Arrests as tollway protests step up

Issue 

By Sandra Eager

SYDNEY — Bulldozers have moved into bushland at the North Ryde and Beecroft sections of the M2 tollway, but the campaign to stop the construction continues. A blockade has been in place at Terrys Creek, North Ryde, since the middle of March. At present there are four people occupying tree platforms, with a camp of 12 on the site.

Two kilometres of the 21-kilometre route have been cleared so far. In continuing actions, a total of 71 people have been arrested up until Friday April 28.

Last week another blockade was set up at Devlins Creek, Beecroft, where at present four people remain in tree platforms. A large number of supporters are camping and staying in houses adjacent to the bush.

Nineteen people were arrested at the Devlins Creek blockade on April 26 as the bulldozers moved toward a sacred site of the Dharug people. On this day an injunction was sought to stop work while investigations by state government departments into the significance of the site were completed. On April 28, the injunction was refused.

Land at this section of the route is also under Native Title claim; it has been identified as unalienated crown land. This case has been deferred until more information is gathered. The Dharug have stated that they are prepared to take it to the High Court if their claim is rejected.

A 45-year contract signed by the previous Liberal government guarantees revenue for the tollway consortium. Clauses affect the provision of public transport and roads within a 50 km exclusion zone. If any public transport or road works within this zone negatively affect tollway revenue, the state government must compensate the consortium.

The exclusion zone covers suburbs as far away as Mount Druitt and much of the expansive new suburban development in the north-west. The Roads and Traffic Authority is also bound to provide free-flowing access at taxpayers' expense, a cost which has not been included in any calculations.

Community groups are calling for an independent review of the contract, not just in purely legal terms, as was supposedly carried out by the state government recently, but in social, environmental and economic terms. Ian Cohen, newly elected Green member of the Legislative Council, has made a commitment to make this issue number one on the agenda.

An anti-tollway, pro-public transport rally is being organised for the first sitting of the new state parliament, outside Parliament House, on May 23 at 12:30pm. Contact the Macquarie Uni Students Union on (02) 850 7629 for more information.