NSW Government Planning

NSW Government Planning and Consultation

 

The community has been attempting to work with the NSW government and planners on the project since it was announced in 2017. We have provided extensive feedback, urged consideration of public transport options, and developed alternate plans designed by experts, but the community’s concerns have been ignored.

 

A recent parliamentary inquiry into the planning of WestConnex found that the government had “failed to adequately consider alternative options” and had “weakened the accountability and disclosure rules” resulting in limited transparency to the public(1). Unfortunately, our community is seeing similar processes occurring in the planning for the Beaches Link Tunnel.

 

Critical problems with planning, severe delays and cost blow-outs are a feature of many other road projects under construction by the current NSW government. Just a few examples include:

 

  • WestConnex – lack of transparency and business case, cost blow-outs and delays hidden by the government(2). Changes to the project without planning or consultation, and severe impacts to local residents being dismissed as problems for the contractors(3).
  • NorthConnex – the project chief quits amid delays and cost blow-outs(4).
  • Road upgrades to Warringah Road near Northern Beaches Hospital – over a year’s delay, the local MP deflecting blame for the government’s responsibility(5) and law suits from affected businesses(6).
  • Even a simple footpath and wall at the end of Dudley St, Balgowlah has proved impossible to build – with switching contractors, cost blow-outs and a planned timing of 6 weeks construction in September – it has only recently been completed 28 weeks later.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian when announcing the release of the draft reference design for the tunnel on 26th July, 2018 stated “We are listening to the community … we appreciate that people in Manly are vocal and have concerns … we will work hard to reduce the impact on communities … we want to hear from the experts in the community on how we can make changes.” She also stated on 9th September 2018 “There is no point in being in government if you don’t listen to the community”.

 

Back in parliament in 2008 she spoke on tunnels “The world’s best practice for emission stacks is to have the emissions filtered… when our children sleep at night why should they have to breathe unfiltered toxic exhaust fumes”.

It seems that our Premier holds different opinions when it is convenient to do so, but the community is yet to see any action on their significant objections.

 

The community has found similar difficulties with current Manly MP James Griffin. When campaigning for state office he was asked about his role in council’s poor planning and cancellation of Manly Oval Carpark, he stated that he “has learnt from his mistakes and will be more consultative in future”.

James also stated in October 2017 in relation to the tunnel “I share community concerns relating to the placement of ventilation shafts and the portal locations. It is imperative RMS get the planning right, taking into account local concerns. I will continue to put community questions and concerns directly to the Project Team and the Minister.”

 

 

Unfortunately this seems not to be the case on the tunnel project; the community has seen only a lack of transparency and minimal action on consultation to date.

Market research commissioned by community groups found 63% of people were dissatisfied with their experience of community consultation with RMS / TfNSW, and only 14% satisfied.

From the research, there was over 80% opposition to aspects of the project such as exhaust stacks in residential areas and an access road through Balgowlah Golf course, and only 13% support for the government designed tunnel.

Despite the clear message communicated from this community research, and feedback provided by hundreds of residents, no action has been taken by the government to remove these features of the tunnel, now featured in the EIS final design.

 

The community have been told during the design process that “You told us that Balgowlah Oval was important. These facilities will not be impacted by our project.”(7), only to find that the final design has it bulldozed and moved. We have been told by Premier Berejiklian that exhaust stacks will be “now away from schools, away from where people live”(8) only to find unfiltered smokestacks are moved closer to schools and homes in the final design. We have been told “Revised tunnel alignment avoids impact on homes …. significantly reducing the number of homes needed for the project”(9), only to find the final design acquires more homes than previous designs.

With each design change, it has become clear to the community that justifications from the government have been media spin lacking credibility, and not real transparency about the design of the project.

1) WestConnex toll road project panned for lack of transparency (SMH, December 17, 2018)

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/westconnex-toll-road-project-panned-for-lack-of-transparency-20181217-p50moa.html

2) WestConnex $700m blowout revealed in leaked letters (The New Daily, May 3, 2018)

https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/state/nsw/2018/05/03/westconnex-cost-blowout-leaked-letters/

3) Farcical; Sydney residents’ claims over WestConnex cracking denied (SMH, January 17, 2018)

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/farcical-sydney-residents-claims-over-westconnex-cracking-denied-20190110-p50qld.html

4) Project Chief Quits Amid Delays to Sydney NorthConnex Tunnel (SMH, November 16, 2018)

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/project-chief-quits-amid-delays-to-sydney-s-northconnex-tunnel-20181115-p50g7l.html

5) Traffic chaos: it’s not going anywhere (Manly Daily, March 14, 2018)

http://newslocal.smedia.com.au/manly-daily/

6) Compensation bid pending for road works disaster (Manly Daily, July 28, 2018)

http://newslocal.smedia.com.au/manly-daily/

7) Beaches Link Balgowlah Fact Sheet – Nov 2019

https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/01documents/western-harbour-tunnel-beaches-link/whtbl-eis-factsheet-balgowlah.pdf

8) Tunnels will slash travel time between Northern Beaches and Airport, NSW Government says (ABC, 26 July 2018)

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-26/nsw-government-says-tunnel-will-slash-travel-time-from-beaches/10040140

9) Beaches Link Project Update – August 2018

https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/01documents/western-harbour-tunnel-beaches-link/beaches-link-project-update.pdf