Matt Kean has found himself in a conference-turned-budget-interrogation, where he cautiously conceded various financing pledges.

The Treasurer and Minister for Energy was part of a panel in the ‘Sustainable Sydney 2030–2050: Continuing the Vision’ city talk on Tuesday night, which MC and ABC journalist Patricia Karvelas used to grill him over the upcoming June budget.

Ronni Kahn, founder and co-CEO of OzHarvest, directly called upon the Treasurer to address issues of food insecurity and food waste in Sydney.

“One in six Australians need food relief at some point. Mr Treasurer, I call on you to create a New South Wales food security and food systems plan,” she said.

Karvelas turned to Kean and asked: “Treasurer, is that something in the talks?”

There are going to be trade-offs to make sure our state finances responsibly.

Kean responded: “One of the reasons I was late tonight was that I’m currently working through the budget process, out in June this year.

“Ministers are putting up about 1,500 requests for funding… putting that amongst affordable housing, action on climate change – there are going to be trade-offs to make sure our state finances responsibly. But I’m very focussed on making sure we invest in things that support a fairer… society.”

Later, discussing the need for more affordable social housing, Karvelas turned with a news-presenter smile and asked: “Is this going to be in your budget?”

Kean laughed and answered: “We’ll find out in June.”

Not deterred Karvelas continued: “I’m hearing from you that you get it. That you get [affordable housing] is a massive crisis. I won’t ask about policy, but is it going to be a priority for the government in the budget?”

“Yes,” said Kean.

“There are three priority areas when it comes to housing affordability: accessibility for young people and families; social affordable housing, addressing that gap…making sure our key workers…can afford to live in the city; and the regions…families are getting squeezed out, particularly vulnerable people.

“We need to address that gap, and it is the key focus of the Premier; he’s given me the responsibility of finding money which we don’t have to make that happen.”

There is an opportunity here to grow back greener, and grow back better.

The discussion revolved around several areas including pandemic recovery, the climate emergency and addressing social injustice and exclusion. A panel of industry experts in the areas of environment, economy, culture and civil society sectors (City of Sydney, 2022) came together to discuss the future of Sydney.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who attended virtually, said: “We’re seeking to address the inequalities exposed and exacerbated inequalities by the pandemic. There is an opportunity here to grow back greener, and grow back better.”

Plans revealed Tuesday night included the creation of three ‘City Squares’ in Circular Quay, Central and Town Hall connected through the transformed George Street, the creation of swimming areas along Sydney Harbour, management plans for the increasing number of pedestrians, completion of the Yananurala harbour walk as well as a 40 per cent increase of canopy to combat rising temperatures.

The continued vision for Sydney’s future promises to be transformative and to facilitate and enable Sydney to become an innovative and sustainable powerhouse of the future.