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New South Wales: Mayor of Ku-ring-gai discusses Johnson Property Group development at Sydney Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga.

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Interview with Mayor Nick Ebbeck


Monday, 12 February 2007



RAY HADLEE : The mayor of Ku-ring-gai Nick Ebbeck is on the line. G’day Nick.


NICK EBBECK: G’day Ray, how are you going?


RAY HADLEE : Pretty good.  I’m glad you phoned the program we had a detailed discussion with the minister, Frank Sartor, about what might be happening to the Sydney Adventist hospital.  He seemed to be a little cool on the idea of it being state significant, he’d rather you work it out with the hospital, where are you up to?


NICK EBB ECK: Look and that’s a fair comment—and I’ve got to say and put this on record now—the minister did offer Ku-ring-gai council the opportunity to resolve this problem with the applicant late last year and I grabbed it with open arms.  It would be fair to say that Ku-ring-gai council has been in the firing line of the department for many years and we thus working hard now doing our residential strategies, we’ve now hopefully got them off our back and their now trusting us to be able to look at applications like this.


RAY HADLEE: Sure. Now I think the main thing—he didn’t say this, I’m talking on his behalf—but the main problem he has, and most people would have, would be the size of the residential dwellings, 1400.


NICK EBBECK: Yeah look - and I’ve got to say mate I think that’s a bit of a wish list at this stage, it’s an ambit claim and there’s no way in the world we would tolerate 1400 residents in that area ….


RAY HADLEE: You know why this … look I’ve got to tell you I’ve had a bit of history with the Johnson Property Group I’m being sued by them over a development in Pitt Town, but it seems that Mr Johnson is in the realm of ambit claims he says I want a thousand and get 600, he want 1400 and gets 6 …. Why is he representing the hospital? Why is he involved?


NICK EBB ECK: Look apparently—and we have confirmed this with the Church actually, the hospital is just one group of the…. We have concern that he has got negotiating rights on behalf of the church—and I’ve got to say he’s been in for 2 meetings so far with his staff—and so far he has been extremely amicable. Notwithstanding I have heard the concerns that you have in previous Pitt town incidences but so far, so good …


RAY HADLEE: Alright, when….


RAY HADLEE: …why he’s asking for 1400, I don’t know, but I’ve got to say mate— as you rightly say—we’ve worked our residential strategy up fine at Ku-ring-gai to protect the neighbourhood and we’re going to really, really be careful about what this one does.


RAY HADLEE: Well that’s the point and—I keep making it—that the government said to you people at Ku-ring-gai and in your local government area—pacific highway and we’re making you do this on the highway, on the rail route—this is a long way from the rail route and the pacific highway.


NICK EBBECK: Absolutely, and look, we’ve got to be careful too Ray, we’re got a hospital there that’s… you know, I heard you say your kids have born there, I had 3 born there and…. 


RAY HADLEE: Mate I’ve had … I’ve had, I think, three doses of surgery there and I think it’s probably one of the best hospitals in Australia.


NICK EBBECK: Absolutely, and it touches our community very dearly so we’ve got to be careful that we don’t rule the hospital out and the importance of the hospital …




NICK EBBECK: … in saying that, and you know, we’ve got to be serious of what’s appropriate development and we’re more than happy to look at this but one of the advantages I see—with what the minister has done, giving us the opportunity to assess this—is to allow our offices to assess it at a local level, but more importantly Ray, is to bring the community on board …




NICK EBBECK: … and let them have a say.


RAY HADLEE : Now just give me a broad brush view. As you come down Fox Valley Way from the Pacific highway, are we talking about both sides of the road or just on the right hand side where the hospital is?


NICK EBB ECK: Yeah, no, no they own both sides of the road, and as you rightly said, 60 hectares and it actually borders onto—if you continue down Fox Valley and you get to the common (in auditable) if you imagine looking across to the north west you would see Hornsby and the Pennant Hills Road—they actually border onto the Hornsby council shire as well.


RAY HADLEE : So they got all the way down there as well. And they’ve got a school there and playing fields behind the school I think from memory.


NICK EBBECK: That’s… yeah your 100% right, good memory. And look there’s some good things they’re offering here, there offering a nursing college, which I think is, you know, Ku-ring-gai’s largest industry of education. You know, we’re very keen on futhering that and also a kindergarten to year 12 school, its not all about development—but it is—it’s about supporting the hospital and the grounds. And most importanly mate, as I say, you know, community and council has to be running this, not the department.


RAY HADLEE: Ok, good. Good. Now the other thing that people would have a problem with perhaps is 5 stories?


NICK EBBECK: Absolutely, you know, Ku-ring-gai—and I know people say people in Ku-ring-gai are precious—you know, it’s not about being precious, it’s about maintaining the charactersitic …




NICK EBBECK: … the characteristic of this area and five stories in that area would be very difficult to handle. However, the hospital is currently nine stories so appropriate development surrounding the hospital, I don’t think would be the issue, we’re talking about way too many buildings, I think it’s around about 50 buildings which encompasses the 1400 dwellings at the moment, and it’s just too much.


RAY HADLEE : So you said Mr Johnson has been, at this particular stage, fairly susceptible to having meetings and getting it all done, do you think that he—when you’ve indicated what you’ve indicated to me and obviously to him—that he is amicable to pulling it back a bit.


NICK EBBECK: Oh, that’s…. I’ve had no dealings with Mr. Johnson previously, however, at our very first meeting, the meeting lasted about 15 minutes because I politely asked them to pack the drawings up and to come back when you’re serious, and they did.  They came back …


RAY HADLEE: Oh really?


NICK EBBECK: … they politely left the office and they came back after hearing some of the councillors views and our staffs views, and they came back a couple of weeks later with a far more moderate application, however still… still it’s too much at this stage.


RAY HADLEE : So, are you telling me the first presentation was even more than the 1400?


NICK EBBECK: You got it.


RAY HADLEE : Well in the spirit of cooperation I’d be more than happy—because I’m a supporter of the hospital and what they do—I’d be more than happy—if the hospital is going to be there forever on the basis that there’s going to be some sort of development—to play some sort of role with Mr. Johnson in appealing to the local community when a reasonable plan is on the table to support that publicly, because I think it’s very important the hospital continues it’s excellent work and I think it’s also important that if there aren’t support of residents there who’s in keeping with the current environment


NICK EBB ECK: I’ll take you up on that because, also I’ve got to say so far that the minister has been, you know, offering us the opportunity to do this, we’re very grateful for and so far, you know, Mr. Johnson and his crew have been working with us. I don’t know where the break even line is and we’re just going to have to work that through, but when we do get something that’s being lodged officially with us, I’ll get back to you immediately.


RAY HADLEE: Well I’d be more than happy to be involved in that and perhaps, if we can illustrate to the minister, that a development worth 360 million dollars can be worked out with the community and through a local government agency like Ku-ring-gai with a developer like Mr. Johnson and the hospital involved well then maybe he might look at other areas he can leave alone as well for the local community, where it should be left in the first place.


NICK EBBECK: I agree Ray and I think what people have to realise is, is councils and communities aren’t against development if it’s appropriate development and the minister has got himself in the position where he can call sights in, well that’s not what we’re wanting, we’re just wanting—and you said it rightly—this is getting something that’s fair and reasonable for the community, fair and reasonable for the hospital and for that matter I don’t have a problem with a developer making money, as long as it’s not to the determent of our community.


RAY HADLEE: OK, all the best to you, thanks for talking to me Nick - let’s stay in contact


NICK EBBECK: Look forward to it Ray. Take care.


RAY HADLEE: Nick Ebbeck the mayor of Ku-ring-gai. Fist chance I’ve had to talk to Nick and he sounds like a bloke that we need to talk to a bit more. And he’s there representing the concerns of resident, but he’s not an unreasonable man and the excellent work of the (inauditabel) that hospital which is one of the better hospitals, as I said, in Australia and they need to make it more modern and better, and if they can do that by involving some developers who present something in the form of retail, commercial and residential premises, well we should support it - as long as it’s not outragous.