Residents demand WestConnex contracts be ripped up

Photo: No WestConnex: Public Transport not Motorways

More than 100 people joined an emergency protest in Sydney’s Inner West on March 18 to demand an immediate halt to the $17 billion WestConnex tollway project while its social and environmental impacts are fully investigated.

The snap rally outside the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre was called after media revelations of dramatic ground movement under homes, caused by the shallow tunnelling.

The Coalition Against WestConnex (CAW), a network of community groups, said on March 13 that Stage 3 (the M4-M5 Tunnel) needed to be stopped.

CAW said: “New satellite imaging analysis revealed that the tunnelling is responsible for much greater ground settlement and potential property damage than predicted by the [Gladys] Berejiklian government and the Environmental Impacts Statement for the project.”

A spokesperson for Leichhardt Against WestConnex (LAW), which commissioned a report by Otus Intelligence Group (OIG), told the rally that the report “provides precise information on the subsidence of ground and homes affected”.

“This is proof of the damage to our homes, and justifies our claims for adequate compensation [from the NSW government]”, they said.

Inner West independent councillor Pauline Lockie said she wants the council to “formally recognise the report from LAW” and make it available to all affected residents.

Beverly Hills resident Kathy Calman told the rally that WestConnex management had rejected her claim for compensation for damage to her home caused by project work. She said the OIG report could provide the basis for residents’ compensation claims.

John Askew, from Trucks off Maddox Street, said about 3800 trucks had illegally used Maddox Street to access the nearby WestConnex construction site. “These are 40 to 50 tonne trucks, while the street limit is 3 tonnes,” he said, adding that the group is continuing its 18-month fight to stop these trucks illegally using narrow residential streets.

Independent journalist Wendy Bacon outlined some of the serious problems caused by WestConnex. “The Coalition state government is dissolving into private contractors”, she said. “We are living in a very corrupt state where all manner of projects are being sold off to private corporations.

“Whatever the result of the coming state election, we need to continue to campaign to stop the tunnelling happening under our homes and streets,” Bacon said.

Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong said: “WestConnex owner TransUrban has donated to both the Liberal and Labor parties and we need to stop these corporate donations dominating our politics”.

The Socialist Alliance’s Rachel Evans said: “Whoever wins the election, we’ll throw our energy in with you in the streets. We’ll help this movement win the battle to Stop WestConnex.”

Andrew Chuter, a convenor of the activist coalition Fix NSW, said: “Building more roads simply encourages more driving, and there just isn’t enough space in cities for everyone to get around in their own private two-tonne metal box. We must get cars off the road by expanding public and active transport.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to do with the Fix NSW Transport rallies and now Fix NSW. We have built support from communities across NSW who are now questioning the entire system of transport planning, the total failure to make decisions in the public interest and the whole profits-before-people greed of the NSW government.

“We have begun to mount a strong case for a royal commission into transport planning and infrastructure…

“But we face massive vested interests and bought-off, corrupted politicians. We can stop them if we band together,” Chuter said.

Rally chair Peter Boyle from Newtown Residents Against WestConnex said there was a “strong case for a royal commission into transport planning and infrastructure” but in the face of such massive vested interests and corrupted politicians we had to band together.

The crowd then marched to a nearby WestConnex drill site chanting “Stop WestConnex! Rip up the contracts!”