On August 8, 2019, community advocacy by The Riverstone, Schofields and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry led to a meeting with the NSW Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, local MP Kevin Conolly, the Mayor of Blacktown Council, Stephen Bali and senior bureaucrats from both State departments and Local Council in an attempt to raise the profile of traffic problems currently bringing Riverstone to a standstill.
The lead up to the meeting began earlier this year when the Chamber released Riverstone in Review, which had three clear goals; fix the traffic, improve pedestrian connectivity and turn Riverstone into a destination. Riverstone in Review highlights the need to remove heavy vehicle traffic from the Riverstone town centre and offers solutions to help local businesses and the community reconnect.
Chamber President, Sue Lawrence, “Riverstone is in the middle of the Northwest Growth Centre and despite developments happening all around us, we’ve been continually ignored.”
“The amount of heavy vehicle traffic current transiting through the centre of town combined with a lack of parking has meant local customers don’t come any more and this has been devastating for local businesses.”
“The community is united behind the glaring fact we need to remove heavy vehicles from town centre to fix the traffic ”
Warren Kirby, Chamber Vice President, “It’s not just the retailers in the town centre either, I own a studio in Riverstone’s industrial area, all of my customers are from out of town and all of them complain about Garfield Rd when they get here. I have no doubt I’ve lost business because of the traffic.”
Removing heavy vehicle traffic was only the first step, but once the b-doubles are gone how do you get the customers back?
The Chamber recognised strategies were needed to revitalise the town and encourage local investment by both business and the community. After meeting with community groups and examining the Riverstone Town Centre Master Plan issued by Blacktown City Council, a series of low-cost, high social impact initiatives were devised to make Riverstone a destination town and help businesses survive while they wait for its future redevelopment.
“The ideas for turning Riverstone into a destination started by identifying what our point of difference was,” said Warren. “And clearly that’s the town’s history. Unlike every other new development around us, Riverstone’s town centre started in the early 1800’s and it’s told the story of Australia’s fortunes since then. Best of all, aside from the immediate benefits, that history can be incorporated into the new Town Centre plans and help with the transition.”
Sue has been intent on making Riverstone in Review the most read document in NSW and has distributed it to Parliamentarians of all levels receiving positive feedback immediately.
“We received a really positive response from our meeting with Stephen Bali and department executives from Blacktown Council. After that we met with Kevin Conolly who was also very receptive to our concerns.”
After multiple meetings, research and conversations with Department Heads it became clear that Riverstone’s stagnation has been caused by a complicated mix of shared responsibilities between Local and State Government.
The Chamber has brought together stakeholders from all levels of Government and focussed their attention on the need to fix Riverstone.
“Politically, it’s difficult because there are so many stakeholders” says Warren. “One of the most critical roads needed to fix the traffic, Bandon Road, is bordered by 3 Councils, 4 State electorates and 3 Federal electorates but central to the North West Growth area. The same road is partly funded by developers so the Department of Planning needs to release Precincts that will generate more traffic before the RMS can get the money to build it.” Over the last couple of months the Chamber have had meetings with political leaders from all sides, gathering support and drawing attention to how desperate the town is for infrastructure improvements. “We are really gaining some momentum, in the last week we have met with 2 of our local Ward councillors, the Deputy Mayor, The Mayor, our State MP, our Federal MP, the Federal Opposition Leader and the Minister for Planning.”
The Chamber is optimistic about our chances of success and expect the Department of Planning to announce Riverstone as a priority.
“It’s worked. Fixing Riverstone is now one of the main priorities for both the NSW Government and Blacktown Council - we’ve even had the Federal Opposition Leader offer to help.”
“When we started nobody was interested in dealing with Riverstone. Now that we’ve drawn people’s attention to it everyone seems to understand something needs to happen for the benefit of Riverstone and the whole of the North West of Sydney. We’ve highlighted the chaos being caused by heavy vehicle traffic and put forward a raft of solutions to revitalise the Riverstone township while everyone waits for the new Masterplan process to begin. We’ve done our homework; we’ve consulted widely and we’re offering sensible ideas that integrate with plans for the town’s future.RIVO in REVIEW.pdf