A TWT-backed, people-powered campaign has achieved a cool victory after developer, AMP Capital, today announced it would keep the Olympic-sized ice rink which had been under threat in its redevelopment plans.
“We know that any redevelopment also needs to continue to evolve Macquarie Centre’s unique entertainment and leisure facilities, provide additional civic space, expand night life activities and improve connections to public transport.
“AMP Capital remains committed to delivering an outstanding development for the broader North West Sydney community. We have a lot of hard work to do to bring this to fruition.”
He said AMP Capital thanked the local community, the NSW Premier, the State Member for Ryde, the Mayor of the City of Ryde, local councillors and council officers for their involvement to date.
“We look forward to continuing to work together to find the best outcome for all stakeholders including Macquarie Centre’s investors,” Mr Kirkland said.
Pre-election self congratulations
With the NSW state election now only two months away, Ryde’s political Spartans scrambled to break the news of the Olympic-sized victory to their respective followers on social media.
Incumbent Liberal member for Ryde Victor Dominello and his Labor challenger, Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale, raced to announce the latest development on their Facebook pages.
Mr Dominello reached the finish line first by only a slight margin to hit the ‘send’ button.
“#BREAKINGNEWS: ICE RINK SAVED! AMP has JUST informed me that any future development of Macquarie Centre will include an Olympic-sized rink,” Mr Dominello said in his Facebook post.
“Thank you to all who signed the petition. People power wins! Share the good news! More to come.”
A short time later, Mayor Laxale posted to his Facebook page.
Huge win for community
“BREAKING. AMP has committed to building an Olympic size rink! This is a huge win for our community, who have been fighting hard to save our ice rink,” he wrote.
“There is still a lot of work to do, and the State Government’s 37 storey zoning remains, however this is a great first step!”
In a separate post, the Mayor said that AMP Capital’s decision to listen to Ryde’s community should also be acknowledged:
“Kudos to AMP Capital where it’s due. With the 37 storey zoning and the concept DA approval they were handed by the State Government, they could have simply crashed through,” he said.
“Instead they listened.”
Independent Ryde councillor, Roy Maggio, agreed and said when AMP Capital put its exhibition on hold last month, it was a significant gesture of goodwill and willingness to engage further with locals.
He said at that point, the only outcome that could be reached was retention of the Olympic-standard ice rink.
“No doubt our two Ryde election candidates are desperately wanting to claim credit for this fantastic news,” Clr Maggio told The Weekly Times.
“But we have to give credit where it’s due.
“AMP Capital had the guts to admit it needed to engage with the community more, it did, it listened and this kind of outcome is what democracy is all about.”
Packed extraordinary meeting
TWT’s campaign to save the famous Olympic Ice rink kicked off last month, with the issue coming to a head at an Ryde Council extraordinary meeting at which more than 30 speakers lined up to passionately voice their support for saving the local venue.
In a desperate, 11th hour bid to save the ice rink from being demolished, an interim heritage order was proposed by Liberal councillors Trenton Brown and Jordan Lane at the meeting, which attracted a full house of more than 200 residents – most backing The Weekly Times’ campaign to save the sentimentally popular venue.
AMP Capital had originally planned to replace the ice rink with specialty shops and a car park.
Mr Dominello announced on Saturday he’d requested and secured an expedited Interim Heritage Order from NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, bypassing the usual requirement for an initial review by the Office of Environment and Heritage and potential further review by the Heritage Council or the Minister’s office.
hen The Weekly Times contacted a spokesman for Ms Upton on Saturday to seek confirmation, he the Minister not made a statement and referred enquiries to Mr Dominello’s office, but Macquarie Ice Rink has since been added to an online register of “items subject to an interim heritage order”.
The council also passed a controversial motion by six votes to five to condemn Ryde MP Victor Dominello for his “failure” on the issue, with Liberal councillors and Independent Clr Roy Maggio voting against it.
“Council has now called upon Premier Gladys Berejiklian to urgently intervene to save the ice rink,” Mayor Jerome Laxale said.
“Public consultation on the development application is still ongoing, with this council resolving to extend the public consultation period until March 1 and this council will do all it can to ensure an Olympic-sized ice rink is retained in Macquarie Centre.
“Our resolution also confirms our position that an Olympic-sized ice rink must be retained in any redevelopment of the Macquarie Shopping Centre.”
Despite pleas by Liberal Clr Sarkis Yedelian OAM not to politicise the issue, councillors from the Labor Party and The Greens blamed the state government for the threat to the ice rink because state Government zoning changes in 2014 allow AMP to build a maximum height of 37 storeys on the ice rink site.
“This is political,” Greens Clr Edwina Clifton said.
“When a Liberal says I’m against overdevelopment I just don’t believe it because the reality is that Macquarie Park became a development precinct under the state government and relying on a heritage order to protect the ice rink is just weak.”
Mayor Laxale concedes that AMP’s ice rink proposal has a good chance of being approved by a state government appointed planning panel if the panel agrees that it meets the development approval criteria set by the state government.
“Yes, I am concerned, because this panel has only ever knocked back three proposals, but nonetheless I am determined to fight” he said.
The Mayor also vented his frustration at the council’s inability to stop the development.
“A lot of residents came to this meeting in the hope that their council can act on their behalf and reject the development but the reality is that we cannot, because the state government has taken away our powers to do this,” he said.
The Mayor’s comments prompted Clr Roy Maggio to ask “what’s the point” of holding a council meeting, at all.
“Here we go again, late night meetings, lots of staff, lots of money and lots of time wasted,” he said.
“All we are doing is wasting time and money with political stunts and embarrassing ourselves because the whole development approval process needs to change and this is a state government process and a state political issue.”
Despite Clr Maggio’s cynicism, Clr Sarkis Yedelian OAM hopes that the strong public support for the TWT campaign to save the ice rink will make an impression on AMP, which was represented at the meeting by spokesman Mark Kirkland.
“Yes, our hands are limited and the only tools we have is to put on an interim heritage order but I’m sure AMP’s shareholders will agree with us, they are not greedy people, they are ordinary people too.”
Public speakers at the Extraordinary Council Meeting stressed that not only is the ice rink the only Olympic size ice rink in Sydney, it also has a national and international significance.
Slav Baboshyn said he came from Russia to speak at the meeting.
“If have seen how Moscow is changing and how all the rich business people in Moscow have spent money on beautiful things and on preserving Russia’s cultural and sporting heritage and it makes you feel proud of your country,” he said.
“But if you destroy beautiful things like this Olympic ice rink and replace them with horrible monster developments all you will have left in Sydney will be cages for humans.”
Owner of the previously-endangered Macquarie Ice Rink, Dr Frank Gregg, thanked The Weekly Times for its role in the campaign to save the sporting facility in a letter recently to The Weekly Times.
He thanked TWT and “and the public for the overwhelming support Macquarie Ice Rink has received in recent days.”
“Having owned the Rink for 39 years I knew we had strong community support but even I have been overwhelmed with the public’s response,” Dr Gregg wrote.
“It is clearly a special place that many Sydney-siders have a connection with… Nothing less than an Olympic-sized ice rink at the Macquarie Centre is acceptable for a variety of reasons.
“I would also like to thank all politicians including Ryde State Member Victor Dominello, Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale and Ryde Councillors. Their voices certainly help in sending a very clear message to AMP. Once again, thank-you for your support, it has been invaluable.”