Saturday 2nd of March 2024

bulldozer and bull ......

I live in the inner west/southwest of Sydney, traditional lands of the Gadigal, Wangal and Darug-speaking peoples. Our built heritage traces the area’s development and amplifies its desirability, economic viability, and people’s quality of life. According to Time Out, Marrickville and Enmore are some of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world.


Sydney YIMBY and the weaponising of heritage      By Marie Healy


Australia’s short history of built heritage has been poorly assessed and managed. Sydney‘s a jumble of structures, pockmarked by gaping holes, cranes on every horizon and defective high-rises. We still have some fine colonial buildings, rows of Victorian terraces, Art Deco blocks, mid-century moderns and garden Federation suburbs, but these are threatened species. The new kid on the block, Sydney YIMBY, hopes to wipe them out.

The Machiavellian Askin and Baird/Berejiklian Governments were heritage vandals with identical playbooks: run giant roadways though historic precincts or bulldoze them in the name of urban renewal; overhaul planning to disempower councils and citizens; lunch with lobbyists. Communities responded with Green Bans in the 70s, and an explosion of action groups under Baird/Berejiklian.

People in my area are suspicious when a pro-development lobby group pops up claiming to be a grass-roots. When the multiple community groups opposed the Bankstown line metro conversion, “Locals for Metro Southwest” emerged. Andrew Constance and Berejiklian loved them; it transpired they were formed by developers and a registered lobbyist.

Our current premier, Chris Minns, has some good ideas about housing: address greenfield developments, dodgy builders, design, and vacant dwellings; but he’s mixing with vested interests instead of community members, and proudly sporting a YIMBY T-shirt.

Sydney YIMBYs want to “eliminate low density zoning”. They take issue with heritage protections and assessments; their website spreads misinformation and fear-mongering related to this. There are three founding members. Melissa Neighbour promotes herself as a Community Champion, an expert in sustainability; the main clients of her company Sky Planning are in real estate and development and she boasts partnerships with the likes of Hall and Hart Homes, builders of McMansions. Sharath Mahendran, with a passion for transport systems, has concerns about housing affordability but fails to acknowledge the inflationary effects of the metro projects, with cost blow-outs in the billions. Justin Simon lives in heritage-rich Summer Hill, but it appears he has a distaste for anything old, including people over 60.

Sydney YIMBY fake news 1: “Restrictions on housing supply, through planning controls like zoning or heritage, mean that we are paying an estimated 40% more for housing then we have to.” Actually, migration, the patterns of urban development in Australia, housing supply, interest rates and inflation, tax incentives for investors and first-home-buyers grants are all contributory. There is no evidence that heritage rules in Sydney have inflated land or house prices.

Sydney YIMBY fake news 2: “we can’t afford to be locking up thousands of unremarkable $2m bungalows in the middle of a housing crisis.” Heritage listings are assessed by experts, not arbitrarily applied. Most of Sydney‘s heritage-style dwellings are not heritage-listed and are not in Heritage Conservation Areas because of the apathy of property owners and local and state governments.

Sydney YIMBY Fake news 3: living in a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) “would mean they won’t be able to build extensions visible from the street, install solar panels on the front of their homes or even paint their fence without engaging expensive heritage consultants.” Most home owners don’t install solar panels at the front of their homes and most house extensions are rear ones regardless of heritage concerns. Council heritage officers provide free guidance on colour schemes and other work, and there are appropriate provisions for minor modifications. The use of heritage consultants is unusual.

Sydney YIMBY fake news 4: heritage-listing electricity substations will “protect them forever.” In fact, these structures have been incorporated into multi-dwelling housing, such as in Probert St Newtown. Adaptive reuse adds interest to a development while retaining a heritage aesthetic.

In my LGA, Canterbury Bankstown, there were 133,000 dwellings in the 2021 census; 137 houses were heritage-listed. Of over 40 suburbs across the LGA, only 2 contain HCAs. One of our finest heritage-listed structures, the 1841 Sugar Works building and precinct, was converted to apartments while maintaining the old stone exterior and fencing. Heritage is not getting in the way of development; there are not enough listings to make an impact and heritage-listed does not preclude development. On the other hand, our area has been plagued by over-priced dodgy developments and overseas investors with negative consequences for home owners and renters.

I was instrumental in getting heritage protections in my suburb (we also happened to save the heritage-listed railway station buildings that Berejiklian and Constance wanted replaced by “pre-fabricated pods”). This involved community engagement, research and honest argument. I might be over 60 and need more maintenance that your average youthful YIMBY, but I think I’m on the right side of history here. A war on heritage is populist, dishonest, divisive, disrespectful and ill-considered. It appears that the misinformation being peddled to Inner West residents by Sydney YIMBY appealed to the self-interest of home owners, concerned about where to place solar panels; apparently 60% rejected the idea of new HCAs after a letter boxing campaign. Won’t those home owners be surprised if they end up in the shadow of a high rise instead!



FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW.....................






Please do not visit that ghastly yimby ("YES I WANT A 10 STORY DUNNY IN MY BACKYARD"):