been decimated by disease. There’s a whole lot of things we can look at for the future with these guys, but unless they’re protected, there’s nothing.”

Underneath the highway bridge at Allen’s Creek, Stirling points out a huge culvert that would provide safe access for wandering males and breeding females with back-young, searching for the increasingly rare food trees they need to survive.

“It’s one thing to protect koalas from road kill, but we need to be feeding them into quality habitat corridors that will enable their dispersal,” he said.

“This creek line corridor links all the way down to the Nepean on the other side of Douglas Park. At the northern end of it is the St Mary’s Towers biobank site. There’s breeding females with back-young on there as we speak, identified by OE&H.”

Stirling observes how easily this infrastructure could be adapted to a koala corridor. “Down here you can see the scats and footprints of kangaroos and stuff, so it’s already being used by fauna.

“From Roads and Maritime Services’s point of view, this is an easy win. Even that concrete barrier on the bridge up there is enough to stop a koala trying to cross the road.”


But the development planned by DPE favours a corridor bisecting 23 hectares of land, illegally cleared by the Walker Corporation in 2005. According to Land and Environment Court transcripts they were fined $200,000 for that transgression, at that time one of the largest fines for illegal clearing of vegetation in NSW.

In 2011 Walker were fined an additional $80,000 for illegal clearing at Appin, where their current rezoning proposal is.

Court transcripts indicate that DPE used the same land clearing contractor for both jobs and that the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017.

Councillor Deeth points out that Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees. He says Council is privy to the process followed by OEH, who warned against the DPE proposal.

“They gave advice to the DPE that the Allen’s Creek corridor was the best option for the koalas. The DPE has ignored their advice and instead hired an outside team of consultants to give them another result, an act which I believe is unprecedented in this field.

The OEH is supposed to provide the environmental data and advice to the DPE, to be incorporated into the overall planning. But the OEH has been reduced from a department in its own right to an office advising the DPE and even this status appears to have been sidelined.”

The DPE not only ignored their own environmental office’s advice, but appear to be flouting State Environmental Planning Proposal 44 (SEPP 44). Under that law the DPE is obliged to do a site-specific koala plan and the rezoning of the land should not have happened until a biocertification and vegetation mapping process had been completed.

The reason this has not been completed involves a Kafka-esque bureaucratic turn that belongs in the realm of fiction.

When the state government’s new Biodiversity Act came into force on 24 August last year, Wollondilly Council received a phone call from DPE, telling them its growth area was exempt from the Act for a further 12 months – until the biocertification process was completed.

“We were told the biocertification process would be completed by Feb 2018, then it was June, but it still hasn’t been completed,” said Stirling. “We’ve now been told that the Act won’t come into force until November, 18 months later.”

While the DPE’s rezoning ignores SEPP 44, it also sidelines advice from the Rural Fire Service that the bushland southeast of the proposed development is a major fire risk and would require an exit road bisecting the DPE’s proposed koala corridor.

If the reader were to fancy that the DPE has not been taking this process seriously, they should consider that in January 2018, Wollondilly Council received a draft Development Control Plan (DCP) from DPE. Rather than sending a new document, specifically designed to reflect the area’s ecological sensitivities, they instead sent a tracked changes version of Blacktown Growth Area’s DCP. On the last page was a single picture and two sentences about koalas.

Apart from this slapdash approach, Stirling claims DPE’s process ignores four key recommendations of the NSW chief scientist’s 2016 report – a crucial direction being that the proponents of development must act on evidence.

Indeed, Stirling observes that when he recently looked for submissions over the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website, he discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions.

“So Council are now GIPAA-ing (Government Information Public Access Act) for those reports and all other submissions around koala habitat that were part of this rezoning.”

Stirling says that even the week before the rezoning, he’d been at a round table meeting called by the DPE to discuss conserving koalas in the region.

“There was no mention that the land around Allen’s Creek was going to be rezoned the following week.”

Stirling has a lot of unanswered questions for the DPE.

“We’re questioning how can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

“Why have the DPE proceeded in rezoning this land before that work is finished, on such a significant project?

“Why was that project not profiled in the NSW Koala Strategy, considering it was one of the largest koala funded projects in the state?”

“We’re saying the DPE plan is not appropriate,” he concludes. “It doesn’t even consider that koalas move through the canopies of trees. How are they going to fence the middle of that bushland there to stop the koalas?

“We have to work out what the transition is between protected koala habitat and urban areas. We’ve already got a number of threats – eight koalas killed in eight weeks on Appin Rd, last year 14 koalas killed in two months, so that’s the major threat at the moment. The next threat is development wiping out habitat, then dog attack, fires, weed invasion, so we’re trying to get ahead of the game and say, ok we know where the habitat is, let’s protect it now. We have the knowledge to do best practice, let’s do it, let’s find a balance between conservation and development for housing.”

Councillor Deeth, too, has searching questions.

“I understand that OEH scientists were being pressured from above to tone down their reports to the DPE,” he said.

“Council had an extraordinary meeting a couple of months ago. Our resolution was to GIPAA the government to get the exact communications, exactly what advice was given and what was the response from the DPE around that issue. My understanding was there was real pressure coming from much higher up the chain and we want to understand how their decisions were made.

“Housing at all costs seems to be the department of planning’s motto at the moment. We don’t even know what sort of density we’re looking at within these zones. All we’re suggesting is we want a pause to get this right. There’s nothing wrong with taking a bit more time to actually get it right. You can see from every provision there’s a heap of unresolved issues.

“We have no idea why the Walker zones were rammed though with so many unresolved issues. They’re happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.

“We have very little say in this whatsoever. The only thing we’ve got left is advocacy and letting people know what we’re not happy about.”





Developer fined a record $200,000 for clearing vegetation

By Matthew Moore

23 July 2011

ONE of the country’s biggest property developers has been fined $200,000 by the NSW Land and Environment Court for unlawfully clearing 23 hectares of native vegetation.

Walker Corporation, which has more than $4 billion of developments under way across Australia, was given a record fine for a company under the Native Vegetation Act for clearing the land at a property near Wilton, south-west of Sydney, in 2006 and 2007.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) brought the case against Walker Corporation and persuaded the court the company cleared seven native species including black she-oak and narrow-leaved ironbark.

These species had provided homes to two endangered ecological communities and habitat for threatened species including the koala, powerful owl, spotted-tailed quoll and eastern bent-wing bat.

Walker Corporation pleaded not guilty to the charges and told the court it had employed a contractor, Environmental Land Clearing, to clean up the property, which had weeds growing on it and had been used as a site to dump cars. Its spokesman said the company would appeal the judgment.

The court heard the contractor used a machine called a ‘‘mega mulcher” to clear vegetation on the site which degraded the habitat for a range of native fauna.



Walker Corporation, which had never been convicted of an environmental offence, argued it was not liable because the contractor had held itself out to be an expert company and cleared the land without it authorising, supervising or exerting control over the clearing, an argument Justice Rachel Pepper rejected.

”The fact remains that the clearing that it did carry out was undertaken in accordance with and directly as a result of Walker’s instructions,” she said.







Walker Corporation denies Chinese developer bought land at Wilton

Walker Corporation's artist impression of it housing development at Wilton South East Precinct.

Walker Corporation’s artist impression of it housing development at Wilton South East Precinct.

Walker Corporation has denied Chinese development company Country Garden Australia – named in a property scandal involving disgraced Wagga MP Daryl Maguire – has bought land in its Wilton South East Precinct.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed two weeks ago that Mr Maguire attempted to broker property deals and sought kickbacks from Country Garden Australia.

Walker Corporation recently lodged a development application to subdivide 701 residential lots between Picton Road and Janderra Lane at Wilton.

As part of the application, Walker submitted ‘building design guidelines’ which stated new buyers were required to pay a bond to Country Garden when building their homes.

A compliance bond is a refundable fee paid to a developer at the time of settlement to ensure homes are built to the project’s design guidelines.

A Walker Corporation spokesman said the reference to Country Garden was an error and it had not sold any land to the Chinese developer.

“In regard to Country Garden’s mention in the submission, Walker Corporation has used an external consultant to prepare the housing design brief who also undertakes the same work for other housing developers,” he said.

“In producing the document for Walker, the consultant inadvertently used a previous document naming another client and did not pick up the error before submission.

“This has now been corrected.”

Walker Corporation commissioned environmental consultancy firm, Biosis Pty Ltd, in 2016 to undertake an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment of the proposed subdivision and bulk earthworks within the proposed first and second stages of the precinct.

In that document, an Aboriginal cultural heritage constraints assessment, prepared by Biosis for Country Garden was referenced.

The Walker Corporation spokesman said the company did not wish to comment further.

Country Garden set up two companies, Wilton East and Wilton West in February 2017.

Country Garden Australia’s head of managing director office Stephen Sun told Fairfax Media last week that the company did not own land in Wilton.

“Country Garden Australia already has a number of projects under way in NSW and Victoria and we are actively pursuing other community building opportunities in Australia,” he said.

Country Garden owns 364 hectares of land at Cawdor.





-the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong paid $17.34M for 44 hectare Wilton site

-the Wilton property has seen capital growth of $15.44 million in 11 years

-the church bought the property as a strategic acquisition; an investment for future growth

the site is still zoned for rural use;  tipped to be rezoned after critical infrastructure is delivered

-the median house price in Wilton is $808,400


Which company paid $7.4M for a major Wilton deal in June 2017?

HAS the Catholic Church been an Insider at the “Planning Round Table”?  In a strategic move to top up Church coffers after onselling rezoned “Residential Land” at Wilton?



December 7, 2017

The Wilton property has seen capital growth of $15.44 million in 11 years.

The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong has paid $17.34 million for a “strategic” 44-hectare site in the Macarthur region, 80 kilometres south west of Sydney, crushing the suburb record in the process.

The property at 570 Picton Road, Wilton, which has a five-bedroom house, last sold for $1.9 million in 2006, according to Domain Group data.

That same year, the previous price record in Wilton was set by the $8.9-million sale of 15 Janderra Lane to the Walker Corporation, which will be developing the south-east precinct of the Wilton Priority Growth Area.

The land occupies more than 44 hectares. Photo: SuppliedThe land occupies more than 44 hectares. Photo: Supplied

Selling agent Tim Knapp, of Knapp and Associates, said the buyer, who was seeking similar properties within the area, bought the property as an “investment for future growth”.

“The purchasers acquire property within areas that they feel will enhance the community,” he said.

“In time the purchasers will build on the site but it is undetermined what they will build at this point.”

A map of the Wilton Priority Growth Area plans. Source: NSW PlanningA map of the Wilton Priority Growth Area plans. Source: NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Although the area has been earmarked as a future growth precinct, the site is still zoned for rural use; the area is tipped to be rezoned after critical infrastructure is delivered.

“What this was acquired for was not really residential development, but more a strategic acquisition for the purchaser.”

More than 16,000 homes, two primary schools and four childcare centres are part of the building plans in Wilton New Town, which is expected to be the size of Port Macquarie after a 30-year development project.

More than 16,000 new homes will be built in the Wilton New Town development. Image: SuppliedMore than 16,000 new homes will be built in the Wilton New Town development. Image: Supplied

Wilton New Town is expected to rival Port Macquarie after development completes. Image: SuppliedWilton New Town is expected to rival Port Macquarie after development completes. Image: Supplied

“This is a very exciting time and Sydney needs to implement plans to sustain the population growth in the coming years,” Mr Knapp said.

The sale is among multiple recent major deals in Wilton, including a $7.4-million land sale in June 2017, as the small town’s big plans lure investors.

“There’s a lot of activity in Wilton and a lot of developers looking around,” Mr Knapp said.

“Wilton is such a strong growth area at the moment, similar to Bringelly (and) Leppington.”

The locally based agent added that because of housing shortage in metropolitan Sydney, Wilton was not the only suburb in the region that was growing.

“Within the past five years, the government has released large tracts of land for housing in suburbs in the Macarthur region such as Gregory Hills and Oran Park.

“These areas in the last few years have developed into vibrant communities.”

The median house price in Wilton is $808,400, Domain Group data shows.





bla 2

The new Inland Code has been released to simplify the planning process for home owners and farmers in regional NSW.




THIS is about fast-tracking development in both residential and rural areas through a code complying development process.

The Code will NOT apply to new release areas where the Greenfield Housing Code instead applies.

The Code also does not apply to land within a Heritage Conservation area or a draft Heritage Conservation area, nor to a Heritage item in environmentally sensitive areas or environmentally sensitive land identified in Schedule 5 of the State Policy, or other land set out in clause 1.19 of the State Policy.



The new Code will make it easier, faster and cheaper for property owners in rural and regional inland areas of NSW to get approval for new homes, home renovations and farm buildings. It brings together and simplifies the planning rules for fast-track complying development approvals in one easy-to-read Code.


The new Code and farm building standards will be included in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (State Policy) and aim to:

  • make it easy for new one and two storey homes and home renovations to be approved in rural and residential zones in 20 days or less
  • simplify and tailor development standards to suit development in rural and regional inland NSW
  • increase the use of complying development in inland NSW to help achieve faster housing approvals
  • allow rural landholders to construct a greater range of farm buildings without approval and obtain faster approvals for large farm buildings to support the agricultural use of their land.


New one and two storey homes and home renovations can be undertaken as complying development in inland NSW where the proposal meets all of the relevant development standards in the new Code. These standards have been developed following consultation with the community, councils and industry.


A homeowner can save up to $15,000 for a new home and $2600 for home renovations under complying development.


overhead shot of farmland near a road

Benefits of the new Inland Code

The new Inland Code brings together the planning rules for fast-track approvals of one and two storey homes and home renovations for all residential and rural zones in inland NSW, making it easier, faster and cheaper for homeowners to get an approval.


Infographic captioned' Easier to use: The new code is written in plain English, with explanatory diagrams, making it easier to see if your proposal can be carried out as complying developmentInfographic captioned Saving Time: Fast-tracked development approvals issued under the new Code can be approved within 20 days, compared to an average of 75 days for development applications.Infographic captioned: Saving Money: Homeowners can save up to $15,000 for new homes that are approved as complying development



Expanded complying development standards have also been included in the Inland Code for large farm buildings that are subject to requirements under the Building Code of Australia, including farm sheds.


Read the new Code


View more detail about the new Code on the Planning Portal.


Where does the Inland Code apply?

The Code will apply to 69 local government areas in inland NSW as shown on the Inland Code map.


Consistent with the Housing Code and Rural Housing Code, the proposed development must be allowed under the Council’s Local Environmental Plan to be complying development under the Inland Code.


The Inland Code will not apply to new release areas where the Greenfield Housing Code applies. It will also not apply to:


Expanded farm building standards


Changes have also been made to the General Exempt Development Code to make it easier to build low impact farm buildings.


The changes will mean:

  • larger farm buildings, including sheds, silos, grain storage bunkers and stock holding yards, can be approved without planning or building approval
  • appropriate standards, such as height limits and setbacks, will be introduced for various types of farm buildings.


These changes apply across the State and mean that planning and building approval is not required for farm buildings where the relevant development standards are met.


Existing exempt development restrictions will apply to farm buildings. This means the changes do not apply on land that is:

  • a declared area of outstanding biodiversity value, declared critical habitat or a wilderness area
  • a heritage item or contains a heritage item
  • within 18km of the Siding Spring Observatory
  • excluded under Schedule 4 of the State Policy.


The new farm building standards are available here.


Silo at sunset

Implementation of the new Code and farm building standards

The new Inland Code and farm building changes will commence on 1 January 2019. This delayed commencement will provide time for the community and stakeholders to understand the changes and for the Department to provide training sessions.


An education program will be rolled out across NSW to assist the community and stakeholders to learn more about the new Inland Code.


An online learning module will also be launched soon.


Once the Inland Code begins there will be a two-year transitional period. During this time applicants can choose from several codes, depending on the zoning of their land:


At the end of the transitional period, applicants in inland NSW will no longer be able to use the Housing Code or Rural Housing Code.


The transitional period will not apply to the exempt development standards for farm buildings.


The timeline below shows how these Codes can be used.



Complying development codes for inland NSW

Infographic captioned Complying development codes for inland NSW: comparing Transitional, Housing, Rural and Inland Codes



Other codes can also be used in inland NSW, including the Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code, Greenfield Housing Code, Housing Alterations Code, General Development Code, Commercial and Industrial Codes and Demolition Code.



Fact Sheet


More information

  • More details about exempt and complying development: NSW Planning Portal.
  • Call on 13 77 88 (Service NSW). If English isn’t your first language, please call 13 14 50. Ask for an interpreter in your language and then request to be connected to our Information Centre on 1300 305 695.
  • Contact us via our online form.

cows in a pasture

Page last updated: 28/09/2018








It’s such an inspiring space. There are different angles and something different every place you look, so that’s really exciting as a student, to work in something that’s different.
When I walk into the building, I just feel such a strange mix of emotions because it’s such an unconventional space.
I think we’ve all been seeing the outside as it’s been unfolding and be excited about what it might mean, but when you walk in – but the lovely warmth of the use of timber is the first thing that strikes me.

Frank Gehry described this as his dream building. It was a dream for him because it fulfilled an unrealised philosophy of education, the philosophy of a treehouse. A treehouse with a trunk of social spaces, branching into areas of discipline, knowledge and research.
The way that universities operate around the world is fundamentally changing. Students expect different things. They need to be prepared in different manners for their careers for the 21st century.
I’d like to think at UTS, we are approaching business as unusual, and for me, that’s what this building says. This is the building as unusual – this is the place where you can sort of play with ideas.
The concept of collaboration, of working together and understanding other people’s ideas and issues, has a great capacity to emerge in this type of environment.

Collaborative education is incredibly important because we all end up working in teams. The impact of the new building will be a potential for a much greater collaboration between students and lecturers.

For a start, the physical layout is going to change the way that we teach. This room breaks the way that we traditionally structure a room in terms of the teacher-student dynamic, so that’s going to change the method and the technique with which we teach.
You’ve got collaboration in these new formal teaching spaces, and that’s terrific, but I think the really exciting thing from both a teaching and learning perspective is that when class finishes, you see students sitting around putting all those ideas into practice.
The informal spaces in the building are essential to a postgraduate student. It’s really essential that we have places that we can get together and collaborate, places that we can meet and work on things together.

Education is no longer about something where you’re locked away for a few years, you learn things, then you go out and see what the real world is doing. More and more, industry needs to come back in.

It’s a building that reaches out to the world. It goes beyond the walls. It really means that we can do here is become much more global. This new building will really have an impact on postgraduate education. What we do at UTS Business School has always been about collaboration with industry, it’s about problem solving and it’s about reframing problems so that we can come up with creative solutions.

We wanted a building that would differentiate UTS, that would highlight our commitment to creativity, innovation and connection.

It’s shaping what the university says about itself, but it’s also a marker to that creative, digital hub in which the whole university is now sitting.

This building really symbolises for me the innovation of UTS, the commitment of UTS to my education and to making sure that what I learn is world class.