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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release April 2003

Changes at the Top, SARS and Overcrowding

Changes at the Top

Save Our Suburbs has been working for change. The major objective of SOS is to change the current atrocious developer and fad-driven planning policies of the Department of Planning. In spite of letters, protest meetings, petitions and publicity generated, no notice was taken of us until we formed a political party.

As soon as the SOS Party was formed people started to react to what we have been saying. The Greens took up the question of developer donations in a big way. They also began saying their party is against overdevelopment. So did the Democrats. The Libs began to publicise that they would scrap SEPP5 and SEPP53. While all this was mere posturing rather than reality it was a start. Overdevelopment cannot be overturned with a few catch phrases. A combination of policies is required that realistically take into account the underlying factors relating to populations (see the SOS website www.sos.org.au). However the fact that the other parties began taking notice of our policies was a most encouraging development.

The next episode relating to change is now unfolding. Yesterday's announcements by the Premier revealed that our major antagonists and the two persons most responsible for the appalling planning of New South Wales, Planning Minister Dr Refshauge and the Department of Planning Director-General Sue Holliday are to go. Dr Refshauge is being transferred to the education portfolio.

We hope this signifies a change for the better. It would be interesting to find out to what extent SOS activities provoked this change. We have been widely publicising the failings of the Department of Planning, culminating in the distribution of our election newspaper, the Suburban Advocate and neither Dr Refshauge nor his Director-General were ever able to respond to our suggestions or criticisms in any meaningful way.

SARS and Overcrowding

The current alarm about the "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" highlights the risks posed to a population being forcibly crammed closer and closer together. This new disease, reportedly caused by a new type of coronavirus has killed more than 80 people around the world and so far infected some 2300 others. There is no cure and in Hong Kong supplies of protective face masks have run out. The epidemic is having a devasting effect on the tourism industry.

A salient aspect is that the most severely affected areas are those with high population densities - Hong Kong and Singapore (population densities of 5000 people per sq km). A focus of infection in Hong Kong, an apartment block has been closed down and the inhabitants placed in quarantine in an attempt to prevent the spread of the infection.

Overcrowding

Specialists in infectious diseases advise that increasing population density is a major reason for increases in emerging infectious diseases.

It should be obvious to our planners that overcrowding our suburbs increases risks to our communities. Attractive single-residential dwellings are being replaced by row upon row of unit blocks. We not only become more susceptible to infections like SARS, we also become more vulnerable to many other types of risks. September 11 should have been a clarion call to make our city a less attractive target to those of evil intent. An overcrowded dense city is a most tempting target for large-scale attack, dispersed communities much less so. There is also the risk of natural disasters to consider - earthquake, fire, flood. We should not be putting all our eggs into one basket.

Yet this is what the Department of Planning is doing to us - forcing communities to endure ever increasing population densities under the threat of taking away their planning powers. They call this planning! We cannot let up in our efforts to improve the planning of our state.

Tony Recsei

President

Save Our Suburbs (SOS) NSW Inc

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