A community workshop aimed at resolving the question of renaming Walsh Bay a suburb failed to reach the required consensus, but the large majority in favour will continue their efforts..
Held on 16 October at Abraham Mott Hall, in Millers Point, the meeting was organized by the City of Sydney, after conflicting community opinions had emerged following a request for the renaming. The City hoped that these differences could be reconciled through further discussion.
Of over 3000 people invited, an overwhelming majority supported the renewed suburb application, and around 100 gave up their evening to attend the meeting.
They included Walsh Bay arts and business organisations, Millers Point and Dawes Point residents, and, from the City Of Sydney, Robyn Kemmis, Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillors Linda Scott and Angela Vithoulkas, Anne Hoban, Director of City Living and Robyn Simon, Business Precincts Manager.
Discussion was facilitated by an independent consultant who first reviewed the exact wording and intent of the proposal, noting that although 86% of submissions to Council during the consultation period had been in favour of the renaming, this appeared not to represent the 'consistent community position' Council demanded – so the meeting needed to reach consensus 'for' or 'against' in order to settle the issue.
He then asked that the proposal be considered from several perspectives..
Once again, majority opinion was strongly in favour, but a few dissenting voices prevented consensus. They argued that renaming Walsh Bay a suburb would somehow devalue or negate Millers Point and Dawes Point's unique history, although it has been suggested that, back in 1993 when these areas were named suburbs, Walsh Bay might also have been named a suburb, had it not consisted mainly of derelict (but heritage –listed ) wharves at the time.
The majority in favour, mainly from Walsh Bay's residential and business communities, reiterated the current disadvantages of being a thriving, growing arts and business precinct that is literally not "on the map!'..
Brigid Kennedy, Chair of Walsh Bay Arts and Commerce, emphasised that, despite Walsh Bay's growing reputation as an international performing arts and major events centre, visitor numbers remain low compared with neighbouring precincts such as The Rocks and Darling Harbour – primarily because people cannot find Walsh Bay." Walsh Bay is already recognized as a key link in Sydney's cultural ribbon. To consolidate our position as an arts hub, we need suburb definition".
Luke Meads, Precinct Manager, confirmed that utilities, emergency and other services are unable to identify or locate Walsh Bay addresses. The suggestion of renaming the precinct as an urban place was rejected as a solution. This was tried unsuccessfully four years ago, as is acknowledged by Council. Stephen Bradley, Chair of the Walsh Bay Arts Alliance, cited two expert reports, both recommending the change.
The single point of consensus that emerged was that, regardless of the naming question, Walsh Bay merits bigger and better marketing in order to capitalize on its great potential as an arts hub.
A late creative suggestion that the entire area be renamed as' the suburb of Walsh Bay' with Millers Point and Dawes Point as recognised ' urban places' within it, was noted, but there is no intention to pursue this proposal.
The meeting closed with no show of hands, which might have helped to clarify the position, and no conclusion, but the matter will not end there. WBAC and other Walsh Bay representatives are meeting with Council to express dissatisfaction with aspects of the way the workshop was facilitated, and will then plan their next moves. Given the evident overwhelming support for renaming Walsh Bay a suburb, they are determined to pursue the issue until they achieve a successful result.