Anti-WestConnex protest camp defies police

September 24, 2016
Opponents of WestConnex are continuing to occupy a section of the forest on Euston Road, at the edge of the park.

Police dragged local residents out of a Sydney Park protest camp at 3am on September 20 so WestConnex contractors working for the private Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) could set up a construction site and begin work destroying thousands of trees in the park.

WestCONnex Action Group spokesperson Colin Hesse said: “The police had assured us numerous times that we were camping lawfully on public land, therefore they wouldn’t be taking any action to remove us from the site.

“Given these assurances, we were shocked when about seven heavily armed police moved in at 3am to drag five residents from our campsite.

“Residents will continue to occupy Sydney Park to protect it from WestConnex’s destruction for as long as Bulldozer Baird tries to push this sham project through.”

Opponents of WestConnex have set up another camp nearby and are continuing to occupy a section of the forest on Euston Road, at the edge of the park. Supporters are encouraged to visit the campsite and stay on if possible.

The state government has spent almost $700 million buying homes in Sydney’s inner west to make way for the WestConnex tollway, but the final cost could exceed $900 million the Inner West Courier has revealed. Hundreds of homeowners in the path of the controversial motorway project have had their properties forcibly acquired, with many still locked in legal battles for compensation.

The Courier noted that the state government has paid $692 million for 318 houses so far, with a further 109 homes still to be acquired.

The revelations come in the midst of growing pressure for the government to release the Russell Review, which recommends a series of fairer outcomes for homeowners in the acquisition process.

Meanwhile, 1.4 hectares of endangered Cooks River-Castlereagh Ironbark Forest is being removed to build a carpark for construction equipment for WestConnex. Protesters managed to hold up clearing of the rare woodland at Wolli Creek in southern Sydney, before they were forcibly removed by police.

The clearing of the bushland took place on National Threatened Species Day. "That's not an irony, it's an insult," president of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society Deb Little said.

Only about 1000 hectares, or 7%, of the original ironbark forest remains, mostly in western Sydney.

NSW Greens environment spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi said: "The needless destruction of critical habitat to make way for WestConnex is heartbreaking to watch. This highlights yet again the massive flaws in the planning and biodiversity offset systems where endangered communities can be cleared without having to secure an offset."

Former WestConnex employee and whistleblower Daniel McIntyre has alleged that asbestos-laden road base has been used in the motorway’s construction. McIntyre filmed the contaminated material used on the tollway and elsewhere and says his complaints were ignored when he reported his concerns to the Environmental Protection Authority and SafeWork NSW.

The community campaign against WestConnex continues to gain momentum, despite the efforts of the state government to push ahead with its construction as quickly as possible. As more people in Sydney become aware of the devastating environmental and social effects of this monstrous project, public opposition is sure to grow into a movement that can challenge the state government's regressive plans.

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