Over the past few weeks of heavy rains, businesses and residents along Carrington Road, Marrickville, were again under water. While the recent flooding has been devastating for local residents and businesses, we know we suffered little compared to the horrors in the Northern Rivers and other parts of our State. I convey the heartfelt condolences and best wishes of my inner west community to all the communities impacted by this months' deadly flooding. As in those communities, the local flooding in Marrickville has dredged up a conversation we thought was settled—the suitability of high‑rise residential development in the industrial precinct tracing the old Gumbramorra swamp.
The Gumbramorra swamp is a wetland estuary that roughly follows the rail line from Sydenham to Tempe along the Cooks River. As a natural formation, the swamp would hold floodwaters from higher up in the Marrickville valley, including from suburbs we now know as Petersham and Newtown, before they slowly drained into the Cooks River. Over generations we have built over the swamp, including an ill-fated venture known as Tramvale in the late 1800s, where families were lured to build homes in a new suburb lauded for its convenience and access to public transport. The fledgling suburb was destroyed, replaced by vast tracts of industrial land that has for generations been pivotal to the New South Wales and local economy. There is now roughly 67 hectares of industrial land in Marrickville. Each square inch is priceless due to its proximity to the airport and the port, and each square inch is at risk of encroachment from high-rise residential development.
The Greater Sydney Commission has to date held a firm line on preserving our urban industrial lands. In 2018 the commission put out a broadly accepted and commonsense position that we must "retain and manage" industrial lands across Sydney. That position recognised that these lands are job creators, are vital for freight and other logistics, are often unsuitable for residential development due to contamination or other factors, and are pivotal to creating services close to communities. Who wants to be forced onto already congested roads to drive to the outskirts of Sydney just to see a mechanic to have their car fixed? Retaining and managing these lands also acknowledges that they are pivotal to innovation and to give new industries and ventures space to grow and often foster fragile industries such as the creative sector.
Despite the sound logic of this retain and manage position, I am concerned that the Greater Sydney Commission is raising the white flag on preserving our precious industrial lands with a review that will see more industrial lands in our suburbs sacrificed for residential development. The argument is that we need to be doing more to increase supply and reduce the pressure on housing affordability. I agree, but there is no evidence that a changed approach here would meaningfully assist with either. The commission conducted "let it rip" modelling, where all rules around preserving industrial lands were junked, showing that even an extreme approach would only contribute a further 7 per cent towards meeting current housing targets. There is nothing I have seen to compel or incentivise developers to use these lands for affordable housing. Certainly, in my electorate we have just seen more and more multimillion‑dollar apartments far out of reach of essential workers and those who need housing most.
Unsurprisingly, the property industry is no fan of the existing policy. It is no doubt emboldened by the return of the member for Lane Cove, the Hon. Anthony Roberts, as planning Minister. After all, this is a Government that time and time again has put the interests of developers and the property industry ahead of local communities. My local community effectively fended off proposals for high‑rise development encroaching into the suburbs along the Sydney Metro line when Minister Roberts was last in the job, including into heritage conservation areas in Dulwich Hill and Hurlstone Park. They stood firm against plans by Mirvac and others for sky‑high residential development along Carrington Road, and they are ready to fight again.
While we certainly need to do more to increase housing supply and drive down housing affordability, the hasty retreat being beaten from the retain and manage approach to industrial lands will likely have minimal impact but will come at an extraordinary cost, imperilling the lands we depend upon to create jobs and make the things we need. I have often said we need to be a State that makes things, whether it is the trams, trains, buses or ferries that we need to get around or the parts we need to run our cars, the textiles or goods or the packaging for the food on our supermarket shelves. We need to ensure we keep making things in Sydney, so we need to protect the places where these things are made. The roughly 67 hectares of industrial land in Marrickville and the industrial lands in our district are vital to our State's economy. The commission's research put the total value of industrial land to our State's economy at $15.4 billion, creating 123,000 jobs. It is clear that if we let industrial land like that in Carrington Road go to high‑rise development, it will not just be residential towers under water, it will be the New South Wales economy as well.