Ms Shearer said the ATO and new Finance buildings being built on the former Gosford Public School site were catalyst projects; that the ATO/Finance will bring jobs … this is despite the ATO having made some 4700 Tax Professionals redundant …
New Co-ordinator General calls for action in the CBD
THE latest master and commander at the helm of revitalising Gosford said “this place has not changed much” since she worked the beat as a policewoman 30 years ago.
To be fair it is not a stinging indictment of the ailing fortunes of the Central Coast’s much maligned capital.
In fact, it is probably a small compliment given the city centre is arguably worse now than a few decades ago.
Lee Shearer faces a Titanic struggle to rejuvenate Gosford and breathe life into the sails of the Central Coast Regional Plan.
In her first interview since being appointed to the newly created position of Central Coast Co-ordinator General, Ms Shearer said the time for planning was over.
“There’s a lot of plans done and a lot of plans not implemented,” she said.
“It’s time really to stop the planning and get actions. I have never seen so many plans.”
When newly appointed NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts attended the recent launch of John Singleton’s Bonython Tower he said he was so committed to overhauling Gosford that
“if it means breaking eggs and kicking heads” so be it.
Enter Ms Shearer, Mr Robert’s hand-picked enforcer.
The former policewoman rose to the rank of Northern Region Assistant Commissioner, overseeing an area from north of the Hawksbury River all the way to the Queensland border.
In the super-politicised upper echelons of the NSW Police Force’s top brass it is not a position attained without a certain aptitude — and she was a woman.
After policing Ms Shearer joined NSW Planning as a regulator for the mining and extractive industries — essentially a government watchdog holding mining companies to account.
“I see one of the key roles is cracking through some of the barriers,” Ms Shearer said of her new role.
“It’s clear that something different needs to happen.”
Asked what key transferable skills she brings and the answer is as immediate as it is direct: “reform”.
“It’s the key skill set that I’ve taken across,” she said.
“Looking for better ways for government to do business.”
Other words to follow include “transparency”, “accountability” and “proportionate”.
Her first goal is to “get everyone around the table and holding people to account.
“There’s too many swords at 50 paces and I’m satisfied we’ve got the right people,” she said.
“It’s about accountability.”
Ms Shearer has already ticked her first box with a meeting on Tuesday with senior bureaucrats from Central Coast Council, Planning, Transport for NSW and other government agencies.
Another is planned in two weeks and following that monthly.
Ms Shearer admits the government has “no capacity, no legal capacity to get (developers) to start building” but it could secure the infrastructure and provide the incentive.
Like them or loathe them, Ms Shearer said the ATO and new Finance buildings being built on the former Gosford Public School site were catalyst projects.
“The ATO/Finance will bring jobs, these buildings are important in building confidence,” she said.
“They’re part of a piece of land that’s clearly key to the way forward to the waterfront development.”
Ms Shearer said their controversial location “doesn’t prevent” the waterfront from reaching its full potential.
“There’s a lot of DAs that will be developed when whoever owns them sees the economic benefit,” she said.
Ms Shearer points to the cranes over Gosford Hospital and its $348 million upgrade as symbolising the CBD was becoming a place were people could come for jobs and businesses could invest.
“I think we’re really now on the cusp, there has been a lot of talk, people want to see something happening,” she said.
“The whole waterfront needs to be put on the front page.”
Gosford’s revitalisation has long been a sinking ship for consecutive state governments but the Central Coast’s latest master and commander said she was determined to see a way through.
“The plan is there, it’s been committed to and that’s what we’re doing,” she said.
“I’ve heard about the anti-development (lobby) and the pro-development (lobby). That’s the reality. And I know people are going to come out of the woodwork. Let’s have that fight.”
APPOINTMENT JOINS A LIST OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME BEFORE
LEE Shearer joins a number of past captains of industry tasked with revitalising Gosford.
■ In 2003 the State Government paid town planner John McInerney $400,000 to oversee the CBD redevelopment and come up with a masterplan for the precinct.
He did just that and yet nothing transpired.
■ In 2008 Gosford Council hired consultant Bill Kerr to rejuvenate the CBD.
He was dubbed “Billion-dollar Bill” for his successful revamps of city centres at Coburg and Greensborough in Victoria, projects worth more than $1 billion.
Council transferred its environment and planning director Colleen Worthy-Jennings into a newly created role of “city centre development director” to oversee the project then called the “Gosford Challenge”.
Again it all proved too challenging and besides yet another makeover of Kibble Park and the acquisition of Gosford Marketplace the fruits of their efforts came to squat.
■ In 2010 the State Government rebadged the Festival Development Corporation as the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation and tasked it with redeveloping Gosford under the Our City, Our Destiny Masterplan.
2GB’s radio stars Alan Jones and Ray Hadley broadcast live from Iguanas to highlight the Lend Lease involvement in the much touted Gosford Landing project.
The project crash landed less than two years later.