Millers Point* Community Resident Action Group Inc.
*Being Millers Point, Dawes Point, The Rocks and Walsh Bay
—by Bernard Kelly, May 2019
Why are We?
“The real challenge for anyone interested in rebuilding the sense of community is not to regulate more, nor to preach about ethics in the hope that people will start to act more considerately or compassionately in obedience to some written or unwritten charter of social responsibility. If we believe in the benefits that flow from being part of the life of a functioning community, the challenge is simply to find more ways of bringing people back together again.” Hugh Mackay – https://griffithreview.com/articles/real-communities/
What is “Community”?
We wish to live as a community. But what does that mean? How do we do it? How do we know we have done it (or at least know we are making progress)?
Who do we talk about when we say “community”?
- Residential owner occupiers – whether it be the apartments in Kent St or Walsh Bay or the terraces?
- Public housing tenants?
- Private residential renters?
- Perhaps even commercial enterprises?
The CRAG needs to define who it represents.
What is known is that we are a small collective – 15 streets in all (yes, I counted them) – and that’s across three suburbs (four if you include the Walsh Bay locality, which actually doesn’t have a street to its name).
^Oh okay – Hickson, Dalgety, Merriman, Bettington, Munn, High, Kent, Pottinger, Windmill, Lower Fort, Argyle x 2, Harrington, Gloucester, Cumberland.
Millers Point – Our Home
Millers Point – first and foremost – is our home. From this, everything must flow as we seek to build our community. It is this foundation that must be promoted in any actions we take as a community or as a RAG.
Millers Point – The History
Up until about 2010, Millers Point kept to it itself. Physically separated from the rest of Sydney by the Argyle Cut, Observatory Hill and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, formed as a “company town” by the MSB during the 1900’s, and then subsequently “taken over” by the Department of Housing in the 1980’s. Many of the long-time residents spoke of it as a community – tight knit, friendly, supportive. Is this something to be replicated or to be acknowledged and move on to build a “new style” of community (however defined)?
The impact on the original community by the sale of the residential properties, their homes for decades, has been well documented in print and film. These musings do not intend to cover it, but we should acknowledge the pain, suffering and dislocation caused to many people, particularly long term and older residents in the new CRAG.
Millers Point – To the outside world
What does the outside world think when you say “Millers Point”? No, not Milsons Point, that’s across the harbour. Oh, you mean The Rocks! (I’m not even mentioning Dawes Point – no one knows where that is).
Public housing oasis?
“Exclusive enclave”? Used interchangeably as a pejorative or a brag.
Sydney’s “Old Town”?
Unlike most suburbs, our existence can almost be seen in a somewhat utilitarian manner – Visit, eat, drink, view, leave.
What impact does this have on us, the community?
Millers Point – Who are We?
Surprisingly, we are quite diverse.
We are still home to public housing tenants, albeit a much-reduced number. Almost an enclave….
Our owner occupiers are as diverse as the accommodation they own and occupy. From Kent St Penthouses, to grand terrace houses to more classic fare as our family home, whether that be an apartment or terrace.
We have renters – in mainly Kent St, Windmill St, Dalgety St., High St. Some are longer term, others exist in a boarding house style arrangement.
We have AirBnB properties – in mainly Kent St, Windmill St, Dalgety St., High St. (I think there is a theme developing).
Finally, we have the owners of properties (who do not live in the area) who are using them for investment purposes – either rental or AirBnB. We need to introduce ourselves.
What would be useful is understanding the numbers – we should undertake a housing survey to identify each property as owner-occupied, rented or AirBnB. Apart from engaging with all owner-occupiers, we also need to engage with the investors – as their tenants can significantly impact the amenity of our neighbourhood.
The (former) Millers Point Resident Action Group
In existence since the early 1970’s and led initially by Nita McRae, the MP RAG led the residents in opposing the wholesale destruction of The Rocks and Millers Point area from over-development. A key outcome (apart from saving The Rocks and Millers Point) was the construction of The Sirius Building to house displaced public housing tenants.
Reviewing (recent) past Minutes and Agendas, these were the main topics of discussion:
- Public Housing – from the Battle of The Rocks in the 1970’s to the 2014 freehold sale of terraces to the continued resistance of the sale of Sirius.
- Major development in and around the area and its impact on the community: Barangaroo, Sydney Metro, Arts Precinct (Walsh Bay).
- Barangaroo Reserve and The Cutaway – management of event operations and the impact on local residents, particularly in Merriman St and Dalgety St.
- Residential Development Applications: RAG submissions on the appropriateness of DAs.
- Local street amenity and safety: traffic reduction schemes, pedestrian safety/walkability, crime, residential and non-residential parking (including coach parking), film, advertising and TV production.
- Heritage restoration/renovation rules and their implementation.
- Pub trading conditions and their impact on neighbourhood amenity – hours of operation, outdoor areas for patrons, noise, music, etc.
- Relationships with major community stakeholders – Department of Housing (for Public Housing residents), City of Sydney, NSW Police, NSW Government (particularly Transport and RMS), Local Members of Parliament, etc.
- Community initiatives including (recently) the Community Garden.
The Millers Point Community Resident Action Group Inc.
The Nuts & Bolts
The MP CRAG Inc. has been created out of a previously incorporated body (The Millers Point Fund Inc.). This has given the CRAG a shortcut to official existence whilst also benefiting a tidy financial sum in which to kick things off.
A new Board and Committee has been elected for 2019, comprising owner-occupier residents of Millers Point, Dawes Point and Walsh Bay.
We have a bank account, with dual signatories.
We will establish a governance regime to ensure the Board and Committee are accountable to the Community. Transparency of decision making is key to this.
Our Future Agenda (for discussion):
To promote a sense of community, improve residential amenity and to protect the unique heritage identity of the area.
- Agree on what Community we are representing.
- Consult with that Community on what it means to be part of our Community.
- Identify and create things that could bring us together as a community.
- Assess our existing urban living plan:
- Residential vs Commercial (office)
- Residential vs Hospitality – Restaurants and Pubs
- Residential vs Retail
- What do we need as a balance to achieve our community goals?
- Assess our existing urban infrastructure environment – streets, parks, footpaths, traffic, trees, external users, etc.
- Determine what would be the “perfect” amenity for each category (e.g. footpaths) – scale down from that based on budget, reality and influence.
- Assess our existing residential, commercial and infrastructure heritage.
- Identify policies in how we respond as a CRAG on heritage issues.
- Protect our neighbourhood jewels – our built heritage, Observatory Hill, Argyle Park, etc.
Funding for The Millers Point Community Resident Action Group
No one is an island, particularly the MP CRAG. We have multiple stakeholders we influence and in whom we are an important voice. We need a sustainable funding model that shares the financial burden across residents, commercial operators (and partners) and others.
In consideration of what funding we may require, a simple budget should be developed.
We will research funding models of similar organisations to see what has worked (and not worked). Options that will be considered include:
- Resident membership of the CRAG (modest annual fee).
- Sponsorship-style contributions of major commercial partners (to be identified) including Pubs, Real Estate Agents, Local Commercial Enterprises, BDA, City of Sydney.
- Public funding for specific projects via applications to relevant grant schemes run by various levels of government and their agencies.
- Public funding of heritage-specific schemes by various levels of government and their agencies (e.g. National Trust).
- Selling of advertising on our soon to be website and/or newsletter.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Our neighbours in the City of Sydney council area have a significant head start. As they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and therefore we should steal shamelessly – with their permission of course. We can also review relevant material from other “Old Towns” from around the world, particularly those with a maritime flavour (Liverpool, Philadelphia, Marseilles, Bridgetown, George Town, Hobart, Auckland, etc.).
Communicating What We Do – The Website and then some
Getting the word out to our Community about what we do and why is essential in creating greater community engagement and involvement. A key part of our communication strategy will be the MP CRAG website (name to be determined and sought). Involving and engaging the community will be a key method to grow the community.
As we are now an incorporated body we can secure a .org.au domain name (as with Glebe and Paddington).
In the vacuum of not having a website in recent times, John and Margaret have kept the flag raised with their website.
Of course, a website is only part of it. A broader social media presence would be useful and could include the usual suspects of Facebook (general communication), Twitter (making our views known on relevant issues), Instagram (for the young ones and what they are having for lunch) and LinkedIn (perhaps a Millers Point Group on LinkedIn as another brick in the community building process).
Proposal to Create of Online Presence
Through a combination of (hopefully) external funding, CRAG funding, pro bono work and community involvement, we should be able to create an online presence similar to Paddington and Glebe. The use of external professional digital expertise to facilitate the process is essential. This expertise could extend not only to the “look and feel” of the website but also to facilitate the early community consultation phase – how best we do it to maximise engagement.
Using the Glebe and Paddington websites as examples, a number of key themes emerge as essential content:
- Aims, Objectives and/or Vision of the organisation.
- About Us – History, Committee holders, etc
- Our History
- Dogs (yes, there own page, thank you)
That is the easy part.
Coming up with the content (and a domain subscription that gives us the “space” to store a lot of stuff) will require a lot of work – photos, documents (e.g. old MPRAG stuff, CMPs), written content (who writes it). Big project.
Then there is the ongoing maintenance – who does day-to-day editing, ensures content remains relevant and engaging, etc.
Harbour Village North Preamble 2012
Harbour Village North is a unique historic precinct in the City. Defined by the harbour foreshore and other natural and man-made barriers, it is a village within the City Centre with a human scale and special character typified by strong topographic features, exposed stone cliff s and harbour views. It includes the diverse localities of Millers Point, Dawes Point, Walsh Bay, The Rocks, and Barangaroo – the largest urban renewal site in Sydney (refer to adjacent map). Barangaroo provides opportunities for new connections into parkland, mixed use and foreshore areas. For these existing areas the challenge is to facilitate these connections with high quality streets and paths, as well as public parks and facilities that cater for a growing and increasingly diverse population.
This study recognises and celebrates the strengths of Harbour Village North and proposes staged public domain improvements to support the area’s cultural experiences and increasing intensity of use. It builds on suggestions and ideas from the community highlighted in the City of Sydney’s Local Action Plans, Sustainable Sydney 2030 consultation as well as direct discussions with key stakeholder groups.
The study also considers Harbour Village North’s role in implementing current City wide strategies such as the Public Spaces and Public Life Study and Cycle Strategy and Action Plan 2007-2017. It examines in detail key streets extending east west between Circular Quay and Barangaroo, north from the city centre and the foreshore walk around the harbour front through Walsh Bay.
The study identifies six guiding directions for long term improvements in Harbour Village North that will strengthen its character as a special destination while improving connections to surrounding areas and enriching community life;
- Improve access, connectivity and wayfinding.
- Create a network of linked parks and upgrade existing open spaces.
- Respect and celebrate heritage, conserve and restore Observatory Hill.
- Celebrate landform and harbour views.
- Support Walsh Bay cultural precinct and improve Cultural Ribbon connections.
- Strengthen local communities and support local economies.
The study identifies precinct-wide public domain ‘overlays’, 10 priority projects and longer term project ideas to deliver on the guiding directions. These projects outline possible improvements for a better quality public domain and further activation of streets. Improved street conditions, public art, heritage interpretation and better street furnishing and landscaping are all suggested within the study.