Local residents rallied with activists from around Sydney as part of the "No M4 toll, Stop WestConnex" campaign on September 18 in Penrith. Protesters marched on the local electoral office of New South Wales Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres.
The protesters delivered more than 2000 letters of opposition to the re-imposed tolls on the widened M4 motorway, which is part of the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project.
Peter Mason of Penrith Valley Community Unions said: “Over the past three months we have been collecting letters at different venues, particularly at Penrith markets, from Stuart Ayres’ constituents.
“The letter asks, why are you doing the toll, we want it taken away and if you don’t take it away ... we will campaign up until the 2019 election to have you removed from [your] seat," Mason added.
In the lead up to the rally, activist group No WestConnex: Public Transport explained in a statement: "Commuters now have to pay an extra $2,000+ a year on a toll for a 7.5 kilometre trip between Parramatta and Homebush Bay Drive which will increase by 4% a year. This is highway robbery!
"To top it off, the M4 was paid off in full years ago and the cost of the one additional lane that has been added will take only three years to pay off. So Western Sydney has been lumbered with paying an extra toll tax for the next 40 years to pay for other parts of WestConnex, even if they never use it.
"Shame on the government for continuing to dump on Western Sydney and shame on Stuart Ayres for imposing this tax on his own constituents!"
Meanwhile, the Coalition Against WestConnex (CAW), a network of community groups opposed to the multi-billion dollar project, has launched the People’s M4/M5 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The People’s M4/M5 EIS is a website designed to help people make submissions to NSW Planning, which is currently assessing an EIS for WestConnex Stage 3 – a tunnel between St Peters and Haberfield, which will also surface at Rozelle, in Sydney's Inner West.
Despite calls for a longer period, the public has been given only 60 days to respond to the 7000-page EIS.
In a statement launching the website, CAW said: “Like many groups campaigning against the over-development that is wrecking Sydney, the Coalition is concerned by the corrupted planning process. The 14 volumes of the EIS are daunting and full of misleading and incomplete information...
“As we have seen from the New M5 and M4East projects, the Sydney Motor Corporation (SMC) is not seriously interested in engaging with the public. We hope that the People’s EIS will encourage people to challenge the secrecy and misinformation that pervades the entire WestConnex planning process.”
At the same time, the community campaign is continuing on other fronts. GRIDLOCK!, a free newspaper exposing the reality of the WestConnex con-job, is being distributed widely around Sydney suburbs.
GRIDLOCK! is a crowd-funded publication “exposing the huge failure of WestConnex, the crippling unfair toll tax on Western Sydney and putting forward superior, fast, frequent, efficient public transport alternatives.”
A picnic was also held on September 24 to celebrate one year of the Sydney Park Protest Camp, which was established on September 19 last year, as a base to fight the loss of homes, trees and open space, and the devastation being inflicted on the surviving homes, streets and communities by the WestConnex tollway.