If Sydney was a professional tennis player, it would be more Nick Kyrgios than Rafael Nadal.
That’s the message from those behind a push to transform Sydney Harbour, from Barangaroo to the Sydney Fish Markets, who say the city can’t rest on its talent alone, but needs to work harder to be attractive to both locals and tourists.
At a summit in Sydney on Wednesday, the Western Harbour Alliance – a group of influential businesses – unveiled its strategy to transform the area into a “world-class” waterfront, similar to Singapore’s Marina Bay.
“We’re a little bit like that very gifted athlete whose natural talent takes us a very long way – there’s a little bit of Nick Kyrgios about us rather than Rafael Nadal,” said Geoff Parmenter from the Committee for Sydney.
“The reality is when you get to that elite level of competition, which is where Sydney is, that natural talent will only take you so far and we’re up against a bunch of other cities putting lesser assets to work a lot harder than we tend to do.”
Included in the precinct the Alliance is looking to transform, is historical Sydney suburb Pyrmont where The Star casino’s proposed luxury hotel development was recently knocked back for a second time in November.
One week after the 237-metre hotel was rejected NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing she’d be be pursuing planning reforms in the new year, expressing interest in amending planning controls around Pyrmont.
Addressing the summit, Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the successful planning controls of the early 1990s Pyrmont were now holding the area back.
“What was incredibly innovative at the time … does not fit the future of this place,” he said.
“The premier has been very clear with me that she wants to develop planning controls that are fit for purpose, that realise our vision of Pyrmont and the western harbour broadly as being a seamless extension of global Sydney,” Mr Stokes said.
Mr Stokes says WHA’s vision could “unlock” $20 billion in capital investment and provide 10,000 permanent jobs.
Despite giving her tacit approval of the vision to transform Sydney’s western harbour, Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said it was important that it was not financed by “unsympathetic development” which could destroy or compromise the precinct’s heritage fabric.
“Importantly, there are now almost 20,000 people living in the precinct, these residents must be included when developing a new vision of the western harbour,” she said.
“It’s not just an entertainment and tourism precinct made up of major attractions, it’s a neighbourhood in a community where people live and work.”
Ms Moore said too often in the past projects from the government were criticised after they were imposed on communities without understanding what the locals wanted.
She also emphasised that while her council had opposed The Star’s development – it was not against luxury hotels or tall buildings, having approved them in the past.
She said with the right “merit-based” planning controls in place the WHA’s vision could happen more quickly and with better “public amenity outcomes”.
The WHA is also proposing a regular festival of “dedicated celebration” to attract people to Sydney’s western harbour.
Potential ideas for the festival floated on Wednesday, included swimming with salmon in the harbour, a stand-up paddleboarding Guinness Book of World Records attempt and a series of synchronized floating screens as part of a film festival.