Many in the community believe that Tempe Wetlands will be destroyed if the WestConnex Motorway goes over the top.

This was the Council Meeting.  The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Tsardoulias/West, Woods/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South.  LIBERALS: Gardener/North, Tyler/West.  INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Hanna/South.

The following is how I understood the meeting & any mistakes are mine.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.

Apologies. This is a long post, but I thought it was an important enough issue to write all that I managed to catch.  I have also included the full motions.  It was also an extraordinarily interesting debate. 

Westconnex Motorway – The Agenda first has had a Notice of Motion by Clr Leary recommending that MC oppose the WestConnex. Then, a Mayoral Minute by Mayor Macri recommending that a Task Force be established.  Mayor Macri wanted both Motions discussed concurrently.

Clr Phillips:  Clr Leary’s Motion is a substantial motion & should be discussed first. It has been exhibited in public for the last 6 days. I received the Mayoral Motion after noon today. We have speakers from the public.  Mayor Macri: We will be discussing them at the same time.  If the Mayoral Minute was discussed first, it could cancel out the motion.  Clr Leary:  My motion is diametrically opposed.  Yours refers to a Task Force.  Mayor Macri:  The detail we need to assess is not with us yet.  If we take the view that we won’t talk about this, we will lose the chance of community consultation.  (There was a debate about the legality of Mayor Macri wanting to combine the 2 motions).

Clr Phillips:  We can’t debate 2 motions at once. Clr Tsardoulias:  We will debate the Mayoral Minute.  Clr Gardener:  We should debate the Mayoral Minute first, then hear the next motion & hear from the speakers.  Staff: If Clr Leary’s motion is diametrically opposed to Mayoral Minute & then the Mayoral Minute is passed, the Clr Leary’s motion lapses.

Mayor Macri: I was contacted by the Mayor of Leichhardt, who proposed this way of going forward. No other reason than this.  We would approach the government & find out what is going on.  Clr Phillips:  I’m not against a Task Force & am not sure Clr Leary’s Motion discounts a Task Force.  I think we should go with Marrickville Council, not Leichhardt Council.

Clr Woods: I’m concerned that my FaceBook page is causing this. Clr Leary posted his motion to Tempe2020 & I replied.  Some of the words are similar in the Mayoral Minute.  I’d take a lot of convincing that a flyover Tempe Wetlands will get my support, but we need to look at the whole 33km of expressway.  Clr Leary:  I am happy to accept Clr Woods’s explanation.   Clr Hanna:  Don’t put any motion on FaceBook in the future. It’s looking for a cheap vote.  I got a 23% rise in votes & I never advertised on FaceBook.

Vote to debate the Motions separately – For:  Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Haylen, Woods, Gardener & Tyler.  Against: Clrs Hanna, Leary, Phillips,  Brooks & Ellsmore.  The Motions will be debated concurrently.

The following are the 2 Motions –

Clr Leary’s Notice of Motion: WestConnex –THAT Council:

1.    opposes the proposed WestConnex Project & in particular the following proposed elements:

a)  the proposed motorway tunnel, slot & surface road from Taverners Hill/Petersham under the Marrickville Local Government Area via Camperdown to St Peters;

b)  the Sydney Airport Access link from St Peters to the M5East portals & links to the airport terminals, Port Botany & surrounding industrial areas & any variation of the proposed surface motorway along the Canal Road/Gardeners Road axis; &

c)  the duplication of the M5 East

2.    calls on the state government to abandon the proposed WestConnex Project & in particular the elements noted at (1) above;

3.    expresses its deep concern about the potential of the construction of surface roads, tunnels & associated ventilation stacks to impact on the health, welfare & amenity of residents in the vicinity of the proposed construction;

4.    urges that local residents and Marrickville Council be meaningfully engaged in consultation at all stages of the project if it does proceed;

5.    calls for the WestConnex Project to be routed away from residential areas, the Tempe Reserve & the Tempe wetlands;

6.    urges the Federal Government & the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Member for Grayndler Mr Anthony Albanese not to provide any Commonwealth funding or other assistance to the State government with respect to the WestConnex Project;

7.    urges the State member for Marrickville Ms Carmel Tebbutt & the Federal Member for Grayndler Mr Anthony Albanese to join with Marrickville Council & the Community in opposing the WestConnex Project;

8.    directs the General Manager & staff as he shall so delegate to convene a public meeting & to launch a public information campaign to make residents aware of the implications of the WestConnex Project for the local community & in particular the communities of Tempe, Sydenham, St Peters, Enmore, Newtown, Camperdown, Stanmore & Petersham. The Mayor, Councillors, the Minister for Roads & Ports & Transport, & transport spokespersons from the Labor Party & the Greens should be invited to speak at such public meeting; &

9.    directs the General Manager to write to the Premier of NSW Mr Barry O’Farrell, the Minister for Roads & Ports Mr Duncan Gay, the Member for Grayndler Mr Albanese & the State Member for Marrickville Carmel Tebbutt advising them of the terms of this motion.

Mayor Macri’s Mayoral Minute – WestConnex Taskforce – THAT Council:

1.    recognises the immediate transport & infrastructure needs of all of Sydney & the importance of ensuring access to commercial centres for all of Sydney;

2.    calls on the NSW Government to undertake a detailed assessment of the impact of this project including any noise impacts, environmental impacts & social and economic impacts;

3.    calls on the NSW Government to undertake a full consultation with the Marrickville community before any decisions about the project are made;

4.    notes that the Federal Government has referred the Infrastructure NSW report to Infrastructure Australia for assessment & advice; &

5.    writes to the Ministers for Planning & Transport requesting the creation of a WestConnex Taskforce comprising representatives of all relevant State Government agencies & the Councils that the proposed WestConnex project will run through or adjacent to. The purpose of the taskforce should be to:

  •  ensure adequate community consultation occur
  • allow for effective coordination of the planning & infrastructure elements of the project
  • ensure the development of appropriate planning controls along the route of the project & that the planning controls of local communities are upheld; &
  •  allow for effective co-ordination of any future works. 

There were 3 speakers from the community.

Speaker 1 for Clr Leary’s motion:  (I was given the speech & transcribed it in full).  The Convener of Eco-Transit Sydney, a not-for-profit active & active public transport group. The WestConnex proposal is frankly a piece of planning lunacy.  As INSW admits in its overall plan, Sydneysiders are driving less.  Passenger car travel in all major Australian capitals has been flatlining since 2004.  The only thing keeping it from actually falling as has occurred in the US, is population increase & the mining boom.  At the same time per-capita vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) has been falling sharply.  In Sydney it is now back to the mid 1990s. This didn’t start with the global financial crisis in late 2008. It started 4-years earlier in 2004 when petrol hit 90-cents a litre.   At the same time demand for public & active transport is rising strongly.

The trouble we have in Sydney is we are bumping up against the upper capacity limits of all our public transport systems.  What this means is that if we spend affordable amounts on rail, light rail & freight rail projects we can rip great chunks of traffic out of the road traffic stream, particularly in the peaks.  Eco-Transit for example, has put forward a plan for light rail along Parramatta Road from Strathfield to the CBD that would cost a tiny fraction of the cost of WestConnex.

Public transport is where the demand is, but the Greiner plan goes back to the same old argument the road lobby – nowadays that’s the tollway lobby – have been conning us for decades.    The argument says that maybe you can have some more public transport, but first we have to complete the missing links in the motorway network.    Let’s be blunt; if the Greiner gets the WestConnex, we simply won’t get any significant augmentation for the public transport system, other than perhaps the NWRL, for at least a decade. And that’s going to be a decade during which all energy prices are going to increase radically.

It is remotely possible that the WestConnex could trigger off another round of traffic increase – that’s what the proponents are looking for – but it’s far more likely that the $10billion will simply have been wasted because VKT will continue to decline.   All we know about WestConnex is the incredibly vague sparkly line on the map we’ve been shown on an almost satirical video.

Marrickville’s residents have a lot to be scared about.  If the project ever went ahead the inner west tunnel section would have to have a series of exhaust stacks above it.  There are no details showing how the local road system would be connected to the underground motorway. But we know the effect on local amenity would be enormous.  What would happen at the foot of Taveners Hill where the thing is supposed to go underground? Will that require disruption to light rail services which will have begun long before?  What will happen east of Battle Bridge is passed over with indecent haste.  Is this a bored tunnel or a cut-&-cover job?  How many buildings would be torn down? Where will its Camperdown access point be located?  There is no detail on any of this because there is no planning.

We do know that the surface section of the road will take a huge chunk of Tempe Reserve. We can be certain there would be much land take & destruction in the vicinity of Sydney Park.  This plan is sheer madness.  That’s what responsible planners are telling us.  It’s little more than a wish list of projects the tollway lobby would like to have funded.  It deserves to be completely rejected.

Speaker 2 for Clr Leary’s motion:  (I was given the speech & transcribed it in full).  I support Clr Leary’s motion to oppose the WestConnex proposal in its current form, which is quite sketchy & troubling.  There are no doubt many ideas in the proposal that may be of benefit to traffic congestion & transport woes, but the elements that I believe will affect us in the Marrickville area is what the report refers to as ‘Sydney’s next motorway project; integration the M4 extension & on the expansion of the M5E.  The report says that this new tollway will be in 2 stages – north sector & M4 extension/southern sector M5 expansion.  The critical point is the timing. “The timetable is still under consideration although it is likely that much development & construction would occur in parallel.  INSW proposed WestConnex should be completed within 10-years.”   

My concern is that this part of the proposal is going to start asap because it has been identified as high priority & that consultation during the development stage will be limited & rushed.  Key areas of concern to our community will be the actual route & how it will affect residential areas, noise impacts, tunneling underneath houses, unfiltered ventilation stacks spewing concentrated pollution into residential areas – look at the spike in cancer rates in Turella – the destruction of significant nature reserves such as Tempe Reserve & Wetlands & the Alexandra Canal, which are sensitive & important areas of biodiversity.

The motorway & tunnel will be sharing cars & trucks, which is risky. I am worried that the project seems heavily focused on finding a road solution & less on providing effective & affordable public transport options.  We have all experienced firsthand how any new motorway fills up to choking point almost immediately. Will this happen with WestConnex?  An expert in this field Ron Christie, commented in the Sydney Morning Herald & was highly critical of the proposal. He is particularly scathing about the public transport options in the project.

I would hope that the Council will have a unified & consistent approach to the opposing of the WestConnex project, initiate a community awareness campaign & work closely with the community to find the best possible outcomes for the amenity of Marrickville LGA.  This is going to affect us all.  Also FaceBook is an effective way to communicate with the public & an appropriate way for the public to speak to Councillors.  This is the way it works these days.  Also the wording in Clr Woods’s motion & the Mayoral Motion is almost identical. This is confusing to me.

Speaker 3 – speaking to the Mayoral Motion – The Mayoral Motion could have been dealt with as an amendment to Clr Leary’s Motion. The Mayoral Motion is weak.  The community have already said what they said when the M5 came up before.  The Mayor was there too.  The people have spoken.  Why is the Mayor not opposing it straight out?  He should support Clr Leary’s motion in parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6. We should have a Task Force.  I’m disappointed with the lack of scope of the Mayoral Minute. You will see Tempe Wetlands destroyed & $20 million of taxpayers money destroyed. Tempe Wetlands has more birds than the whole of Marrickville LGA.

I ask MC to ask Dr Michelle Zeibots to give her analysis to all the Councillors & to different community meetings across the LGA.  She has no commercial interest in this motorway.  Dr Michelle Zeibots has done analysis on the M5 previously. She is a world expert.  My understanding is that the previous Councillors asked MP Albanese not to provide funding for the motorway.  What they are planning is frightening & will destroy Tempe completely. You can’t gloss over it.  If you hear Dr Michelle Zeibots speak, you will not.  I am prepared to put up a few hundred towards the cost of employing her.

Clr Leary:  Foreshadowed motion – to retain points 1,2,3,4,5,6,9 & add Dr Michelle Zeibots as a consultant to MC.  Clr Phillips:  Which points in Clr Leary’s are in conflict with the Mayoral Minute?  Staff:  1,2,3,6 & 7 are all statements opposing the motorway, so are in conflict.

Clr Woods: I support the Mayoral Minute because it doesn’t oppose Westconnex. Clr Leary’s motion opposes from the outset.  There are many questions.  There are a number of difficult questions & we don’t want to prevent meaningful dialogue with the community.   Clr Gardener:  I love move that Items 3 & 4 in Clr Leary’s motion be incorporated into the Mayoral Minute.  I have deep reservations about the growth of motorways & that tollways will solve all the problems.  We keep building roads & they keep failing.  It’s incumbent on MC to do more than just say no.  We need to engage constructively.  The Mayoral Minute is an important statement of MC’s desires & intent.  I understand Clr Leary’s vehement opposition to it. It’s far too early in the process to just say no.  Clr Leary:  I move a further amendment – Item 8 to be incorporated into the Mayoral Minute. 3, 4 & 8.

Mayor Macri: They have been accepted.  This is a start of a process & it has to be constructive if we are to have a good solid reason to oppose it.  We have to know the details.  By law you cannot have a preconceived idea.  All we’ve got is we don’t like tunnels.  I have a petition from residents of Railway Terrace saying they can’t walk out their front doors for truck movements.  A few years ago a resident said to me that he thought his street was getting busier, so I had a traffic count done. It actually decreased.  What happened was the M5.  Maybe he thought he was annoyed by the noise of cars, but perhaps he was annoyed by less cars.  I don’t want to have a symbolic gesture that is poisonous.  I want them to think that they can talk to MC.  Once we get information back from staff we will organize information meetings.  I am not going to have older people worrying & being concerned.

Clr Leary: There has been a lot of emphasis about the lack of detail. The WestConnex document project involves different sections.  This is far bigger than before. It probably calls for 4-tunnels of 6-lanes. There is a significant lack of detail. Road’s admitted that no modeling of traffic has been done.  Yet road is put forward or congestion.  Christy dammed the project because it won’t solve Sydney’s traffic problems.  We have a transport problem & if we spend on motorways we won’t have money for public transport.  Price Waterhouse said that you would be better off for public transport in Mumbai, Beijing, Istanbul & Moscow.

I was there [at the rally] 3-years ago.  I heard Clr Iskandar speak. All those Clrs there knew that a motorway was no good for our community. I’m disappointed that the bipartisan co-operation is no longer here.  This document clearly states that it will need time to acquire people’s property. The federal member said he would not fund a motorway in our electorate.  We know enough detail – Tempe Wetlands, Tempe Reserve, Tempe residents.  It’s enough detail for me to protect our homes for those that want to bulldoze a 6-lane highway.

Clr Brooks:  I don’t support the motorway. I know enough.  It’s going to affect people’s lives.  It’s clear that the community have directly opposed similar projects in the past.  We don’t need to know more.  I’m concerned that this will encourage road freight through the community.  Development is for large trucks, which will put drivers at risk. Money would be better spent on light rail & rail.  MC should show real leadership in strong opposition to the state government with this.

Clr Hanna:  I knocked on doors in Sydenham & Tempe & many asked whether I supported the motorway.  I was in the rally.  I have enough information. Why are we wasting our time asking for more when we will oppose it?  Tempe people have enough & planes as well.   Clr Phillips:  We have opposed this proposal as MC several times.  I’ve voted against it 3 times.  They want to link an extended M4 to the M5.  We know there will have to be stacks spewing concentrated exhaust fumes & that it will attract more traffic.  Can you imagine St Peters Triangle as a motorway entrance?  We have a duty to our residents to come out early & strong against the motorway.  The amendment calls for public information campaign.  Re Parramatta Road; having a slot will narrow the road causing problems & probably mean a permanent clearway, so no parking & this will affect the shops.  One study I saw had 20-storey high buildings at Petersham along Parramatta Road.  MC should take a strong stand against it.  Local Labor has a duty to put residents first. Nick Greiner was Premier 20-years ago & he is not an elected person.  We should be standing up for our residents.

Clr Haylen: Amendment to insert point 5 – Request the Minister for Roads to be part of the consultation. I think the Mayoral Minute provides leadership.  Some of the language used tonight is scaremongering – “Bulldozers & 6-lane highway.” Let’s deal with it appropriately.  Point 8 of Clr Leary’s is similar to point 3 of the Mayoral Minute.  I want to see money spent on public transport, but I don’t want to be excluded from the process.  Clr Leary:  Pg 16 WestConnex clearly states might be 3-lanes in each direction. Clr Haylen: Might be.

Mayor Macri:  We are all on the same page.  Some want to alarm the public.  Taking articles out of the paper causes problems. Do the people of Marrickville really think Marrickville is not served well by public transport?  The issue is that everyone else doesn’t have good public transport so they are driving through Marrickville.  The Mayoral Minute is the correct way. You can bang on on the internet, but the state government will make the decision.  They need facts. All I’ve heard tonight is rhetoric.

Clr Leary:  Amendment to include a public meeting.

Vote for the public meeting:  Clr Hanna, Leary, Phillips, Brooks & Ellsmore.  Against: Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Haylen, Woods, Gardener & Tyler.  There will be no public meeting.

Vote for the mayoral Minute with Clr Leary’s amendments – unanimous.  End of the Report for this week.

Another section of Tempe Wetlands. It’s a very beautiful & important place