NSW govt tries to ‘de-risk’ WestConnex tollway

Anti-WestConnex protest outside the NSW ALP conference. Photo: Peter Boyle

TThe NSW state government is attempting to carry out the privatisation of its controversial $16.8 billion Westconnex tollway project in relative secret under pressure from the growing calls for it to be stopped.

A submission by the Sydney City Council (SCC) claims the government is planning to separate construction of road tunnels for the third stage of WestConnex from the proposed underground spaghetti road junction at Rozelle in an attempt to “de-risk the project” ahead of its sale to private investors.

In its submission opposing the third stage of WestConnex, the SCC stated that the environmental assessment of the M4-M5 link, released in August, failed to commit to a final design or address community impacts and was based on unreliable traffic modelling.

The submission stated: “It prepares the pathway for sale of Sydney Motor Corporation (SMC) to the private sector, removing from the responsibility, oversight and control of the government the final design, cost and implementation of the M4-M5 Link.”

The SCC claimed the government was trying to build the 7.5 kilometre twin tunnels between Haberfield and St Peters separately from the Rozelle interchange in order to make the sale of the SMC more attractive to private companies:

“This is being done to de-risk the project for the private sector sale. The design [of the interchange] is so preliminary and so complex that it needs to be treated as another stage of the project to ensure that potential private sector funders are willing to invest, knowing they can heavily modify and/or defer the Rozelle interchange,” the submission said.

Commenting on the apparent reluctance of companies to bid to construct the Rozelle interchange so far, Greens NSW transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said, “Why would they want to risk their reputation signing up to this poorly conceived and virtually unconstructible design?”

Public outrage is also growing over a totally misleading TV advertising campaign launched by the government recently spruiking Westconnex. Stating that, "WestConnex is the missing piece of the puzzle that will bring Sydney closer together," and that there will be "more than 30 kilometres of new roads -- but most of it you'll never see because it will be underground," the ad ignores the massive destruction of suburbs already caused by WestConnex and its future environmental effects through pollution and increased traffic on inner-suburban roads.

Even more controversially, the ad campaign has already cost $2 million on top of WestConnex's growing budget of around $18 billion, and is slated to continue till August 2020 — well after the next NSW state election, due in March 2019.

Meanwhile, the community campaign against WestConnex is ramping up on a number of fronts. Greens councillors on the newly elected Inner West Council have called for an extraordinary general meeting of the IWC to discuss public opposition to WestConnex and the council’s planned submission regarding the WestConnex Stage 3 M4-M5 Link.

The campaign against WestConnex is also reaching out, seeking to help build opposition to the massive tolls being imposed on Western Sydney commuters as part of the WestConnex monster. And combining with No Incinerator for Western Sydney, opposing the huge and polluting waste incinerator proposed for the west, the anti-WestConnex campaign is joining the “Don’t Mess with the West” rally on October 21 at 2pm at the Joan Sutherland Centre in Penrith.

A successful barbecue to celebrate one year of the Sydney Park anti-WestConnex protest camp in St Peters was held on September 24. Prior to the barbecue, speakers addressed issues facing the ongoing campaign to oppose WestConnex.

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