FAQs

Frequently asked questions (and answers)

 

The following questions have come from both our recent webinar and questions lodged via email and on the Viable Transport Solutions website.

If you have a question about the tunnel project or EIS yourself, please email us on beachestunnel@gmail.com.

We will add to this list as more questions come in.

 

Note:  For privacy reasons, the names of the person asking the question has not been included. A number of questions were similar in that they covered the same issues – the questions below reflect what issues were covered in a group of questions. The answers are collectively from the panellists at the webinar.

Question:

On the TfNSW website, there is what I assume to be an artist’s impression of the golf course site after completion of the tunnel.  What has happened to Bally Boys School – will it be moved?  The ventilation stack looks very small.

Answer:

To our knowledge, there is no intention to move the Bally Boys School.  We can only assume that TfNSW did not want to show that Bally Boys School was so close to the ventilation stack – which is why it is left out of the picture.  You can also direct your question to TfNSW at whtbl@transport.nsw.gov.au, to ask why they left Bally Boys School out of the picture.

We agree that the ventilation stack “looks small”.  This was most probably a deliberate ploy by TfNSW to give the impression that the stack will not be as large and prominent as it will actually be.  It will be an eyesore for many thousands  of residents in Balgowlah and North Balgowlah.

See https://caportal.com.au/rms/bl for visuals of the Balgowlah site after completion of the tunnel.

 

Question:

The tunnel entrance and ventilation stack was moved closer to Bally Boys school only recently – because I have a brochure dropped off into my letterbox in late 2019 that shows the ventilation stack hidden among trees at the bottom of the golf course.  Why did they move entrance to the tunnel and the stack closer to Bally Boys?

Answer:

Ultimately we don’t know. The EIS talks about how they have changed various aspects of the design for engineering reasons, which is understandable. However, you’ve got to ask why some of the early designs were even suggested, knowing how bad they were. It doesn’t take a civil engineer to know that digging a tunnel in a creek is a bad idea – and the community said this at the time,  but were not given honest answers. Other aspects of the design have been changed at various points and have been justified by saying things like “changed so we don’t have to acquire as many homes”, but then changed again to take more homes – we suspect reasons like this are just marketing with no real substance. The main aspects guiding design are engineering and cost.

One reason given is that it was in response to concerns from resident’s on the eastern side of the golf course that the link road and construction activities were too close to their houses.  We believe that the real reason is a combination of; shortening the tunnel saves more than $200 mil, there is no need to widen the Kitchener St Bridge (saves another $20 – $30 mil) and there is no longer the need to “move” the Burnt Bridge Creek and the sewer pipe that runs under the creek.  Moving the creek and the sewer pipe would have caused muddy water and some raw sewage that would run into the Queenscliff Lagoon.  The main reason was undoubtedly the cost savings.

 

Question:

At the Virtual Session I watched, the man from TfNSW (I think his name was Tony) said that there might be rock blasting with explosives and noisy night works.  I thought that work had to stop at 6 pm on weekdays and 1 pm on Saturdays.

Answer:

What is stated in the EIS and what happens in reality could be very different  –  just ask the residents in the Inner West who have had to endure years of construction in relation to WestConnex.  The EIS states that the construction sites like that on the Balgowlah golf course opposite Bally Boys are 24/7 operations, though certain operations are supposed to be carried out from 7 am to 6 pm during the week.  What is stated in the EIS is “aspirational in an ideal world”.  Once the contracts are signed, it is up to the contractors to follow what rules and conditions apply.  We will never know these rules and conditions because they will be “commercial-in-confidence”.  All the residents will get are the “guidelines”.

In addition, if a contractor claims he needs to do work outside the agreed times, he simply has to make and motivate for an application to the relevant government department to get approval.  Residents will most probably be informed by a drop-off brochure.  Residents will not be consulted, and they have no right of objection to what the contractor has been allowed to do.  All you can do is complain.

 

Question:

Do you think that the sludge that will be disturbed and stirred up when the trench is dug to lower the immersed tube bits of the tunnel in Middle Harbour can be stopped from flowing with the tide down into the main harbour under Spit Bridge. This means that the toxic shit will end up poisoning dogs in Sandy Bay and in the kid’s swimming pool off Clontarf Reserve. What guarantees can the government give that this will not happen?

Answer:

There is no guarantee that the toxic sludge will not end up in Sandy Bay or in the children’s’ ocean pool off Clontarf Reserve or in the main harbour. The EIS claims that precautions are being taken to contain the sludge with a “sludge curtain”, but as you heard from Louise Williams stated during the webinar “I personally have never seen a sediment curtain that’s worked 100 per cent” – a statement from Prof Bill Maher, professor of Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology.

The responsibility for managing the toxic sludge is not with TfNSW. It’s responsibility is to persuade residents that the Beaches Link Tunnel project is important for the wider community, that all the problems are easily managed, residents should not be unduly concerned and to lodge a submission to the EIS that is supportive of the project.  The contractor on the site in Middle Harbour has responsibility of managing the toxic sludge and the EPA has the responsibility of monitoring the levels of toxins in the waters of Middle Harbour. This provides no guarantee that toxic sludge levels in Sandy Bay or in the children’s ocean pool will not increase to levels that are deemed to be harmful to the health of dogs or humans.

For further information see Appendix M in Volume 2G – see Annexure B.

 

Question:

I live in Seaforth Crescent and am concerned about that the tunnel we be going under my house – or very close to my house. How deep under my house will they drill.  Will I hear the noise from the tunnelling and will they be using explosives.

Note:  Similar questions came from residents living in Ponsonby Parade, Ellenby Parade and Battle Boulevard.

Answer:

Tunnelling takes place 24/7.  At their Virtual Briefing Sessions, TfNSW assured everyone that the noise from tunnelling “should not be a problem for residents”. We suggest that you send your question directly to TfNSW at whtbl@transport.nsw.gov.au and give them your address so they can tell you how far under your house the boring machine will be operating.

 

Question:

The EIS states that residents can expect to have a saving of 30+ minutes when driving in the morning from Manly or Dee Why to the City – and even more when driving to the Airport.

It only takes me 30 – 35 minutes at present to drive from Fairlight to the City – and that is during the morning peak.  When there is a problem on the bridge, it is longer.  How do they know how much time will be saved – or will it take me less than 5 minute to drive from Fairlight to the City.  I think not.

Note:  Several of the attendees at the webinar and people writing emails have referred to this apparent anomaly. 

Answer:

If you look at the “fine print” in the EIS on the estimated time saving when driving to the City – the 30+ minutes saved for residents in the southern part of the peninsula, these savings are only in 2037 and only apply to the am peak only.  To have estimated or modelled these savings, TfNSW would have had to make an assumption about the increase in traffic along roads that lead to the tunnel entrance in Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation from 2017 to 2037 – and a lot can happen in 20 years.  If the estimated increase in traffic in the roads leading to the tunnel entrance is higher than the actual traffic because of the adoption of Work-from-Home by northern beaches’ residents, the time savings will be considerably less.  Governments are notoriously bad at forecasting traffic flows – so bad in fact that major toll-road projects have lead to loan defaults (eg Lane Cove Tunnel and Cross City Link)

We asked TfNSW if it intended to check the forecast traffic modelling for 2037 in light of the adoption of Work-from-Home (WFH) by corporations and individuals following the introduction of  COVID-19 Restrictions since March 2020. From the response (see below), TfNSW has no intention to update the modelling.  It will arrogantly assume that the forecast made in 2016 or 2017 is the right one on which the government will make a $10 billion + investment.

 

Response from Tim Kwok (Beaches Link Project Team at TfNSW):

Note: Bold emphasis not in the original email

Hi Terry,

Thank you for your email and feedback.

At this time long-term impacts to traffic from COVID-19 are still unknown, and current traffic conditions and travel behaviours are the result of a variety of temporary factors, including reduced public transport capacity and demand. Ongoing traffic and transport analysis shows that traffic in the project area has already returned to levels near that of the pre-COVID-19 period. Given the interim nature of current conditions, and also the relative stability of traffic levels, while noting some traffic is likely related to suppressed demand for public transport, there is no plan at this time to review the modelling done for the Beaches Link EIS.

Transport will continue to monitor and analyse the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on travel demand, including changes to existing travel conditions as well as future travel behaviours and underlying economic demand drivers.

Regards,

Tim Kwok

Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link Transport for NSW

 

We know that this does not answer your question, but we appreciate that there is confusion in the community on TfNSW’s claims on time-savings.

For more reading, see Beaches Link and Gore Hill Freeway Connection,

December 2020, Community guide to the EIS – page 13

 

Question:

When the government says that it is perfectly safe for people to live close to the ventilation stacks and breath the air, does it mean that it is guaranteeing that there will be no extra cases of cancer in the community from the pollutants coming out of the stacks? And why has the government rejected the option of installing filtration in the Balgowlah stack – which is in a basin close to three schools.

Note:  Many of the questions received asked about the air toxins (particularly PMs < 10 microns) from the ventilation stacks and the government’s refusal to install filtration in the stacks – this question is typical of what we received.

Answer:

This not really a question we can answer on behalf of the government – and it should be directed to TfNSW at whtbl@transport.nsw.gov.au

However, we can confidently say that the government will not provide any form of guarantee.  What the government is telling us in the EIS is that in the view of the medical experts (through the NSW Chief Medical Officer and the technical experts on air flow from ventilation stacks) is:  there will definitely be an increase in the level of air toxins in the atmosphere close to the stacks (1.2 km and below), but the “modelling” tells the experts that not enough people will suffer medically as a result of the increase in air toxins to justify the expenditure on filtration to justify the additional expense on installing filtration in order to reduce those additional health problems / deaths.

 

We will only know how many additional people will develop cancer from the exposure to the additional air toxins from the stack in several years’ time when the epidemiologists analyse the deaths of people who have lived in the area once the stacks were built and operating.  If there are more deaths in Balgowlah than there were over the past 50 years (or period for which there is good data), it would indicate that the increase in air toxins could be a contributing factor – and possibly the cause of what is known as a “cancer cluster”.

 

Question:

The panellist at the webinar who told us about the potential problems for Manly Dam and the bushland around the dam complained that the Biodiversity Offsets Program for exchanging lost bushland from the widening of the Wakehurst Parkway will in her views not be a like-for-like exchange.  I have heard that the Offsets Program has been working well in NSW.  And what is meant by BDAR in her slide on Other NSW Government Projects?

Answer:

A Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) is required to identify the need for “offsetting” any serious & irreversible damage done to the environment as a result of any development, and any mitigation steps.  It is sometimes referred to as “biobanking”. By widening the Wakehurst Parkway (approx. 15m to 40m), the serious & irreversible damage requires the rehabilitation (or acquisition) areas of bushland to compensate for this flora loss and impacts to threatened fauna.

The problem with an BDAR arrangement is that when a truly unique area like the Manly Dam bushland is damaged, the long-term ecological viability of the bushland is permanent.  There are many examples where the BDAR offset arrangements are simply a legal fudge.  The EDO (Environmental Defenders Office) says Biobanking is pretty much “endorsing extinction”.

The community of residents who have been fighting to preserve the uniqueness of the bushland around Manly Dam, in the War Memorial State Park, have witnessed the damage and degradation done when bushland was taken to expand the Manly Vale Public School.  It is ironic that the 2017 promise from Mike Baird (feeling guilty?) for the land taken for Manly Vale Public School is the land around the water tanks that is to be totally cleared and used for a construction site for the Seaforth Portal of the Beaches Link Tunnel Project.  Every bit of unique vegetation on the site will be totally destroyed by the construction activities.  This is what will look like for up to 6 years – this is a picture of one of the NorthConnex construction sites.

It will be impossible to provide an adequate like-for-like offset for the damage to the bushland through tree removal and the run-off of polluted waterinto Manly Dam from the road-widening.  For starters, there is very little Duffys Forest Ecological Community left to be part of any offset.  A small parcel was saved near the Warringah Aquatic Centre for the massive losses during the Northern Beaches Hospital build.  For example, Prostanthera marifolia is known to be in the area to be damaged – it is an endangered species listed as critically endangered under the BC Act and EPBC Act.

Additionally, if an offset is supposed to be for an animal population (ie Eastern Pygmy Possum (EPP), Red Crowned Toadlet (RCT), this is almost impossible because the existing population does not move house!  These unique animals will simply die – and eventually will be wiped out from the Manly Dam bushland.  The government can claim that they have found a legal offset for the lost bushland and ecological damage – but we know it will not be like-for-like.

We are discussing opportunities with Northern Beaches Council (NBC) to try to keep any required offsets within the NBC area, and trying to sign them up early – rather than wait until the end of the project when there is even less available.
See Appendix S of the EIS – it discussed the BDAR.

 

Question:

Why does the Northern Beaches Council support a project that has the potential to do some much environmental damage, increase air pollution, create even more traffic chaos in Manly Vale and result in parking chaos around our beaches in the summer.  If I want to take my children to nippers on Sunday morning, I have to drive to the beach up to half an hour before – just to get a park.  In future parents will have to drive an hour before.

And, didn’t the Council sign some sort of secret agreement in 2018 to cooperate on getting the tunnel built?

Answer:

You will need to direct this question at the Mayor, Michael Regan (michael.regan@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au).

We need to point out that the decision to support the tunnel project was made at Council meeting in 2018 – with the support of the majority of councillors. This decision came with certain “conditions” – eg there was to be a dedicated bus lane in the tunnel and other “conditions”. These “conditions” actually count for nothing, because the Council has no veto on the final design submitted in the EIS or in the Reference Design approved by the Department of Planning. The “conditions” are only a wish list.

The Secrecy Agreement you refer to was a Confidentiality Agreement imposed by the RMS (at the time) to apply during discussions/negotiations between the RMS and Council staff on the preliminary design of the tunnel and on the decision by the RMS to take over the Balgowlah Golf Course site and use it as a construction site.  At the time, the RMS had kept this decision secret because it had no intention of consulting with the golf club and local residents on its intention to take over the course as a construction site.  Because the golf course land is Crown Land (ie owned by the State Government), the government can do with it whatever it wants – subject to a few regulations that it already controls.  By declaring the Beaches Link Tunnel Project a State Significant Infrastructure Project, the government did not have to consult with the community, but it did have to inform the Council because the Council was the manager of the land and leased it to the golf course.

The sweetener to the Council was the proposal for the government to convert the construction site to sports and recreation fields – to be owned by the Council.  We think Mayor Regan liked this proposal.  The NB Council has received more than $60 million in grants from the State Government – and as some have noted “if you want a bit of pork from the barrel” it is best not to upset the government.

Question:

We are told that the groundwater flows into the Burnt Bridge Creek will fall by 80% while the tunnel is being built and then by up to 96% when it is completed.  Surely that means that we no longer have a creek and that all the lovely vegetation and trees along the walkway through North Balgowlah will simply die. The EIS says nothing about this.  At the government’s virtual thing, one of the specialists said that we had nothing to worry about. Am I missing something or are we being taken for fools?

Answer:

We have a great deal to worry about and the EIS confirms this; It says: ‘the creek is ‘a vital ecological corridor of regenerated habitat that provides a range of important habitats for a diversity of local flora and fauna’ (EIS, Appendix O, pg 45) and confirms the water losses ‘could impact ecosystems reliant on the water within these creeks.’ (EIS Appendix N, pg x).

However, the real answer comes from Northern Beaches Council’s experts who say in their draft submission in response to the EIS:

“The EIS trivialises what would be significant hydrological and ecological impacts to Burnt Bridge Creek. Up to 96% reduction in base flow would result in the permanent loss of (bedrock) run habitat and associated biotic communities would also disappear. The creek would essentially function as a storm water channel…the waterway would become a series of disconnected pools with poor water quality and an impoverished macroinvertebrate community During dry periods these pools would dry up entirely. Other impacts include effects on riparian vegetation and other terrestrial flora and fauna (protected flying foxes etc) reliant to some degree on available freshwater or aquatic communities.”

See Appendix O (Volume 2H) of the EIS – for more information on the impact on groundwater flows from excavating the tunnel.

 

Question:

Is Balgowlah Oval going to stay open where it is during construction? We have been promised that it would stay and is important because the Bally Boys kids use the oval regularly.

Answer:

We have checked with TfNSW and their official statement is that they intend to keep the oval functional during construction; they don’t want to remove the oval unless they have to.

The problem we have with this statement is that it is not realistic when you look at the plans in the EIS documents.

The maps and diagrams below show the construction site and access road right next to the edge of the oval.

Bear in mind the access road is 4 lanes at this point and will be constantly used by heavy trucks and machinery. The acoustic shed will contain the main tunnelling opening, wand trucks with come and go using the layover area – all just metres from the oval (circled in blue). The trees also indicated in blue will be removed – it is basically all of them around the oval with the exception of a few lining Pickworth Ave. The diagram below shows the indicative design when finished – with the oval moved to the space where Dudley St used to be.

 

We have to ask if they manage to keep the whole oval open, how close are the trucks going up and down the access road, and how safe is it for students walking to and from Bally Boys? What will Saturday morning kids cricket look like for many years, with trucks streaming up and down only metres away?

We can’t see how the oval can remain open and still be safe for use.

 

As we have discussed previously, when contractors become involved in constructing the project the plans can be changed if deemed necessary. It is plausible that the contractor could look at the plans and say that the access road is too close to Balgowlah Oval and it is not safe – so they would have grounds to change the plans and remove the oval (or at least a portion of it).

 

This is something that is a good idea to include in your EIS submission – to keep the full Balgowlah Oval, cricket nets, trees surrounding it and safe access for Bally Boys students should become a condition of approval for the project. The community have been promised it, so they should get it.

 

Question:

I live relatively close to the Balgowlah construction site. Where can I find information on how my home will be impacted with noise and vibration? Where are the properties in the area that might be eligible for things like double-glazing to help with the noise, where are they?

Note: We have received several of these questions from people around all construction sites.

Answer:

The discussion in the EIS about noise impacts is in Chapter 10 – Construction noise and vibration, with the Balgowlah site from page 10-60 to 10-70. This details the number of properties with noise and vibration impacts from the various activities, but does not detail where they are.

That level of detail is located in the EIS Appendix G Noise and Vibration, Part 2. This is a cut-down map of the Balgowlah site, with properties coloured who are eligible for consideration of noise mitigation at the property such as double-glazing. Please note this is “eligible for consideration”, and would need to be negotiated and approved from TfNSW.

We assume that that large number of properties eligible on Wanganella St (shown in red) are due to the increase in rat-run traffic that the project will create.

The full site maps for noise and vibration consideration are below.

– Balgowlah site maps – pages 25-29, 55-66, 102-108, 177-183, 206

– Seaforth and Wakehurst Parkway site maps – pages 30-37, 67-76, 109-121, 184, 208

– Middle Harbour and Spit Reserve West site maps – pages 15-24, 96-101

In Appendix G Part 2 (which is a very large PDF file, you can also search from your address to see the noise impacts they have modelled, including some but not all properties, and some, but not all floors of properties. Also bear in mind that this is modelling, and may not be the reality.

If you have specific questions about how your house will be impacted, we recommend you contact TfNSW on 1800 931 189 or email whtbl@transport.nsw.gov.au. If you give your address they can look up the details.