'Rage Against WestConnex' rally slams tollway threats

Hunderds of people protested at the Rage Against WestConnex rally in Rozelle on April 14. Photo: Kathy Fairfax

Several hundred people attended a Rage Against WestConnex rally in King George Park, Rozelle, on April 14. The rally was organised by Rozelle Against WestConnex (RAW), with co-sponsorship from a range of anti-WestConnex action organisations.

Organisers of the rally said: "The entire Balmain peninsula is under sustained attack from the NSW government. The Rozelle Interchange, the Iron Cove Tunnel and the Western Harbour Tunnel mean the compulsory acquisition and demolition of homes and businesses, parks including Yuralbin and part of King George Park, as well as the old Balmain Leagues Club.

"The Western Harbour Tunnel will release highly toxic sediments including PCBs [polychlorinated biphenyl] throughout the harbour and much of the foreshore will be acquired for drying the sludge. The Dawn Fraser Pool will become unsafe for swimming for years. The round the clock dredging of toxic sludge will rob Balmain and Rozelle residents of sleep, as will the 24/7 operation of the proposed Concrete Batching Plant.

"Subsidence due to tunnelling will cause structural damage to homes in Leichhardt, Lilyfield, Rozelle, Annandale, Balmain and Birchgrove. Heavy trucks and trailers operating continuously in local streets removing tunnel spoil will make sleep impossible.

"And for what? Zero benefit to Sydney motorists. Western Sydney will be punished with 40 years of tolls. There will be a huge windfall for the multinational toll companies, while the Anzac Bridge is still gridlocked, Victoria Road and the Iron Cove Bridge at a standstill.

"And to top it off? A $45 billion bill and counting: money just poured down the drain.”

RAW convenor Peter Hehir chaired the rally. Speakers included Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi; Westconnex Acton Group (WAG) co-founder and Inner West Councillor Pauline Lockie; NSW Greens Member for Balmain Jamie Parker; and Mary Court, from the Penrith Valley Community Unions.

Faruqi told the rally: "WestConnex and other tollways are swallowing up our homes, our land, and our health. Tollroads are forcing the residents of the western suburbs to pay out forever — and we'll all still be stuck in traffic anyway.

"Rozelle residents are now fighting this bizarre underground spaghetti junction, which is against the interests of us all. The NSW government has a transport agenda which is all about privatisation at any cost.

"We have to fight this system under which the state is run entirely for big business."

Lockie said: "The residents of St Peters are facing the same health problems Rozelle will face in future — asthma, sickness, breathing difficulties. If the government gets through to Stage 3 and Stage 4 of WestConnex, we'll all face the same toxic effects everywhere.

"But together, we can still stop WestConnex, if we keep up our campaigning."

Parker said: "Stage 3 of WestConnex has still not received approval, There were a massive 13,000 public objections to the project.

"The government is now proposing to build even more tollways — the Western Harbour Tunnel, the Northern Beaches Link, and so on. They refuse outright to allow these projects to be compared with alternative public transport options.

"One thing we need to do now is pressure our super funds and banks not to invest in these insane tollway projects."

Anti-WestConnex activist Steffi Leedham told Green Left Weekly: "After the rally we marched to the abandoned Balmain Tigers Leagues Club building, where a further rally was held outside. A group of us dropped a large banner against WestConnex from the top of the building.

"We took this action to publicise the crimes of WestConnex — destroying suburbs, ruining the health of the community — all for the profits of the big corporations. This is a people's power movement, and we are determined we can still stop this WestConnex monster."