- Tell us your name, electorate & political party.
I’m Alan Mascarenhas, the Labor candidate for Epping.
2. Tell us a bit about yourself and what other “hats” you wear in your life.
Proudly raised in Sydney’s north west. Now at age 39, thinking about the legacy I will leave others and how I can give back to the area where I grew up. My family (of Catholic-Indian heritage) migrated from England in 1987. Our first home was in Carlingford. We then settled in West Pennant Hills. Mum raised me and my two sisters singlehanded after Dad passed away early. She was passionate about giving her kids a great education. It’s no surprise this would be my number one priority for families in Epping as your MP.
I attended Trinity Grammar School on scholarship. Then I did Arts/Law at Sydney University followed by a Master of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. I’ve been a Sydney Morning Herald journalist and speechwriter to Labor leaders John Robertson and Luke Foley. I currently work for a small business called Editor Group as a corporate writer and editor. Our clients include many of the big technology firms in Macquarie Park like Microsoft and Optus.
Otherwise, I’m a keen runner (completed plenty of City2Surfs and Half Marathons); volunteer sometimes at the Ermington Parkrun on Saturdays; play tennis and do yoga. I love travelling whenever I get a chance. Last year I participated in the Vinnies Western Sydney sleepout. I’m a doting uncle to my nieces and nephews and see Mum once a week – her cooking never gets old!
3. Why are you running in this election and why should we vote for you?
Epping is in desperate need of new thinking and fresh energy! I always commit 100% and will give this area dynamic representation. Today, Epping is choking because of poorly planned high rise. The schools are overcrowded, health services inadequate, the traffic terrible and families and kids have less greenery and open space to enjoy. This election is a chance for the parents of Epping to vote for change. We’ve had eight long years of overdevelopment. We now need to move to a new phase – of regrouping and solving the problems that have been caused and preparing for the new issues we must face in the future. This includes caring for our aging population, prioritising renewable energy and developing a genuine response to climate change.
4. What is your favourite spot in the area and why?
The balcony area at Café Topiary on Rawson Street – shaded if you’re lucky, and a great place to watch the world go by. I also love Forest Grove and Boronia Park, which have both been refuges during the recent hot summer.
5. What do you believe are the 3 main issues affecting our area and why?
Overdevelopment is the number one issue. Five years ago, the state government declared Epping an “Urban Activation Precinct” – which meant it got dumped with badly planned high rise – and we are now paying the consequences. The second issue is overcrowded schools – the population goes in first and we always just seem to be playing catch up. It really offends me that this government is spending $2.2 billion on stadiums when so many kids are sitting in hot, stuffy classrooms and don’t have adequate playground space. The third issue is Epping’s crippling traffic. To give one example, the intersection of Ray, Rawson, Carlingford and Beecroft Roads is just a disaster – and you can take your life in your hands just trying to get to the Coles.
6. If elected how would you address each of those 3 issues (both short term and long term)?
Fighting overdevelopment: I would be an active member of a government that (a) immediately terminates the status of Epping and Cherrybrook as high-rise precincts (b) ends ‘spot rezonings’ that allow developers to circumvent Local Environment Plans and (c) returns planning powers to the local council and community instead of unelected, unaccountable planning panels.
Fixing Epping’s overcrowded schools: we will replace demountables with permanent multi-storey buildings at schools like Epping West. Other schools such as Epping Heights and Beecroft Primary should be next cab off the rank. We must also build new primary and secondary schools, using the Chelmsford Avenue TAFE site as a first option. We will keep Marsden High open which is vital to families around Eastwood and Mobbs Lane – the government is closing it.
Addressing traffic congestion: we need to improve public transport. I would advocate to extend the Parramatta Light Rail from Carlingford to Epping. The option of a distance-based toll on the M2 should also be considered. This would allow drivers to take short trips on the motorway, bypassing the Epping Town Centre, without needing to pay this government’s huge tolls.
7. What are the 3 key things you plan to achieve if elected?
I want to make every school in the Epping electorate a great school, with excellent facilities and technology. Whether public, private, selective or Catholic, every child deserves the best education. Following on from what I said above, under Labor, every public school classroom will be airconditioned. We will also provide $5000 extra a year to every school P&C and hire 100 full-time language teachers.
My second priority is to put a freeze on overdevelopment in Epping – I’m not Superman. I can’t rip down buildings that are already there, but I know the community’s had enough. Third, I want to bring back jobs and vitality to the Epping Town Centre. Developments should have commercial areas and co-working spaces mandated so more people can work locally. I also want to help beautify Epping with murals, sculptures, flower beds and signage – the place could do with some love!
8. AFTER SCHOOL CARE: There is an increasing demand for before and after school care at Primary Schools in the area. Do you have plans to improve this given many of the current options are full, turning families away and have wait lists in place?
Before and after school care has become a massive issue as our schools have become more overcrowded. At Epping West, there are 1300 kids but only 120 care places. This year, the provider was switched and many families missed out. The entire kindy class was put on the waiting list. One Mum whose son has mild autism came to me in tears because she couldn’t find a place and had been rejected by all the alternative care centres in Epping.
Labor will ensure that all new schools have before and after school care facilities on site to save parents from the “double drop off”. We will also introduce reforms to encourage more schools to provide these facilities, acknowledging that schools generally don’t run the care themselves.
9. BUS SERVICE – many Ryde Mums use the local bus service rather than trains however they are always full and overcrowded in peak times. What plans do you have for local bus services?
We need significant new investment in local bus services. Buses along Ray Road in Epping such as 546 and 549 are frequently full. This deters people from trying to use public transport, forcing them back into the cars. In North Epping, residents are concerned about cuts to the 295. Improving connectivity to Epping station from suburbs like Carlingford and North Rocks is key to reducing traffic. The government is trialling an “on-demand” bus service; however I am worried that this is just a pretext for cutting public bus routes. Labor can rule out ever privatising our buses – a path the Liberals have unfortunately gone down in Sydney’s Inner West.
10. BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION SAFETY: With what has happened with the Opal Tower, are there are any guidelines, practices etc for all the new developments in the area to ensure these are built correctly and safe?
The Opal Tower scandal sent shudders all over Sydney! It has certainly put the issue of building standards and accountability high on the agenda. I believe the government has allowed too many cowboy developers in this city free rein to set up buildings that turn out to be shonky. To fix this, Labor will introduce a standalone piece of building legislation. This will be overseen by a NSW Building Authority, reporting to a single Minister. We will introduce “chain of responsibility” in the building process, making every party potentially liable for safety breaches by others. Another good reform is that we will prevent developers from being able to choose their own building certifier. This will help remove potential conflicts of interest.
11. ENVIRONMENT: Climate change and the environment is a big concern for many families. What are your plans to help our environment in the local area?
Labor is the only major party that is genuine about tackling climate change. We will introduce a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 – currently, NSW is the only state in Australia that lacks such a mechanism. At the local level, we need more trees! They make our suburbs cool, leafy and liveable instead of overheated tinderboxes. The destruction of mature trees to make way for high rise in Epping is a tragedy. My greatest fear would be for Epping town centre to head the way of the Parramatta CBD where developers have run riot with no regard for greenery or aesthetics. Labor will plant 6 million trees across Greater Sydney by 2030. We will create a public inventory of environmental assets such as trees and green space – and we’ll make it mandatory for this to be considered in all planning decisions. We will also create a generous fund to allow councils to acquire more green space and give our kids more room to play.