The local community has been working with the government for almost 2 years to understand plans for the project – but have found problems getting accurate information, and their input falling on deaf ears, and many of their queries going unanswered. Comprehensive and complete information is essential for the community to understand the project and it’s impact, not just spin statements from politicians and a box ticking exercise of community consultation.
Market research conducted by the community revealed only 13% support for the current tunnel design, with the major objections being unfiltered exhaust stacks near homes and schools, and an access road replacing Balgowlah Golf course.
Announcements of small changes to the design have been made recently by the government – minor tweaks to traffic intersections and access on Kitchener Rd bridge. Unfortunately, these changes have addressed none of the community’s major objections to the project, and only minimal changes to the design are expected in future.
Community members with engineering expertise have spent much time developing workable alternative designs which impact residents less – but again, no significant changes have been accepted.
The government has refused to release the business case for the project, despite requests under Freedom of Information/GIPAA laws. Estimates by residents with relevant expertise have suggested that there is no valid business case for the project – that for every $1 spent, it would return only 50-70 cents worth of benefit to the community.
The next stage of the project is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is underway and due to be published in mid-2019, detailing the near final design. This stage exists for planners to detail mitigation strategies for the impacts of construction and operation of the project – impacts to both the environment and to residents.
The government states this process includes community consultation, but the large amount of detail of the EIS, and the experience from recent similar projects, has shown no significant changes are made from community consultation during the EIS. For example 30,000+ submissions petitioning changes to the WestConnex EIS resulted in no significant changes being made.