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Point of no return for one of the city's most historic spots

Date

Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich

Selling public housing in a harbour-side suburb shows the government chooses casinos over communities, write Clover Moore and Alex Greenwich.

The Sirius buildling in The Rocks is to be sold to raise revenue for the O'Farrell government.

The Sirius buildling in The Rocks is to be sold to raise revenue for the O'Farrell government. Photo: Steve Lunam

Millers Point is almost as old as Sydney. For 189 years, it has been a living example of Australia's distinctive egalitarianism - a close, socially mixed community on the harbourside. To think public housing properties here will be sold to raise revenue for the O'Farrell government is devastating.

In 2003, Millers Point was listed on the State Heritage Register as ''a living cultural landscape''. Housing NSW's conservation management guidelines of 2007 rightly state Millers Point is ''a priceless asset of the people of NSW and Australia''.

Many residents in the neighbourhood have connections that go back generations. They can talk vividly about Sydney's history as a working harbour. They have an irreplaceable connection to their local neighbourhood.

Called Ta-Ra by its first inhabitants, the Gadigal people, Millers Point was named after windmills built in the hills and their owner John Leighton, also known as Jack the Miller.

By the 1850s, Millers Point was a maritime enclave with almost all its residents and employers connected to the wharves and the trade they brought.

In 1900, after an outbreak of the bubonic plague, the government took control of all the wharves and streets behind them to start a massive redevelopment project. This period produced some of Sydney's greatest public works - the wharves from Woolloomooloo to White Bay and the Harbour Bridge.

Intact throughout the plague, the depression and war, the community at Millers Point was threatened in the 1970s when the Askin government tried to push high-rise development in the area.

Jack Mundey and the Green ban movement of the early 1970s, saved many of the oldest buildings in the area, as well as parks and open spaces. This fight was not just about protecting old buildings; it was also about protecting the area's low-income residents.

In 2008, the former NSW Labor government sounded the death knell for Millers Point when it began selling off 99-year leases for social housing homes and letting other properties fall into neglect.

Millers Point has yet to see any of the revenue generated by those sales reinvested in the local area.

On Wednesday, the NSW Liberal government struck the final blow for the strong and proud community of Millers Point.

Nearly 300 homes will be sold and over 400 people will be forced out of their homes and their community. Residents with connections to the area going back 189 years will be forced to leave.

The government's decision to sell the Millers Point social-housing estate is also a threat to other inner-city social housing, in areas like Glebe or Woolloomooloo, where people also live in 19th-century homes.

While 55,000 people are on the wait-list for social-housing homes in NSW, with waiting times of anywhere between two to 10 years, neglected houses in Millers Point have been allowed to sit empty. Tenants call this ''eviction by neglect''.

This government, like the one before, has proved it will sell people's homes, shunting the poor aside to make way for the new rich. Sydney deserves better than this.

This is the community that built much of Sydney - it doesn't deserve to be tossed out of its home because its pockets aren't deep enough.

Clover Moore is lord mayor of Sydney and Alex Greenwich is the member for Sydney.

152 comments

  • So, What's new?

    Commenter
    3217
    Date and time
    March 20, 2014, 6:40AM
    • So, what's new you ask? Absolutely nothing. The old testament said somewhere "the meek shall inherit the earth". The O'Farrell testament has now updated that egalitarian nonsense to read, "and the rich shall inherit the earth where harbour side views predominate". Can't have those 5 star casinos being exposed to the great unwashed in our society. Don't they understand that they simply don't fit in to the new mega environment being created for the exclusive benefit of the fortunate few.

      Commenter
      JohnC
      Location
      Gosford NSW
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 9:13AM
    • @JohnC .. This might grate a little for you, but the sell-off of these properties started under the former Labor Government. The LNP are only continuing what Labor started.

      Commenter
      rob1966
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 9:49AM
    • Social housing is a function of a caring government. Social housing with Harbour views is not necessary. Sell the properties use the funds for more affordable housing.Why should the increase in value of property be only taken by private homeowners. No one has a right to say I am entitled to live in a specific suburb unless they like the vast majority pay for the privilege. Analternative would be to charge market rent. Wouldn't that cause a storm?

      Commenter
      Jobbo
      Location
      City
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 12:28PM
    • The real problem here is......who's going to benefit from these sell-offs?

      It appears to me today, that theres a new type of gov in town.

      And that is insular groups that are in power to line their own and buddies pockets, through whatever dodgie means they can get away with.

      Aussies are voting according to what they think govs will do for them(as was what used to happen years ago)...today, voters listen to the promises , only to find after they vote and their favourites are elected, that they are being sold out...in all directions...what do they do about it?....who knows, wish I knew...

      Commenter
      Sunspot
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 12:36PM
    • The entire Rocks was fought for and saved by Jack Mundey and BLF for the people of Sydney, the people who live there, not for tourists, or New Years Eve revellers, or property investors, or Chinese Billionaires, wanting to buy the view. It seems the city has sold its soul to global capital.

      We have white collar workers lured to the city from all over the world by superficial glamour who find they cannot really afford to even buy a house here or in fact have a real life, instead they have a life of a sort of pseudo glamorous corporate slavery.

      If a city isn't somewhere where people can set up a home, or have a real life with genuine roots that may go back generations its just a glorified theme park where you pay your admission, have your fun and leave with pretty much nothing except the recognition of having lined someone else's pocket.

      Sydney was once a great city of real people and passions that was worth fighting for. WHo would fight for the heartless glorified casino that it has become.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 12:40PM
    • GOV, you get it.

      Sydney sold its soul around the end of the bicentennial.

      I went to school in the Rocks, grew up in Pyrmont. Grandfather was a wharfie, Dad a labourer. Yeah, the people were tough. But there was a sense of community, and you could almost always trust on everyone else to look out for each other.

      Now, I'm middle aged, been to uni a couple of times and have been employed in a white collar industry for more than 20 years now. But you know what? The people I remember from back then had more character, more guts and basic decency than so many of those in so called prestigious careers; people like the ones posting here who look at the price tag for everything in life. These are the people who have ruined Sydney.

      Some people posting here seem always so quick to resort to stereotypes..well it can cut both ways. The nouveau riche who are so full of bile and bitterness from their own unhappy lives that they take it out on those from the most disadvantaged areas of society. Probably have 3 investment properties which they've all negatively geared.

      The hungry mile now an exclusive site for rich jetsetters to fly in and play blackjack? Disgraceful.

      I miss the old Sydney.

      Commenter
      Kolchak
      Location
      somewhere in Sydney
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 1:30PM
    • Kolchak, agreed 1988 was the start of it. That's when New Years Eve became a night where you sat among strangers watching a bunch of fireworks instead of spending the night with your closest friends at someone's home. Somehow a fireworks display makes you feel special and privileged even if you don't have any friends? Life as spectacle and display instead of as community. You can't rent your friends one of your investment properties, they are no onger your friends.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 2:03PM
    • There is absolutely no justification for prime real estate to be given to subprime people especially at taxpayer's expense. This land should be sold to the highest bidder and developed in line with the salubriousness of the area. The current residents should be relocated to somewhere more fitting of their means.

      If you want the best then earn it. Don't expect others to give it to you.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 2:42PM
    • "subprime people"

      "This land should be sold to the highest bidder and developed in line with the salubriousness of the area. The current residents should be relocated to somewhere more fitting of their means."

      Subprime people?

      Don't sugar coat it. Tell us what you really think.

      Typical. Just typical of the neocon attitude that measures the worth of people by how much money they receive.

      The most selfish and ugly overdeveloped suburbs are the ones populated by self absorbed, overpaid, overrated, tax minimising, negative gearing, discretionary trust types in occupations like recruitment, advertising, property development, public relations, real estate, marketing, lobbying, sales, wealth management (aka tax evasion) etc.

      Commenter
      Tristan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 20, 2014, 3:28PM

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