Balmain meeting resolves to reject WestCONnex

Peter Jones from WestConnex addressing the Balmain meeting on December 8. Photo: Peter Boyle

Balmain Town Hall was packed out on December 8 with residents angry with the Baird Liberal government's WestCONnex tollway monster. Peter Jones, WestConnex project director of Stage 3 M4-M5 Link, addressed the meeting at the start and took several questions from the floor before leaving.

Jone refused to stay while health and transport experts addressed the meeting.

First, he tried to gain sympathy by pleading he had a cold and then he proceeded to patronise the audience.

He kept saying that SMC was "on a journey" with communities. This was clearly his favourite buzzword. But was not a good choice for, in my mind, it prompted thoughts like:

"Yes, a journey with lots of private toll bridges on it!"

"A $17 billion concrete 'journey' up the garden path to dupe and scam the public!"

"A journey to hell!"

While Jones conceded that SMC/Westconnex had done "irreparable damage" to public confidence in the project by not carrying out more effective public relations in the past, his evasive, vague and cliche-ridden answers only seemed to make people more angry.

His professional charm abruptly flicked off when he was asked to confirm that the ventilation stacks (he preferred the term "ventilation facilities") would not have any pollution filtration.

"Australian law does not require filtration on any road tunnel ventilation facilities," Jones snapped back.

I managed to squeeze in a question about what public consultation had been carried out before the new plan to shift the route of the M4-M5 Link and expand it to twin four-lane tunnels was made. I also pointed out that he had disrespected and infuriated residents by pulling out of the December 6 Newtown community meeting. He made no comment on that, and the only specific consultations he referred to were with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney.

The meeting later adopted the following resolution, unanimously:

"This meeting of residents calls on the NSW government to:
1. Immediately halt the tender and construction processes for WestConnex - including the acquisition of homes and businesses for all stages of the project; and
2. Conduct a full parliamentary inquiry into WestConnex and rail alternatives:
3. That the NSW government immediately halt RMS plans to remove existing rail infrastructure from the Rozelle Goods Yard."

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