Contractors for the controversial $18 billion WestConnex tollway project dismantled their Sydney Park construction compound on Euston Road, St Peters, on October 14, following a major community campaign to stop the works.
Residents had mounted a 24-hour-a-day camp beside the site from September 19 after receiving notification that construction, including destruction of trees, would start that day.
WestCONnex Action Group (WAG) spokesperson Janet Dandy-Ward said: “This is a huge win for the community given WestConnex told residents these works would last for up to eight weeks.
“We know from the tree report WestConnex submitted for the site that they planned to destroy more than 160 trees there before moving on to road widening works. But thanks to the constant vigilance of the community, they only destroyed two — and completed just a few days’ work.”
Residents blockading the site witnessed and reported numerous breaches of WestConnex planning conditions, which could have seen many more trees destroyed unlawfully, Dandy-Ward said.
“Residents highlighted WestConnex’s failure to get its tree report approved before works started, forcing the planning department to halt the work. Residents spotted native birds nesting in a tree that was about to be destroyed, forcing workers to stop. Residents noticed works encroaching on City of Sydney land, forcing the construction compound to move.
“If not for the residents who were there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, WestConnex’s contractors would have destroyed scores of trees. All for a road that’ll dump thousands of cars into our already choked streets and sell families in western Sydney out to toll road companies.
“We know [NSW Premier] Mike Baird’s prepared to reverse his decisions to save his political career. We urge him to rethink WestConnex before he’s remembered as the premier who ruined Sydney,” she said.
Since the contractors left, the anti-WestConnex protesters have moved their camp to the other end of Euston Road, on the corner of Campbell Street, to be close to the area facing substantial house and building demolitions for the project.
On October 19, protesters held a silent vigil in Campbell Street where 62-year-old Shelley Jensen was being forced from her home for WestConnex.
The vigil occurred as removalists took Jensen’s belongings from her home of 16 years, which was forcibly acquired by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for the tollway. Jensen received just $960,000 compensation for her three-bedroom home, leaving her unable to re-purchase in the local area. The RMS is relocating her to a flat for two months.
The vigil and Jensen’s eviction comes the day after Baird released the long-delayed Russell review into the forced acquisitions process and outlined a number of changes.
“It is unforgivable that Mike Baird sat on this review for years while he forced thousands of people from their homes and businesses for WestConnex and made them fight for their legal entitlements,” said WAG spokesperson Rhea Liebmann.
“We've had many distressed families and residents like Shelley come to us with horrible stories about how the RMS has ripped them off for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For these people, the extra $50,000 in compensation promised by Premier Baird will be too little, too late — and many won’t be eligible for it anyway.
“Premier Baird has also failed to make sure that people who are forced from their homes and businesses will be given enough compensation to allow them to stay in their local area.
“Unless these reforms stop government agencies like the RMS getting away with cheating people out of just compensation, nothing will change.
“We stand in solidarity with Shelley and every person who’s been forced through Mike Baird’s unfair forced acquisitions, and we demand that he take real action to give everyone who’s been put through this the just compensation they deserve.”
On October 21 three protesters were arrested in Holmwood St Newtown by Riot Squad police and charged with “entering inclosed land” after the drill company built a fence around them. They were among 20 protesters who were picketing to stop drilling for the tunnel under Holmwood Street.