Mayor Laxale talks about IPART, mergers, affordable housing and Ryde’s future

Jerome Laxale

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Ryde’s newest and youngest Mayor Clr Jerome Laxale was our guest speaker at today’s luncheon at North Ryde Golf Club.

Approachable and affable, he was able to joke that in light of yesterday’s IPART decision, he may well be Ryde’s last Mayor.

Mayor Laxale grew up working in his family’s business and is a manager of that business today; he has grown the business from five to fifteen staff and said that having a business background and an understanding of finances and customer service is invaluable for an elected official.

RBF has been opposed to forced Council amalgamations since they were first announced and Clr Laxale thanked RBF and its executive for its support.

The Mayor spoke about the IPART report released yesterday. “Despite meeting all financial requirements, Ryde’s bid to maintain your local Council was rejected by the government,” he said.

“The only reason we have been declared Unfit for the Future is that our city did not meet an arbitrary scale and capacity target that I would say was made so deliberately high that no-one could reach it,” he said.

Clr Laxale will now consult with Ryde Councillors and partners in the Joint Regional Authority Hunter’s Hill and Lane Cove Councils and of course the community. “I want to ensure that over the next thirty days in which we have to respond that the community are at the front and centre of our decision making process,” he said.

His personal opinion is that Ryde may be merged into a northern set of Councils with Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove, Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman. Ryde Councillors and the JRA will meet to discuss whether they accept that grouping of six Councils, take up a smaller grouping of three with Hunter’s Hill and Lane Cove, or stick with the JRA concept.

Mayor Laxale with RBF guests

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The Mayor spoke about Ryde’s economy, its strong jobs and population growth. The Ryde LGA is one of the country’s strongest growing economies and now worth more than $1.4Bn annually in GDP. Macquarie Park has overtaken North Sydney to become the second largest CBD in NSW behind Sydney city. Ryde has a workforce of 90,000 compared with a resident workforce of 55,000, which is very unusual for a suburban area.

All this prosperity has made Ryde a vibrant place to live, but also an increasingly unaffordable place for many key workers who travel in from as far away from the Central Coast on a daily basis. Mayor Laxale stated that Ryde will need 10,700 affordable housing dwellings by 2031. (Affordable housing for key workers is not to be confused with government or social housing, he said).

“When I was elected onto Council in 2012 one of my key goals was to change the narrative when it came to affordable housing. Affordable housing usually provided by local government helps people of a certain income bracket find stable housing in a community in which they work,” the Mayor said.

“There is a strong bi-partisan approach from Council and a strong interest from the local community to see Council demonstrate leadership on this issue. Recent public consultation on redevelopment of the Argyle Centre in Ryde (which is owned by Council) was in favour of a model which included affordable housing. This is a seismic shift compared to attitudes of only a few years ago.

“We are now at the stage where we an consider an affordable housing policy for Ryde. It’s due to come before Council in our November meeting. If it is passed, it will set a mandated percentage of affordable housing for all new developments over ten dwellings and on all rezonings which allow for residential use,” Clr Laxale said.

The Mayor said the State Government needs to step up to the plate with more infrastructure projects.

“The State government recently announced 6,000 new dwellings on Herring Road. It has committeed to 556 social housing dwellings a 103 affordable housing units as part of the development. The UAP will require three new primary schools and one high school. Only one school has been announced by the state government.

“Ryde has had sustained population growth. With 10,000 new dwellings by 2031 along Epping Road alone, the State government needs to provide infrastructure such as new schools, childcare, road networks and transport to make Ryde a livable city. The majority of schools are already near capacity,” he said.

Council wants state government to match funding it has committed to upgrading regional road intersections, particularly along the Macquarie Park corridor.

RBF’s President and Executive Committee thanks Clr Laxale for making the time to address members and guests at lunch today.

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