Local residents occupy Westconnex drill rig

Activists stop work at a WestConnex drill site in Tempe. Photo: Cathy Peters

Contractors carrying out construction works for the controversial multi-billion dollar Westconnex tollway, even before official planning approval has been given, called police on February 2 after some local residents occupied their planned drilling site in the middle of Tempe Reserve.

No arrests were made during the peaceful protest, which stopped the contractors starting work after residents set up a picnic in the public space where they planned to conduct drilling.

One resident also climbed the drill rig and occupied it for several hours to stop work going ahead.

“Public submissions to the New M5 environmental impact statement (EIS) only closed on last Friday, yet the NSW government is rushing ahead with this work before those submissions are even considered, let alone any planning approval granted,” said WestCONnex Action Group spokesperson Pauline Lockie.

“Residents are sick of WestCONnex contractors coming in, disrupting our public spaces without notice, and carrying out these works to build this toll road before they get approval to start construction.

“It's yet another example of the utterly corrupted processes Premier [Mike] Baird and his government are using to try and rush this $16.8 billion sham toll road through.

“But we are not going to stand aside while the Baird Government destroys our neighbourhoods for WestCONnex — a toll road that will do nothing except send drivers from western Sydney straight into an inner-city traffic jam.

“It's not good enough. It's time for Premier Baird to recognise this, stop the disastrous WestCONnex toll road, and invest its $16.8 billion cost in projects that would actually solve Sydney's transport problems.”

This protest followed similar actions in Haberfield last month, where contractors were forced to abandon work on the M4 East after residents occupied sites and questioned them about their authority to conduct the work.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment has received well over 9000 submissions with detailed objections to the New M5 EIS. Despite this, construction contracts have already been awarded to Leighton Dragados Samsung Joint Venture, and works have been taking place for months.

A motion was unanimously passed by the Senate on February 3 calling for a federal audit into Westconnex and the Perth Freight Link. This was welcomed by activists campaigning against these two monster tollway projects.

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