Since the release of the M4-M4 Environmental Impact Statement, I have been contacted by countless inner west residents – particularly residents of Haberfield and Ashfield whom I represent in the NSW Legislative Assembly – concerned about the ever-expansion of WestConnex and the extension of intolerable impacts for local communities.
I maintain my strong and categorical opposition to each and every stage of the project, including the M4-M5 Link.
A. Broader concerns with the M4-M5 Link project
WestConnex will not work. This polluting toll-road is tearing apart established and vibrant suburbs and communities, with this latest stage extending the destruction we have seen in Ashfield, Haberfield and St Peters to Rozelle, Annandale, Lilyfield and Camperdown.
The Government has failed to properly invest in the public transport that would transform our city, including the mooted Western Metro and much-needed light rail along Parramatta Road.
Instead, the Government is continuing with its flawed project of building expensive and polluting toll-roads that tear inner west communities apart.
I echo the strong concerns of local resident groups objecting to the imposition of unfiltered exhaust stacks in Rozelle and St Peters, as well as the serious engineering concerns raised in relation to the underground interchange at Rozelle.
I am deeply concerned about the proposed impacts on inner west parks, including Blackmore Oval, Buruwan Park and King George Park, Rozelle.
As is the case in Haberfield, I strongly reject any move to locate unfiltered exhaust stacks in close proximity to schools, child care centres, nursing homes and residential homes. I am also deeply concerned at reports that Members of the Government have rejected exhaust stacks in north shore electorates, concerned as they are about air quality, however are content to force extreme particulate emissions on inner west kids.
I share the strong concern of my Opposition colleagues and local community groups including Leichhardt Against WestConnex (LAW) in relation to the Darley Road site. Serious allegations have been raised regarding the leasing arrangements for the site and I concur that proper investigation of these leasing arrangements should be made available prior to any planning approval being granted.
I also note recent reporting indicates the Government has rejected the only private bidder to lodge a tender to construct the Rozelle Interchange and the significant rebuke of Sydney Motorway Corporation this represents.
The reluctance of the private sector to construct the interchange raises serious questions about the viability of the project as a whole. It reveals that the project is unworkable and will not be able to be constructed as designed. It is clear that the Interchange was isolated in the project planning so as to improve financing for the project.
Finally, I am concerned that elements of the Western Harbour Tunnel, a project yet to be detailed in any way by the Government, are included in this design.
While I understand that tunnel stubbs are included with the aim of minimising any future prospective impact on local residents, I share residents’ alarm that WestConnex continues to grow, swallowing more and more suburbs in its path.
B. Preferred Infrastructure Report
Given that many of the details provided in this Environmental Impact Statement are indicative in nature and subject to further review, I strongly urge you to release the Preferred Infrastructure Report for public feedback PRIOR to making your decision to grant planning approval.
It is critical that the community have an opportunity to review and comment on the specific impacts provided in the Preferred Infrastructure Report, particularly given that construction options may necessitate blocks of residents being immediately adjacent to new construction sites.
I am also concerned that residents and stakeholders will not have an opportunity to comment on the detailed designs for the project. The details are critically important to understanding the impacts of the project, and it is a significant failing that communities will not have this opportunity.
C. Planning approval
The conditions of approval established in the planning approvals for the M4 East and New M5 stages of WestConnex have been ineffectual and frankly insulting to affected residents.
Since work commenced on the M4 East project almost two years ago, I have worked assiduously to help residents affected by the worst of WestConnex construction. I have been frankly appalled by the lack of basic protections afforded to local residents, schools and community groups during years of difficult construction.
Residents have reported impacts including but not limited to:
- Unacceptable levels of dust: Residents are regularly forced to clean homes, vehicles and yards. Residents have sought assurances that the dust does not contain dangerous silica or other pathogens that may pose a health risk.
- Persistent noise and disruption: There has been no coordination of construction and associated utilities work between agencies. The serious omission of intra-agency coordination has meant that planned respite breaks in construction have been non-existent, with work essentially taking place around the clock.
- Vibration: Residents adjacent to the construction sites have reported unacceptable levels of vibration, leading to damage of property including wall cracks and damage to foundations. Vibration and property damage have been reported well beyond the boundaries of the project indicated in the M4 East planning approval. Concerning vibration has been reported by home-owners situated above the tunnels, with little to no protections afforded to affected residents not adjacent to construction sites.
- Local traffic: Heavy vehicles are regularly deployed on local streets, posing a risk to pedestrians and residents, as well as contributing to noise and other disruptions. Residents also report that construction workers have regularly parked private vehicles in local streets, adding additional pressure to local parking. I am disappointed and alarmed that basic mitigation measures – including a crossing guard at Haberfield Public School – have not been granted by the Berejiklian Government.
- Vegetation: Local trees and vegetation have been decimated by WestConnex, particularly in Haberfield, and the impact on local parks far worse than foreshadowed in the EIS for the M4 East. Reg Coady Reserve has been used for construction worker parking, and vital green space alienated and rendered unusable.
The community will not accept conditions of approval that do not afford protections to local residents. Conditions of approval must be both effective and strongly enforced, in consultation with other stakeholders including local councils.
D. Construction in Haberfield and Ashfield
I note that the EIS outlines two options for new tunnelling in Haberfield: one within the existing construction zone at Wattle Rd, Parramatta Road and Walker Ave; or the other at an expanded construction site on Parramatta Road West requiring additional acquisition of property. In either instance, construction in Haberfield will continue well beyond the 2019 deadline for the M4 East to the end of 2022, with 24/7 tunnelling that will last for almost two years.
This is unacceptable and represents a significant breach of faith with the Haberfield and Ashfield communities, who were assured that construction would cease with the completion of the M4 East project.
Now, an additional construction site is proposed less than 200 metres from Haberfield Public School and requiring the acquisition of additional commercial properties. Parents at Haberfield Public School are understandably concerned that the proposed construction site at the Muirs site will increase the levels of dust, noise and disruption for students and staff.
More than 600 students move to and from the school each day, posing a significant risk and parents are concerned that is approved, the site will result in increased heavy and light vehicles on Bland and surrounding streets.
I note that a child was recently struck at the crossing on Bland Street and that parents report that promised Sydney Motorway “spotters” – staff employed to watch vehicle movements in proximity to the school – are not regularly present.
Haberfield Public School parents and staff are also concerned that the proposed site will see round-the-clock spoil haulage and storage, resulting in significant noise impacts for students studying at the school.
Parents are also concerned at the potential harm from dust and other airborne pollution from the site. The school is regularly affected by thick dust as a result of existing construction work and there is considerable concern that a site in closer proximity will see a spike in respiratory illness at the school.
Residents adjacent to the proposed sites – particularly in the units at 115 Alt Street, Ashfield, and surrounds, and residents on Ilford Avenue, Ashfield, Bland and Alt streets who will be exposed to unacceptable levels of disruption, noise and dust from round the clock construction.
I am also concerned about the ongoing impacts of construction on residents in Northcote Street, Wattle Street, Walker Avenue, Bland and Alts Streets. Residents on these streets have lived through unacceptable disruption and this project will extend that period for years.
Many residents have made decisions about their future – including whether they wish to stay in Haberfield or Ashfield – based on the broken promise that work would be completed by 2019 and extending construction is a breach of faith with them and the community as a whole.
This EIS provides little information is provided as to how the project would manage “interface agreements” with utility providers, leaving residents in doubt as to whether their significant concerns around the coordination of construction activities will be better managed.
I also raise concerns with the impacts of construction for residents at Alt Street, Martin Street, Waratah Street and Dobroyd Parade, who will be impacted by construction of the connecting tunnel beneath their homes.
I note that residents in Family and Community Services (FACS)-owned properties have experienced significant impacts with little to no assistance from Sydney Motorway Corporation or the Department of Housing.
FACS must be directed to take a more hands-on approach to assisting FACS tenants negatively impacted by WestConnex and must assess the suitability of their properties at Alt Street and Dobroyd Parade given the impact of noise, vibration, traffic and dust.
E. Traffic congestion
Many residents have raised concerns with increasing traffic as a result of the M4-M5 Link, both during construction and after.
The use of existing above-site construction sites for ancillary activities, including worker parking and offices, will dramatically increase the density of light vehicles on local streets in Haberfield. It is unclear as to whether these sites will accommodate parking for workers associated with the entire length of the tunnel project.
Up to 150 cars will be parked at the Northcote or Parramatta Road East civil sites, depending on which is chosen. Wolseley Street will see additional light vehicle traffic as workers access the site and park their vehicles. Up to 90 staff will be present at some construction sites at night during peak construction workforce periods.
Heavy truck movements and spoil handling 24/7, with up to 140 daily truck movements in Haberfield depending on which construction option is chosen.
This will place unacceptable strain on local roads and streets, and I raise particular concern that the safety of students at Dobroyd Point Public School and Haberfield Public School is being put at risk with no effective strategy to manage traffic around these locations. I note that Haberfield Public School’s request for a crossing guard following a child being struck has been ignored.
The community is also outraged at proposals to locate large electronic signs on local streets, including Waratah Street and Dobroyd Parade. These signs are completely out of character for the heritage suburb of Haberfield and undermine the Government’s argument that traffic would be taken off local roads.
These signs were not included in the EIS for the M4 East project and are a significant over-reach by Roads and Maritime Services, Sydney Motorway Corporation and the Department of Planning.
The Minister must scrap plans for these signs, investigate alternatives that reduce the visual impact for local residents, and also rule out additional signs of this magnitude on local streets in the inner west.
F. Exhaust stacks:
An exhaust stack for the M4-M5 Link will be located in the existing ventilation facility on Wattle Street, in close proximity to Haberfield Public School, child-care centres, nursing homes and private residences.
I am concerned that only half a page was dedicated within the thousands of pages of the M4 East EIS on the cumulative impacts on air quality from locating an unfiltered exhaust stack at this location. Now, the placement of a second unfiltered exhaust facility within the existing tower is being treated as a fait accompli.
At minimum, the exhaust stacks in Haberfield and indeed along the entire route, must be filtered. I note the Premier herself is a proponent of stack filtration and urge you to acquiesce to this important demand from the affected community.
I am also concerned that temporary ventilation facilities will be installed at various locations as part of the construction process, often directly adjacent to residential homes. These facilities will have a negative impact on air quality, and also contribute towards construction noise.
G. Tunnelling Route:
The proposed tunnel route travels from beneath Wattle Street and Alt Street, impacting local streets around Martin Street and Algie Park, converging at Rawson and Dalhousie Streets and then onto Rozelle and St Peters under Turner Avenue, Tillock Street and Dudley Street.
As with the M4 East and New M5 projects, I share residents’ concern about the impact of vibrations for above residents, as well as possible pollution of ground water and destruction of established infrastructure.
Similarly, I raise objection with the fact that residents once again will not be compensated for the compulsory acquisition of sub-surface land. In other States including Victoria, residents are able to claim compensation for sub-surface acquisition for similar projects. It is unacceptable that homeowners affected by tunnelling directly beneath their home have no recourse to compensation.
Also, the boundary from tunnelling routes and construction sites where residents are eligible to apply for an assessment and compensation for damage must be extended. Multiple residents have complained that they have been impacted by construction and suffered property damage, despite living outside the narrow zone that determines eligibility.
Given the scale and complexity of the project, this zone must be expanded to properly acknowledge and mitigate damage to property.
Appallingly, the EIS fails to indicate how the M4-M5 tunnels would interface with tunnels for the proposed Sydney Metro project, saying only that there is “insufficient public information available.”
While I welcome the decision by Roads and Maritime Services to abandon plans for weekend clearways on King Street, Newtown, I am concerned at continuing plans for a weekend clearway on Liverpool Road/Hume Highway, Ashfield. The imposition of a weekend clearway on the main street of Ashfield will place additional pressure on local businesses.
I also note that the EIS indicates Liverpool Road/Hume Hwy, Ashfield will be used as a spoil route for the M4-M5 Link project, jamming the shopping precinct of Ashfield with heavy vehicles and trucks. This will further imperil the viability of Ashfield’s business district and must be abandoned.
WestConnex is $10 billion over budget and counting. It does not connect to the airport or port as was initially intended. It will compound traffic congestion, decrease air quality, and subject motorists to decades of expensive tolls, all while wreaking havoc across inner west suburbs.
I strongly urge you and the Government to reassess this ill-conceived project and to explore substantive alternatives that refocus on public transport connections to Sydney’s western suburbs.
I note that the City of Sydney and Inner West Council have made submissions offering substantive amendments to the proposed design of the M4-M5 Link and I urge you seriously consider these credible alternatives. It is imperative that the Government address the need for greater public transport alternatives to yet another polluting toll-road.
If you choose to approve the project, I call on you to learn from the many mistakes of the first two stages of WestConnex and to put in place the strictest conditions of approval that protect local residents from the impacts of this project.