Ryde Civic Centre Number 1 Priority

Address to first meeting of new Ryde City Council Tuesday September 26, 2017 by John F Booth AM, Managing Editor, The Weekly Times

My reason for requesting a few minutes of your valuable time this evening is to simply say congratulations to you on behalf of the readers of The Weekly Times and myself as a former Ryde Council member as an Alderman and at times acting mayor in the period from 1959 to 1966, up to 58 years ago which is longer than before the majority of you were born!

In fact I am the only surviving member of the Council responsible for building the Ryde Civic Centre opposite along with the Ryde Swimming Centre, the ELS Hall sportsground, and as chairman of the Ryde Planning Committee planning the Macquarie University and Macquarie Park Industrial Estate from what was then the Green Belt.

At the time then Labor premier Joe Cahill was doing a modern day Mike Baird come Gladys Berejiklian and had planned amalgamation of all the Sydney metropolitan councils into what he called the ten cities plan, and while I then didn’t support the move, as I have not in recent times with a Liberal government, one of the criteria for a new major city was their available infrastructure or public works

Our town hall and council chambers were then in a tin roof building opposite Ryde’s Royal hotel cnr Blaxland Rd and Tucker St.  I believed we needed a new modern HQ.

I called for an actuarial report on the Ryde Housing scheme which showed we could use the money from that to finance the first part of the new Ryde Civic Centre without cost to ratepayers and we signed the contract prior to the next three yearly Council election. Merv Cutler was elected mayor on the basis of stopping the project and then was in his glory when the building was officially opened by the then premier.

Reason I mention this is that naturally I am personally concerned but more importantly from the public point of view about the future of the Ryde Civic centre site and buildings.

As we have a new and hopefully progressive Council free of all the nonsense of the previous administration my request is that you fully investigate the future viability of the civic centre buildings with a view of returning to save the huge $12 million expense of leased office accommodation at North Ryde over the next five years.

I have been in contact this week with Professor John Smolders of Newcastle’s school of Architecture and Built Environment currently at the world’s oldest technical university in the Netherlands.   He recommends that our new Council  have a correct and transparent approach to resolve the civic centre issue and to undertake a bona fide dilapidation report by a nationally recognised engineering firm for structural soundness and adequacy.

He says that a structured open book process engaging all stake holders is the only solution to overcome the current situation.

So I sincerely hope that you as our new Council and councillors will act on this as a matter of urgency to resolve this important and pressing challenge.

Again congratulations to you all and best wishes for a successful and rewarding term in office for the next three years.