Rally protests secret approval of WestConnex Stage 3

A protest against WestConnex outside NSW parliament on May 1.

"On April 17, the Planning Minister [Anthony Roberts] secretly approved Stage 3 of the WestConnex toll road project. Only 10 days later did they bother to tell the people of NSW about it," activist group No WestConnex: Public Transport (NOWPT) said a statement.

"The project is a scam. The process is fake. The decision is illegitimate."

About 200 angry protesters rallied outside state parliament on May 1 to say they "absolutely reject this decision to spend another $8 billion building a useless toll road that will not improve congestion. Stop the tolls. Public and active transport first."

Speakers included NSW Greens MPs Jenny Leong and Mehreen Faruqi, NOWPT representative John Lozano, Inner West councillor Pauline Lockie and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

"WestConnex has been deliberately planned in stages not only to mask the cumulative impacts, but also to create the impression that each successive stage is necessary to 'link' the project together,” NOWPT said.

As such, Stage 3 is an $8 billion road from the M4 at Haberfield to the M5 at St Peters, with the virtually unbuildable Rozelle interchange tacked on.

"The government is hoping to create the illusion that this will 'keep the traffic underground'. But if this were the case then WestConnex would merely act as a giant U-turn.

"The reality is that Stage 3 is a western bypass of the CBD, whose purpose is to allow north shore drivers to get a bit closer to the airport before they reach the next bottleneck. The shameful thing is that regardless of whether western Sydney drivers use it, this most expensive stage of WestConnex is being paid for by forcing them to pay new tolls on previously free public roads."

Spokesperson for the Coalition Against WestConnex Paul Jeffrey said: "The approval of WestConnex Stage 3 in the face of more than 13,000 objections defies belief.

"The approval is completely premature and illegitimate. Stage 3 is still only a concept design and the approval means the contractors will have the final say on the design and construction of the tollway, without any government oversight or public accountability once WestConnex is sold. The approval even includes the complex spaghetti underground Rozelle interchange, for which the government has not yet been able to find a builder.

"WestConnex will burden motorists with thousands of dollars of tolls each year for two generations, inflict untold harm on the environment and air quality and has already made the lives of the communities affected by its construction a living hell, as well as seriously endangering their health."

The Coalition Against WestConnex said that communities have no faith in the "strict conditions" to the approval that the Coalition state government says will protect residents from construction impacts.

"Without truly independent oversight and the ability to enforce compliance, these will fail to protect residents and the environment, as they have for Stages 1 and 2," Jeffrey said.

Meanwhile, in a major setback to the state government's WestConnex plans, property developer Desane has won its legal battle to stop the forcible acquisition of its land in Lilyfield in the city's inner-west for tollway construction. A NSW Supreme Court judge ruled on May 1 that the stated purpose of the acquisition for open space and parkland were ill-defined and "may never be realised".

NSW Labor deputy leader Michael Daley said the judgment was "very embarrassing" for the Gladys Berejiklian government because it clearly outlined "confusion that has been reigning in the government in relation to the Rozelle interchange".

"This government has broken the law ... and [has] essentially tried to steal land from a company for an improper purpose," he said. "We would hope that the government would review all of the compulsory acquisition notices, but don't hold your breath."

Other nearby businesses facing forcible acquisition are reported to be considering legal action, and residents who have had their houses seized for WestConnex in Ashfield, Haberfield, St Peters and other suburbs are also seeking advice on the implications of the Desane decision.