Dialogue backs NSW Budget: health and transport projects tackle congestion and obesity

The Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue has congratulated the Berejiklian Government for maintaining a sound surplus in the face of growing economic headwinds, while remaining committed to its strategic program of infrastructure and service spending in vital areas of Greater Western Sydney. 

Dialogue Chairman Christopher Brown AM said, “While the hefty write down of GST and Stamp Duty highlights an underlying weakening of revenue, an infrastructure pipeline of $93b – and heading fast for $100b – reflects what’s now a well-established, confidently managed growth agenda for the state. Best of all, plenty of it is targeted towards Western Sydney.”

The Dialogue yesterday wrote to The Premier calling for the sale of the remaining half of WestConnex to help fund Sydney Metro West, which is crucial to the development of the Central River City and the region. In the letter the Dialogue also advocated for proceeds of further asset recycling to fund the second stage of Parramatta Light Rail and urban renewal in the Bankstown CBD as part of the South West Metro project.

“The people of Western Sydney can be confident that the government that NSW voters recently re-elected is showing good faith with this Budget. In an increasingly gloomy national and global economic climate, the government’s strongly-mandated program of transport, health and education infrastructure upgrades, along with its commitment to some key major projects, represents the right approach to ensuring Western Sydney continues to thrive,” he said.

Mr Brown cited the new Western Sydney Construction Hub, including a ‘mega TAFE’, as a clear sign that the government recognised the critical role of a long-term trade skills development plan. “If we’re going to build smart city futures in the West, first and foremost we’ll need smart city builders.”

The Dialogue particularly welcomed the Budget’s formal booking of the $2b already announced for the North South rail link to the Western Sydney Airport and Aerotropolis, and the $6.4b promised for the West Metro project. Mr Brown added that a lack of Federal Government funding for Metro West will give rise to the need for further asset recycling to meet the expected $20b price-tag.

“The small project focus of the Commonwealth, in the midst of a slowing economy and growing pressures on state revenue, leaves all the heavy lifting to state governments. The NSW Government is up to the task, but they deserve a better deal from the Feds,” he said.

Mr Brown also applauded extra funding for the NSW Motor Sport Strategy, following the Dialogue’s successful advocacy for the installation of permanent lighting at Sydney Motorsport Park. He said, “The government’s willingness to keep supporting initiatives like this is warmly acknowledged.”    

Mr Brown said the Dialogue is pleased to note the Budget’s many smaller-scale initiatives collectively targeting the health of those in GWS, particularly preventative measures intended to activate healthier diets and more active lifestyles.

“The recommendations in the Dialogue’s recent paper on the region’s obesity and diabetes epidemics, Western Sydney’s Heavy Issue, all focus on activating more daily physical activity and better daily nutrition. It’s great to see this government starting to pull different policy levers, at all levels and scales but with the same strategic aim,” he said.

Noting that reducing childhood obesity is a Premier’s Priority, Mr Brown said that doubling the ‘terrifically successful’ Active Kids vouchers scheme and, in the same Budget, expanding the School Breakfast 4 Health program showed the government’s evolving capacity for ‘joined-up policy thinking’ on complex social issues.

“Add in $150 million for opening up green public spaces and extra national park funding, which will give kids more outside space everywhere from Penrith’s Regatta Park to the new Billabong Parklands in Campbelltown, and it’s really starting to look like the ‘whole-of-community’ approach the experts tell us is the best way to tackle obesity,” he said.

Mr Brown called for further action to tackle the obesity epidemic including a ban on junk food ads on Sydney public transport, and for the NSW Government to advance the debate on a tax on sugary drinks.

“These are not new or radical ideas and other jurisdictions have proven they can work. The issue is getting to big to ignore.”

For media information

Sarah Campbell — Communications Manager
Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue sarah@westernsydney.org.au

Western Sydney welcomes the stars live on stage as part of inaugural Coliseum program

Theatre and music fans across Australia today welcomed news that world-renowned country music singer songwriter Keith Urban will lead a contingent of Australian performers, as well as a stellar line up of dancers including the internationally acclaimed St Petersburg Ballet, who will perform as part of the new Sydney Coliseum opening program, at West HQ.

The new 2000-seat theatre, based in Western Sydney, today launched its inaugural program of events, which in addition to the Grammy and Emmy Award winning Keith Urban, will also feature shows by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Wolfgang’s Magic Musical Circus by Circa, the Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, John Bultler, as well as Dame Edna Everage.

Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue Executive Director Adam Leto said he expected the new theatre to continue to attract  a top-tier line up of world class performers when it opens in late 2019.

“Sydney Coliseum is a state-of-the-art venue which will attract not only the best performers in the world, but also ensure the region’s visitor and tourism economy is centre-stage,” Mr Leto said.

“Sydney Coliseum will be the only 2000-seat theatre outside of the Sydney CBD capable of hosting large scale musicals, ballets, orchestras and operas  and  when it opens it will be the hottest ticket in town.”

Mr Leto said Sydney Coliseum was one of a number of regional cultural and sporting assets launched this year, joining  the newly opened Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta and the soon to open Sydney Zoo at Bungarribee Park. When it opens in late 2019 Sydney Coliseum will be flanked by restaurateur Steve Anastasiou’s newest eatery, Chu by China Doll.

“Western Sydney is serious about hosting top-tier entertainment, both local and international acts, and it is proudly showing off our new stadiums and theatres to anyone who wants to join the audience for live music, sport or world class exhibitions,”  he said.

Officially named in April this year, the $100m Sydney Coliseum Theatre has been widely described as Western Sydney’s answer to the Opera House.

“The Sydney Coliseum Theatre is what Sydney needs in term of offering another large scale theatre venue and anyone who has visited the site, or seen the plans, knows just how impressive this theatre is going to be,” Mr Leto said.

“The scale and quality of Sydney Coliseum is unlike anything that we’ve seen in Western Sydney and the Dialogue is thrilled  delivering a world-class entertainment venue that the region can be proud of.

“Western Sydney has for a long period struggled to attract significant arts and cultural investment, and this development not only fills a void, but sends an important message to the rest of the market that we’re serious about hosting top-tier international acts and performers,” Mr Leto said.

The Theatre is based at West HQ, an expanding cultural, sporting, commercial and accommodation destination that currently attracts over three million visitors a year. The precinct includes two-luxury hotels, an Olympic-standard Sydney Gymnastic and Aquatic Centre and the iconic Rooty Hill RSL, among other projects.

Additionally, West HQ recently unveiled a number of exciting new dining partnerships, adding to Chu by China Doll, will be Pizzaperta by Manfredi, Steak & Oyster Co by Sean Connolly, Chur Burger and Gelatissimo with more offerings expected to be announced shortly.

Sydney Coliseum today announced Sydney Symphony Orchestra as its Anchor Partner and it will host symphonic events all year round.

Click here to find out more about the new Sydney Coliseum.

Sydney Metro Northwest shows light at the end of the tunnel

The weekend launch of the $7.3b Sydney Metro Northwest project comes one month after the opening of Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium.

Improving liveability, accessibility and productivity as Western Sydney grows is an important driver for the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue in the context of these, and many other, projects.

Executive Director Adam Leto shared his opinion, an optimistic outlook, as well as an awareness of the inevitable “teething problems” for the region in The Daily Telegraph just as the first driverless Northwest train left the station.

Read More here.

Dialogue backs SBS move to Western Sydney

The Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue has congratulated the Federal Opposition on investigating the opportunities to relocate SBS to Western Sydney, a move that it has described as a “no-brainer”.

Christopher Brown AM, Chairman of the Dialogue, who late last year put the suggestion to Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during the Labor Leader’s visit to Revesby, said the proposal was long-overdue and had the potential to deliver several positive social, economic and creative outcomes for the region.

“The Dialogue has been campaigning for this move for nearly five years, and we’re certainly pleased that the Federal Opposition is taking a lead on this,” Mr Brown said.

“There is no doubt that SBS, the nation’s multicultural broadcaster, should be based in multicultural Western Sydney, not mono-cultural Artarmon. It’s a no-brainer.”

“This proposal opens up a number of opportunities for the region, and any number of cities would make for a great fit. Places like Bankstown for instance, which is home to a large pool of arts and creative young talent and is centrally located. With the Western Sydney University Bankstown CBD Campus on the way over the next couple of years, I think there’s some potential to create a shared site, with both tertiary, production-training and broadcasting functionality.”

“I’d be encouraging the councils of the West to take up the challenge and put forward ideas about where best to locate the SBS offices and studios, and propose a deal to make it happen” Brown said. 

Mr Brown said it was fitting “that SBS, which is recognised for championing acceptance and diversity, be based in Western Sydney, where it would be positioned to build a stronger connection with its audiences and have greater access to the many authentic, and untold stories of the region”.  

“If this proposal is delivered, it would not only represent a win for Western Sydney, but ultimately for SBS, which would be at the centre of the nation’s biggest cultural melting-pot, and where there are so many interesting, positive stories to be told,” he added.  

“It would help the region to tell its own stories and would provide a range of smart job opportunities for the region.”

Australian screen icon, acclaimed producer, and Bankstown ‘old boy’ Bryan Brown AM, also welcomed the Federal Opposition’s plan.

“Bringing Australia’s multicultural channel to the multi-cultural West. Good move!”, Mr (Bryan) Brown said.

Residents from Western Sydney  come from more than 170 countries and speak over 100 languages. Up to 35% of  locals are born overseas, while  60% of new immigrants settle in the region. Western Sydney is also  home to one of the biggest Indigenous populations in the nation, with more Indigenous residents than both South Australia or Victoria.

More information: Sarah Campbell, Communications Manager, sarah@westernsydney.org.au

New Report: A Five Point Plan to Tackle Obesity

The introduction of a national sugar tax and targeted state-wide restrictions on junk food advertising, are just some of the measures being recommended by the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue in its new Discussion Paper, Western Sydney’s Heavy Issue: A Five Point Plan to Tackle Obesity.

Dialogue Executive Director, Adam Leto, said the paper, deliberately timed for release during the lead-up to the Federal Election, was primarily aimed at highlighting the significant ‘obesity deficit’ that exists in Greater Western Sydney and the need for urgent political intervention, before the obesity epidemic gets worse.

“More than two thirds of Western Sydney is either overweight or obese, which is above the national average, and the flow-on health, social and economic costs are rising markedly,” Mr Leto said.

“The introduction of a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, in isolation, is not the sole answer when it comes to solving what we understand is a deep, and complex issue,” he said.

“But as part of an integrated suite of measures, it can have an impact, as we have seen in other places around the world. What we can’t afford to do is sit back and say it’s just too hard – and leading up to the Federal Election, there is an opportunity for our political representatives to show some leadership and make this is one of their top policy priorities.”

Mr Leto said that in addition to some of the more complex recommendations listed in the report, such as the national sugar tax, there were some “quick wins” that could make a difference, such as imposing junk food advertising restrictions on state-owned public transport assets, similar to what has been introduced in other states, including most recently, Queensland.

“This is an issue that is affecting all Australians, but when you look at the figures in Western Sydney, you can’t help but be concerned,” he said.

“People who live in Western Sydney are more likely to struggle with obesity than elsewhere in Sydney – they have limited access to fresh and healthier food options, their cities are less walkable than most other parts of Sydney and more than 50 percent of the population has, or is at risk of acquiring Type 2 Diabetes,” Mr Leto said.

“We recognise the introduction of a sugar tax  is going to be a challenge, but there are also a number of relatively simpler measures, from the way we design our cities, through to a universal, compulsory health-star rating, that can also deliver improved health outcomes.”

Last month, the Dialogue ran a forum focusing on understanding and addressing the cost of poor health and social disadvantage in the region, attended by a range of health experts, including Professor Glen Maberly, Director Western Sydney Diabetes, Tom Nance, Manger Policy and Programs, Western Sydney Community Forum, and Wendy Watson, Nutrition Program Manager of the Cancer Council NSW, who all  agreed that the health of people living in Western Sydney demanded higher prioritisation by the Government.

Mr Leto added that both Western Sydney Local Health District, South Western Sydney Local Health District and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District had taken a pro-active approach when it came to both raising awareness, and developing programs aimed at improving the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the region.

“Health professionals, business and families all need support from our political decision makers,” Mr Leto said.

“We need to develop a partnership approach to tackle this issue head-on - one that has community, industry and political buy-in - if we’re serious about getting results.”

Key parts of the report’s 5 Point Plan to tackle obesity are:

  • Junk food advertising restrictions across the Sydney Trains network and for public transport on school routes

  • A sugar tax on sweetened drinks

  • Improving urban planning for health

  • Reforming health star rating system

  • Incentives for physical activities

THE KEY STATISTICS:

  • Sydneysiders living in the Western Sydney or Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Areas (PHA) are on average 12.5 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those living in the Central and Eastern Sydney or Northern Sydney areas

  • GWS is home to the Sydney Local School Areas with the five highest rates of obesity among Sydney schoolchildren

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, who are disproportionately represented in parts of Greater Western Sydney, are 1.6 times more likely to be obese.

Click here for access to the full report: Western Sydney’s Heavy Issue: A Five Point Plan to Tackle Obesity.

For media information

Sarah Campbell, Communications Manager, sarah@westernsydney.org.au

Dialogue Welcomes Fuel-Pipeline Funding Promise

The Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue has welcomed the Federal Opposition’s commitment to fund a fuel-pipeline to Western Sydney Airport (WSA) should it be elected later this month, in a move that will cut the number of truck movements in the region.

The Dialogue has been campaigning for the introduction of fuel-pipeline for almost 12 months and said today’s announcement by Federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese would not only relieve congestion, and help save lives, but also ensure future fuel demands are met.

“This is an opportunity to get ahead of the game, and instead of playing catch-up, let’s build the underground fuel network now, as we know we’re most definitely going to need it in 20 years’ time,” Dialogue Executive Director, Adam Leto, said.

“Taking 65 highly-combustible Avgas trucks off the roads daily is a no-brainer and this pipeline will also ensure WSA remains globally-competitive and is supported by an efficient, open, competitive fuel supply,” he said.

“In order to improve safety, and to help free up the roads for Western Sydney motorists, there should be absolutely no delay installing this pipeline.

“The new fuel pipeline will ensure WSA can maximise its operations without unnecessarily burdening residents who live in the surrounding Aerotropolis by cutting out excessive truck movements between Clyde or Port Botany fuel terminals to WSA,” he said.

However, the Dialogue believes that there needs to be more than just a dedicated aviation fuel pipeline to WSA, preferring the development of a regional fuel depot to service the massive growth area of west and south west Sydney.

“We cannot continue to allow thousands of fuel tankers to drive from Kurnell each day to the hundreds of petrol stations across suburban Sydney. We must have a proper pipeline network that brings most of the fuel to the region underground, greatly reducing the environmental impact of tanker distribution and the threat this poses to the safety of local communities,” Mr Leto said.

Last year, the Federal Government commissioned Deloitte to examine the issues and options around fuel supply to WSA but this is the first time a major party has committed to fund the project.

According to the report, without a pipeline, it is estimated that up to 65 trucks per day will be required to service WSA, running from either the Clyde or Port Botany fuel terminals by road.

“We are building a city the size of Adelaide in Western Sydney over the next 30 years and in addition to supplying the Airport a pipeline will also enable the establishment of fuel storage and distribution infrastructure, servicing our increasing population, businesses and industrial needs,” Mr Leto said.

For media information

Sarah Campbell — Communications Manager
Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue sarah@westernsydney.org.au