It’s certainly been a challenging 2018 for those of us committed to fighting the toxic toll road known as WestConnex. We have made our voices heard reporting as many of the WestConnex breaches of the law as possible and, in October 2018, WestCONnex Action Group (WAG) gave evidence to the NSW Upper House Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impacts of the WestCONnex Project.
But 2019 will be even busier.
As well as pressuring politicians for a Royal Commission into WestCONnex (and don't forget the NSW state election is on 23 March), WAG will be setting up a register of WestCONnex property damage, continuing to support the citizen scientists' air quality monitoring project, and be holding WestCONnex and its contractors to account over breaches.
Inquiry into the Impacts of the WestCONnex Project
The Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impacts of the WestCONnex Project was made possible through the efforts of NSW Green MPs Jenny Leong (Newtown) and Jamie Parker (Balmain). The resulting report, released on 17 December, highlighted many disturbing issues, including:
- the absence of a rigorous business case for WestCONnex
- that no alternative transport projects to WestCONnex were even considered
- that impacts on public health were not properly accounted for
- the lack of transparency around the whole government project, with many details hidden behind Sydney Motorway Corporation, the private company the government set up
- the lack of empathy for residents whose homes were compulsorily acquired
- that the community consultation and complaints procedures were failures
- the woefully inadequate noise amelioration offered to residents during construction (like these ear plugs to block out construction noise from 8pm until 4.30am).
Inquiry calls for filtration on all motorway tunnel stacks
The Inquiry flagged air quality as a huge issue. The added pollution from the extra vehicles on the road every day and the ventilation stacks pouring unfiltered air around our homes and schools is potentially disastrous, especially with the impacts of climate change. The Inquiry recommended filtration of ALL motorway tunnel stacks in Sydney, whether they're existing stacks or future constructions.
WAG will continue to support analysis of WestCONnex air monitoring data and promote further citizen science monitoring. If you would like an air monitor installed in your home click here to place an order.
However, the Parliamentary Inquiry's report seemed to suffer a split personality disorder. Despite it listing so many failing with the project, it then states that the WestCONnex project should be completed. Wendy Bacon's story for Alt Media "Parliament Digs up WestConnex Dirt" gives a good analysis.
WestCONnex damage to homes in 2019
By the middle of 2019, work is expected to begin on the tunnels from St Peters to Haberfield. You can check the tunnel route for Stage 3 from Haberfield to St Peters by clicking on this map and following the link.
So in 2019, WAG is starting a "WestCONnex property damage register" to record the extent of the damage caused by WestCONnex construction and to lobby for compensation. Contact us at [email protected] or via our Facebook page to find out more.
WAG will also be working on ways for residents to access an independent inspection of houses likely to be affected by the tunnelling, in addition to the service being set up by Inner West Council.
WAG member Kathryn Calman has already experienced damage to her home, and shared this advice for residents facing tunnelling beneath their property: take lots of time-stamped photos of your house and of any construction works happening nearby.
Here's her presentation at our public meeting in Newtown on 22 August 2018. If your home will be near WestCONnex tunnelling, it's definitely worth taking the 10 minutes to watch it.
Berejiklian's toll road madness continues
But wait! There's more to come. One toll road is never enough for the Libs, and they have proposed even more constructions to drain money from drivers' pockets into Transurban's coffers. The Berejiklian government is now pushing through plans for an F6 tollroad (the SouthConnex), the Beaches Link and Western Harbour Tunnel. And, of course, there's the $3.9 billion (at the moment) triple layer underground interchange at Rozelle – nothing similar has ever been constructed before ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Communities in the north and south of Sydney are as angry as we are in the Inner West about this government's disregard for residents. WAG will be sharing our experiences and expertise with these other communities. This fight isn't over by a long shot.
4 ways to fight WestCONnex in 2019
So, what can you do?
- There is a state election on 23 March 2019. You can join us in campaigning to get rid of the Berejiklian government and to persuade NSW Labor to take a stronger position against WestCONnex, including calling for a Royal Commission. And we will be keeping up our banner campaign on the M4, M5 and Inner West roads to remind people about the unfair tolls. (You can volunteer here.)
- You can have an air quality monitoring device placed in your home, where appropriate, to keep up the pressure on WestConnex to reveal the truth about the pollution from its construction work.
- You can tell friends and neighbours above the Stage 3 tunnel route to watch Kathryn Calman's presentation on her experience with WestCONnex damage to her home and what to do. If a property has already suffered damage from WestCONnex work, contact us to go on the property damage register.
- You can join our activities to show WestConnex they can't run roughshod over our communities. And if you're too busy to join actions (it happens!), can you give some money for the cause?
Now is the time to put as much pressure as we can on WestCONnex and politicians, to gain fair compensation for residents, a halt to this destructive toll road madness, and a better future for our communities.