Clover Fields Forever: Is it time for change in Sydney?

Clover Fields Forever: Is it time for change in Sydney?
Image: Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

After 20 years in the role, Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced on Tuesday that she will be seeking a record sixth term in this year’s elections. But critics say it’s time for change, especially as commentary about the decline of Oxford Street intensifies.

Moore has promised voters to continue fighting against climate change, improving green space and affordable housing, and revitalising city precincts.

“City making takes time. It is about having a vision, doing the consultation and research and having tenacity and courage to see plans through, regardless of the shortsighted criticism from vested interests or tabloid media,” she said.

Council is in a strong financial position to “fund new projects, facilities and asset renewals” and to transform Oxford Street, Broadway and Chinatown, she said.

But critics say that if this hasn’t been able to be achieved in 20 years, it’s not likely now.

Independent councillor Yvonne Weldon, who will be challenging Moore this September, said, “The demise of Oxford Street has occurred over many years on Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s watch.”

“It’s time for fresh leadership and a renewed vision.”

The decline of Oxford Street

City of Sydney previously approved a plan to revitalise the once-iconic strip, which would see the creation of a parallel street behind Oxford Street (Foley Street) in a Melbourne-style laneway that offers outdoor dining and entertainment. Three buildings on the northern end would also be redeveloped to have new retail, commercial and creative spaces.

But construction recently halted, which has exacerbated the already devastating impact construction works have had on local shopfronts and businesses. This is in addition to the disruptions that the forthcoming cycleway has caused, which Moore claims will jumpstart the street’s revival.

Moore told The Sydney Morning Herald that a sixth term would allow her to see through the rejuvenation of Oxford Street, which was on “the cusp of a renaissance.”

But Weldon said that Oxford Street is rather “set to be a construction site for at least another couple of years.”

“It’s really hurting neighbouring retail business and vacancy rates on the strip are higher than ever,” she continued.
Currently, more than one in ten shops on Oxford Street between Darlinghurst and Paddington are empty. Out of 190 shopfronts from 1 Oxford Street to just before Glenmore Road, 22 were not in business, representing a 11.5 per cent vacancy.
Ken Holmes from Aussie Boys told City Hub that foot traffic is disastrously low since construction started.
Nick Nistazos from Corkscrew Cellars said business had never been so tough, with business down 20 per cent.

“I don’t think I personally make mistakes”

Earlier this week, Moore was quoted as saying, “I don’t think I personally make mistakes because I’m careful about what I do.”
In response, Ken told City Hub, “How dare she say that?”

Labor councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor, Linda Scott agreed, saying “After 20 years in office, Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s inability to admit her mistakes is astonishing.”

“The City’s parks remain closed after months of deadly asbestos contamination, and Oxford Street is boarded up after years of construction delay in City-owned properties.”
In a statement provided to City Hub, Moore attributed the ghost state of Oxford Street to the construction of Westfield shopping centres, online shopping, and landlords sitting on vacant properties.

“The City of Sydney is entirely committed to the revitalisation of Oxford Street and the stars are really aligning to see the famous strip reach its full potential,” she said.

“While delayed, the redevelopment of these properties will contribute enormously to the revitalisation of the precinct.”

Independent councillor Adam Worling agreed: “The City has worked incredibly hard to revitalise the strip, including new planning controls that incentivise cultural use, massive investment in redevelopment and assets like Qtopia, and soon a new bike lane. All this will help.”

“Those calling for change offer no new vision or indication of what they’d do different,” he continued. “It’s time we start talking up Oxford Street and working together to give it new life.”

Weldon said the work should be been done 10 years ago, as the Council owns half the properties on Oxford Street.
“In fact, the only work that has been complete in recent years is the installation of the City of Sydney’s wildly unpopular and pedestrian-impeding advertising screens,” she said.
When asked about Moore seeking a sixth term, Ken said, “I think she should give up as Lord Mayor, and I think she should leave us alone on Oxford Street.”

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