By DI BARTOK
WITHIN a week of becoming Parramatta’s first Lord Mayor of Indian origin, Sameer Pandey was shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited the City on his Australian visit.
It was all part of the rock star reception Mr Modi received from our Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in front of a crowd of 20,000 at Qudos Bank Stadium in Olympic Park on May 27.
The highlight of that night was the two prime ministers unveiling the plaque announcing that the dining precinct of Harris Park would be recognised as Little India.
“It must be emphasised that Little India will be in just three streets where most of the restaurants are – Wigram, Marion and Station St East, not the whole suburb.
“Harris Park will still be Harris Park with the Little India name relating to the restaurant precinct, just like we have Chinatown in Sydney and Little Italy in New York.
“The naming of Little India will drive more national and international tourism to Parramatta, as will Eat Street now it is being promoted as one of the premier eating precincts in Greater Sydney.”
The plaque, which will soon be in Harris Park, was funded through a Federal grant obtained by Parramatta MP Andrew Charlton.
The Indian diaspora is the fastest-growing in Parramatta, with people from the Indian sub-continent making up more than 8 per cent of the population.
But the new Lord Mayor, as euphoric as he is over Mr Modi’s visit, has his feet firmly on the ground that he has hit running since his election to the top job on May 22.
Mr role is to listen
Cr Pandey was elected after Donna Davis stepped down to take on her role as Parramatta State MP.
Ms Davis will stay on council until the September 2024 local government election.
Cr Pandey, who had been deputy lord mayor, is more than ready for the challenge.
“It has been a busy time, working with council and the community on strategies for Parramatta,” Cr Pandey told the Parramatta Times.
“My main role is to listen to everyone on council and in the community, to set up meetings with all sections – the schools, youth and business, all stakeholders.
“There are many challenges in our growing city, one of them is providing more affordable housing and open space for residents.”
Cr Pandey, acknowledging that open space is a bit tight, wants to negotiate with schools for community use of their sporting fields.
With a new chief executive officer of council in Gail Connolly, and the support of his fellow councillors, Cr Pandey is excited to be helping to guide the future of a burgeoning Parramatta.
Image: Sameer Pandey with former Eels player and Parramatta store owner, Peter Wynn.