More than 200 residents and supporters gathered at the Moorefield Bowling Club in Rockdale on March 3 to protest the proposed F6 Extension to the controversial $18 billion Westconnex tollway, linking the south-western suburbs to Wollongong.
If the F6 motorway is built, residents from the suburbs of Arncliffe, through Rockdale to Sans Souci and all the way to the Royal National Park, will face immense environmental and social disruption.
According to the forum organisers, F6 Action, this would include: “At least four years of construction, dust, noise and traffic chaos, for each phase, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Toxic pollution from the unfiltered exhaust stacks. Diesel exhaust is a group one carcinogen, just like asbestos. Vehicle air pollution is known to cause impaired lung and nervous system development in children.
“Distance-based tolls will be charged on the F6/WestConnex, impacting the family budget hard and pushing thousands of extra cars onto local roads as drivers ‘rat run’ to avoid tolls or use them to get to the [WestConnex] tunnel.”
Transport expert Dr Michelle Zeibots told the forum motorways like F6 and WestConnex merely result in “induced traffic growth” and greater vehicle congestion. “What we need to highlight is a good alternative public transport system,” she said.
Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the F6 would be a “risk to the Rockdale wetlands” and was "all about privatisation and filling the pockets of the toll companies. The public is being wilfully misled by the NSW Coalition government over the F6.”
The government has “refused to upgrade the South Coast rail line. A new rail tunnel and other improvements could cut the travel time from the city to Wollongong significantly,” she said.
Wendy Bacon, former media academic and anti-WestConnex activist, noted that the F6 is essentially an extension of the WestConnex tollway network, which will create “an unbearable burden on Sydney”.
“More traffic means more exhaust pollution, which is a leading cause of disease and deaths in Australia,” she said.
Other speakers at the forum included a representative of EcoTransit Sydney, NSW Labor MP for Rockdale Stephen Kamper, and other state MPs and local councillors.
Local resident and member of F6 Action Greta Werner told the ABC her key concern with the 23-kilometre toll road was the pollution.
“There are going to be exhaust stacks that are going to spew diesel fumes and fine particulate matter across our school and homes", she said.
“We are hoping they will stop planning the F6 and [we're] calling for a royal commission into transport in NSW; we think it is being grossly mismanaged”
She was also concerned that construction of the road, which is expected to begin in 2021, may take a section of Bicentennial Park South, a reserve used widely by locals for picnics and exercise.
The forum passed a series of resolutions calling for planning and construction of the F6 to be halted; for a royal commission into transport in NSW; and for support for public transport alternatives to new toll roads. Speakers from the floor also called for NSW Labor to clearly commit to oppose both Westconnex and its F6 extension.