WestConnex Rally

(3pm, Sydney Park)

Thank you, Chris [White], and hello everyone.

Tom Uren's funeral will be held this week. He was Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government — a government that had a cities policy and in the 1970s, Tom saved Woolloomooloo and Glebe from destruction by freeways and development.

In stark contrast, 40 years later the Abbott Government has no cities policy, no urban policy, even though the majority of Australians live in cities.The Federal and State Liberal Governments' biggest plan for our city is to increase traffic. They are starting work on WestConnex without finishing the planning or environmental impact assessment.

WestConnex is a bad 1950s project recommended by an unelected advisory body, Infrastructure NSW, and promoted by big businesses, vested interests and their lobbyists, which was taken up by Premiers O'Farrell and Baird, with major funding from Prime Minister Abbott to accelerate the project.

Shockingly, this $12 billion roads project will eat up transport funding for decades, and rob us of the chance to build 21st century solutions.

Congestion already costs Sydney $5 billion a year, and will double to $10 billion by 2021.

WestConnex will cause neighbourhoods around the St Peter's interchange to get more traffic — Newtown, Erskineville, Alexandria, Waterloo, Redfern. WestConnex puts more traffic on King Street, one of Sydney's most successful main streets.

Green Square, which will be home to 53,000 people by 2030, is already experiencing serious congestion because of the State Government's failure to commit to adequate public transport for the biggest urban renewal project in Australia.

WestConnex will widen and extend existing motorways, building a tunnel to a traffic jam.

The extended M5 will exit at a major interchange here at St Peters, just by this park. There will be tunnels, ramps, portals, ventilation stacks, and four-lane roads with fast moving traffic on people's doorsteps, with devastating loss of homes and destruction of the neighbourhood.

The widening of Euston Road means part of Sydney Park will be carved off. We will be surrounded by major freeways, making it harder for everyone to enjoy this beautiful open space — a major regional parkland for people like you living at higher and higher densities.

WestConnex does not even link to the airport and Port Botany, as originally proposed. It directs increased traffic onto already-congested inner-Sydney roads.

The critical stage of the project to link the M4, the M5 and the airport is un-funded. The plan is to sell the current stages to pay for future work. Private sector interests will maximise their profits through higher traffic flows to generate more tolls.

The Auditor-General is extremely critical of the processes for this $12 billion tax-payer funded project—the conflicts of interest, the poor business case, and the lack of information to decide whether the project is economically and financially viable.

City of Sydney staff are doing an independent assessment because the Government has not released enough information to understand the impacts WestConnex will have.

I call upon the State Government to release all relevant information, including the full business case, traffic assessments, and the proposed sites for portals and ventilation stacks and to abandon its plan to buy homes, tender the project and sign contracts before completing standard planning processes.

WestConnex is appalling city policy at a time of accelerating climate change and increasing inner city population densities.

Sydney's urgent priority is more transport choice and increased investment in public transport. For $12 billion we could have the world's best metropolitan rail system.

CONCLUSION

I'd like to conclude with the blunt assessment in a letter from Judy Finlason to the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday:

"The Baird government's $12 billion Westconnex motorway madness (followed lemming-like by Opposition Leader Luke Foley) condemns Sydney to a transport system that was out of date last century.

"Why is there no mention of public transport? Why have government protocols not been followed? Why has the voice of local people been silenced?

"Mike Baird, if this crazy road plan goes ahead, you will be remembered as the Premier who ruined Sydney."

The upcoming March State election is our chance to tell the State Government 'NO'.

I call on you to make this an election issue — for our communities and the future sustainability of our city.