WEPA pushes for cleaner, greener alternative to Beaches Link

Last Friday (Sept 17), WEPA President, John Moratelli, and Committee Member, Meredith Foley had an opportunity to bring the concerns of many in the Willoughby LGA to the Upper House NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link.

WEPA President, John Moratelli, made an opening statement to the Inquiry, which follows:

It is nothing short of disgraceful that the government has refused to consider alternatives to these motorway projects the combined impact of which include:

    • the felling of over 3000 mature trees;
    • the disturbance of toxic sediment in Sydney and Middle Harbour;
    • the disturbance of contaminated historical tips and landfill sites at Flat Rock Gully and Cammeray Golf Course;
    • the failure to properly assess and manage this contamination which at Flat Rock Gully may include PFAS, dioxins, and hexavalent chrome;
    • the movement of around 440,000 B-doubles over the Sydney Harbour Bridge;
      • the generation of greater car traffic and pollution;
    • the risk posed to local bushland by drawdowns;
    • and more.

All this for dubious benefits based on unjustified traffic modelling in the context of a refusal to consider any alternatives to motorways, a failure to consider the impact of recent public transport initiatives, and a failure to seriously consider the predicted impact of COVID-19 on population growth and travel patterns in particular, changes to travel patterns due to an increase in working from home. The way in which the BL EIS deals with the impact of COVID cannot be described as anything other than deceptive.

Claimed travel time savings for the Beaches Link are based on projections which have nothing to do with historical patterns but everything to do with designated growth areas particularly Frenchs Forest. The claimed savings when analysed do not represent savings on current travel times.  But nowhere is this explicitly stated.

Benefit-cost calculations for the WHT have been done and contracts entered without any meaningful assessment of the cost of contamination management and remediation despite major remediation being likely to be required at Cammeray Golf Course. No benefit-cost calculations have been done for the BLT and Terry le Roux’s submission suggests that such a calculation would result in a number less than 1. Again, the costs of the BLT haven’t taken into account the major contamination remediation which will be required at FRG. To the extent that contamination assessments have been done risks have been ignored or underplayed.

In relation to the management of contamination risks DPIE has failed to impose appropriate conditions of approval; ignored breaches of those which do apply, allowing work to proceed without any proper contamination assessment; and turned a blind eye to false and misleading statements in the EIS and DSIs, seemingly adopting a no penalty for porkies policy, despite penalties being provided for in the relevant legislation. DPIE has not committed to exhibiting the PIR for Flat Rock Gully despite WEPA’s requests.

It shouldn’t be like this. There are alternatives. WEPA has put forward an alternative to the Beaches Link Tunnel, developed by Ted Nye. It consists of an underground electric bus or light rail between Frenchs Forest and Chatswood. It would be cheaper and have greater capacity than the current proposal without the environmental and health downsides. It, and other alternatives, need to be seriously considered before any further development of the current proposals takes place.

WEPA doesn’t believe that, if this is done, the current Beaches Link proposal can survive. The current WHT proposal can then be reassessed in light of updated traffic modelling which takes public transport developments such as the B-line and the impact of COVID into account. If a motorway is still considered appropriate, alignments – such as that proposed by Ted Nye – which don’t need to surface to meet up with the Beaches Link can be considered. Such an alignment would avoid the additional expense and environmental risk of an immersed tube tunnel across Sydney Harbour and the bisection of North Sydney CBD.

Should either of these projects proceed after an open consideration of alternatives and the benefit-cost ratios of the different alternatives they should only do so subject to more stringent mitigation measures such as those outlined in our submission.

In further discussion with the Inquiry committee members, John and Meredith covered a range of issues including the importance of protecting biodiversity, the failure of the Government to consider in detail a public transport option, the impact on Aboriginal heritage sites and concerns about the high level of contamination likely to be uncovered at Flat Rock Gully, the site of a long-term, mostly unregulated tip.

Watch the Inquiry recording here.

Read the full WEPA submission to the Inquiry here.

It’s not too late to lobby your local member to give Willoughby LGA a better deal.


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