Community need triumphs over developer greed

March 3, 2023
Bekk, Alan and Anoulack crossing the lights. Photo: Brian Laul. Poster insert: Vivian Messimeris

A group of parents and carers in south west Sydney won a small, but significant, victory for the community on February 15. Traffic lights installed on McDonald Road adjacent Bardia Public School (BPS) were switched on for the first time, allowing students, carers and others could finally cross the major road safely.

The traffic light installation outside BPS was a victory for the BPS Parents and Citizens Association (P&C), an energetic community group dedicated to improving conditions for students at the school.

The P&C formed in 2021, two years after the school opened. It immediately began campaigning for the traffic lights, which had been planned to be switched on the day the school opened, in January 2019.

The suburb of Bardia was established in 2013, opened by NSW government-owned developer Landcom, on land previously used for a military barracks. Landcom’s master plan included traffic lights at the school.

Landcom was forced to sell its remaining interests in Bardia in 2015 to private developer Dahua. While Dahua was bound by Landcom’s planning agreement to construct the traffic lights outside the school, it failed to do so.

The P&C, with the support of successive school principals and Anoulack Chanthivong, MP for Macquarie Fields, demanded that Campbelltown City Council enforce its planning agreement with the developer and compel it to install the lights, or carry out the work themselves.

After more than a year of brush-offs from Council officers and councillors, the P&C finally gained some traction when it produced placards demanding council fix them along adjoining streets.

Consistent and determined action built pressure, raised awareness and, finally, turned the tide.

Victory was secured after a Freedom of Information request revealed emails between council, the NSW government and Dahua, in which council appeared to back the developer in delaying installation of the lights over a dispute about a $60,000 cost to extend a slip lane.

“The traffic lights should have been installed before the opening of the Bardia school in 2019,” Alan Bettison, lights campaigner and BPS P&C Secretary told Green Left.

“The Bardia P&C ramped up the fight with local and national media until we had the breakthrough in late 2022 and the works commenced.

“Without the control of the traffic light, chaos around the front of the school was an accident waiting to happen and it did.

“People power through the persistent pressure from the BPS P&C and Bardia community residents made a change,” Bettison continued.

“I am extremely proud of my team, who worked relentlessly to bring those accountable into action to finally install these long-awaited lights," Bekk Hagstrom, BPS P&C President said.

“Although severely overdue, I’m pleased the developer [was] finally obliged to [carry out] their responsibilities and at last afforded our children the opportunity to cross the road safely.” 

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