Monday, 20 March 2023 15:54

President’s Message: Plenty of hard work ahead Featured

WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert WSROC

In November, WSROC will mark 50 years of continual service, advocating on behalf of the communities of Western Sydney.

WSROC is the creation of Western Sydney councils and their continued support and funding have been integral to the success of this organisation for the entirety of that 50 years.

When WSROC was established back in 1973, there had been a general feeling among Western Sydney councils that successive state governments had failed to provide adequate infrastructure and such essential services as hospitals, public transport, and education facilities to match the needs of the region's rapidly growing population.

Consequently, WSROC was established to work on behalf of the people of Greater Western Sydney, and to promote awareness of their needs to the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments, and the wider community.

Over the ensuing 50 years, WSROC was able to secure a host of improvements in public transport, roads, infrastructure, urban planning and management, economic development, environmental management, in employment, community services and many other areas of vital concern to local government.

Indeed, many of the reforms WSROC has achieved have brought the most significant improvements to the lives of the people of Greater Western Sydney.

For example, WSROC’s campaign in the 1980s to create the Western Sydney University delivered an institution whose core objectives include “…the carrying out of research, to meet the needs of the community, beginning in Greater Western Sydney”.

Western Sydney University is now ranked in the top two per cent of universities world-wide and is rated number one globally for social impact – contributing research to the betterment of Western Sydney.

Literally tens of thousands of young people, often the first members of their families to attend a university, have since graduated and gone on to contribute their many professional skills and talents to the wider community.

Our ‘Beds to the West’ campaign of the 1970s and ‘80s resulted in more hospital beds and greatly improved health services in the region, especially important in our rapidly growing population.

WSROC pushed hard, too, in the 1990s to establish the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board to pursue improved prospects for employment, business investment and provision of public infrastructure in Western Sydney.

Another achievement was to establish a Minister for Western Sydney ensuring our communities were represented at the highest levels of the NSW Government.

More recently, we lobbied for and then secured $5 billion for Western Sydney infrastructure through the WestInvest fund, and separately the rail link to the new western Sydney International airport.

WSROC continues to urge the NSW Government to deliver “an end-state public transport network that ensures Western Sydney residents have access to the same level of service as other parts of the city.”

Western Sydney residents are among the most car-dependent in our city. For those who must commute by car, WSROC campaigned on behalf of workers paying tolls to the tune of $3,500 per year.

I should mention, too that our prize-winning Turn Down the Heat Strategy and Action Plan was the driving force behind the ‘Greening our City’ Premier’s Priority, which aims to increase the tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney by planting one million trees, part of a broader commitment to plant five million trees by 2030.

CommunityOver the last 50 years, Western Sydney has grown greatly — and continues growing at such a rate that our population is expected to increase from its current 2.4 million to 4.1 million in 2041.

Consequently, the challenges and opportunities confronting our communities have expanded accordingly.

Today, the issues of most concern to our communities include housing affordability, climate change and resilience, waste management and resource recovery, and of course transport.

So, we are pressing all levels of government for improvements in those areas, too, to secure a better future for the people of Western Sydney — and indeed to the benefit of NSW and Australia as a whole.

WSROC has identified over $456 million in additional amenities needed by our member communities — ranging from traffic lights to recreational facilities, to open space reserves, to State Emergency Service facilities and much more.

I was delighted recently to announce that WSROC will launch a Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce to improve the city’s resilience to heat, thanks to funding we were able to obtain from the NSW Reconstruction Authority and the Commonwealth Government.

In another development, WSROC has expanded its Western Sydney Energy Program — a collaboration between eight Western Sydney councils dedicated to realising energy cost and emission savings for participating councils and their communities.

Under the Western Sydney Energy Program, an additional 60,000 streetlights will be changed to energy-efficient LEDs in the coming two years with estimated annual savings of $5 million in regional energy costs and some 20,000 tonnes of CO2.

Eight Western Sydney councils have joined forces on WSROC’s Western Sydney Electric Vehicle (EV) Roadmap, setting ambitious 2030 targets including at least 50 per cent of council vehicle fleets being transitioned to EVs, 100 per cent of buses to be zero emission, and 50 per cent of all taxis, car shares and ferries to be zero emission.

The Western Sydney Energy Program and the Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce are excellent initiatives that demonstrate WSROC’s commitment to sustainable development and community resilience, helping Western Sydney adapt to a changing climate, manage extreme events, and implement policies and programs to achieve our emission targets.

Housing affordability is another matter of tremendous concern for Western Sydney communities.

We are lobbying the NSW Government to invest in both affordable and social housing to ensure a more stable life for our communities and will be calling on the incoming government to commit to clear, transparent delivery of more social and affordable homes in Western Sydney as well as to support calls for a National Housing Strategy that outlines a national vision and coordinated action on housing affordability.

Through initiatives such as Western Sydney Energy Program’s streetlighting program, WSROC has been able to save our member councils and Western Sydney ratepayers tens of millions of dollars, with the prospect of greater future savings.

Looking back over its first 50 years, WSROC has achieved remarkable results and indeed it is widely praised as one of the most successful community organisations in Australia.

But we shall not rest on our laurels.

We are looking forward to WSROC growing in scope and membership over the next few years so that Western Sydney councils with their rapidly growing populations and many new housing developments will join us and share in the push to get better infrastructure, greater efficiencies through shared program delivery and many other benefits for the people of Western Sydney.

We remain committed to meeting the many challenges that lie ahead as we work to improve the lives of the millions of men, women and children who live, work, and play in this remarkably vibrant and diverse region.


Barry Calvert —  President, WSROC.

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