Words: Nicholas McCallum
On Friday January 11, around 50 Rosebery residents gathered outside the office of State Labor Member for Heffron, Kristina Keneally. The MP was presented with a petition of over 800 signatures in protest over the proposed Hillsong mega-church to be built on the old RTA site on Rothschild Avenue.
Although those concerned were not opposed to Hillsong Church constructing a facility within South Sydney, the Rosebery Residents Action Group is against the construction of an entertainment-centre-sized building in their "backyard".
The suggested site is situated in the middle of a residential area, with all points of access being via two lane streets. The RRAG argues that the church will be too large for the suburb to handle.
The proposed place of worship will be in operation seven days a week, and open between the hours 7am to 10pm. As well as Sunday services, there will be additional Bible studies, corporate events and other functions. As a result, residents claim that they will not only lose access to their town on weekends, but also throughout the week.
The Development Application is for a regional-sized structure, able to hold up to 2700 patrons, reduced from 3300, plus staff, with up to 680 car spaces.
Spokesman for the RRAG, Graeme Grace, said that the size of the facility would lead to a massive increase in the amount of traffic in the area. "The public transport along Botany Road and Rothschild Avenue is inadequate currently," Mr. Grace said. "It cannot accommodate the extra trips and this will encourage commuters to use cars."
Grace also remarked that the amount of cars using the facility would lead to an overflow into surrounding residential streets. The proposed amount of car spaces has been reduced, to ease the amount of traffic flowing into the centre.
Mr Grace and protest organiser, Wayne Moody, chose to give the petition to the local State Member, Ms Keneally, in the hope that it would lead to a majority vote in the Central Sydney Planning Committee, in favour of the RRAG. Unfortunately for the Rosebery residents, the seven-member CSPC contains only two State Members. The other five seats are made up of two non-government, State-appointed representatives and three Sydney City Council members, including the Chairperson Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore has said she would raise the concerns of the Rosebery residents with the City of Sydney Planner responsible for the DA, Philip Jamieson. Ms Moore also expressed concerns over the residents' loss of amenity and the negative effects on the heritage characteristics of Rosebery.
The Hillsong Church has taken notice of the residents' concerns and has already made several changes to the original plans. As well as the reductions in seating and parking, the public park was offered as a sweetener to the deal. The parkland was not donated to Council and remained in the hands of the Church. The park had originally been designed to lead up to the doors of the centre, but the two have now been divided by a road and landscaping.
The Hillsong Church has not, as yet, considered any alternative locations for the Centre, as there are no other sites adequate in size to accommodate the proposed facility. It is its belief that that the centre will enhance the community "feel" of Rosebery, with the addition of the park, child-care facilities and a cafe.