WestConnex

Police dragged local residents out of a Sydney Park protest camp at 3am on September 20 so WestConnex contractors working for the private Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) could set up a construction site and begin work destroying thousands of trees in the park.

WestCONnex Action Group spokesperson Colin Hesse said: “The police had assured us numerous times that we were camping lawfully on public land, therefore they wouldn’t be taking any action to remove us from the site.

Early one morning last month, the Chief Commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Lucy Turnbull — a lifelong resident of the city’s most privileged suburbs along the south-eastern edge of the harbour — quietly slipped across to Sydney’s inner west where she was taken on tour by a WestConnex manager of the M4 East tollway tunnel corridor. There she presumably saw for the first time the gigantic construction sites in Haberfield where scores of heritage homes, businesses, gardens, parks and trees stood until a few weeks ago.

6000-strong march against Baird in Sydney on May 29.. “Beyond the amiable, good-bloke persona, [NSW Premier] Mike Baird is an aggressively neoliberal politician, who has quietly privatised dozens of state entities.
While the New South Wales government's disastrous WestConnex tollroad project is facing new challenges, the public campaign against the $17 billion privatised road network continues to grow. The latest headache for the government came about when chief commissioner for the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) Lucy Turnbull triggered a public outcry after stating she was unaware of any large-scale destruction of houses in the heritage suburb of Haberfield, precisely as homes were being demolished in the inner-western Sydney suburbs.
Australia's largest cities are urban planning disaster zones. Two facts in particular bear this out. First is the ongoing housing affordability crisis, which shows no sign of abating. Second is the relentless march of car-dependent urban sprawl, which continues to devour remnant native vegetation and good farming land. You get an eyeful of this latter problem as you approach Perth by plane, by some accounts the second-biggest metropolis in the world by surface area.
In the recent controversy over the proposed sale of key NSW state-owned electricity company Ausgrid to Chinese bidders, the primary issue seems to have been lost: a vital public asset such as Ausgrid should not be privatised in the first place, whoever the potential buyers might be. A storm broke out over the planned sale of Ausgrid by the state government to either of two Chinese corporations: the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China; or the privately-owned Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group (CKI), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.
The WestConnex tollway project continues to expand, despite widespread community objections to the consequences it will bring. These include increased traffic in the inner west of Sydney; environmental and pollution problems; forced acquisitions and destruction of heritage homes; associated increases in tolls for motorists; and the overall cost to the public — $16.8 billion and counting.
Heritage items from homes in the inner west suburbs of Ashfield and Haberfield are being sold off by private contractors prior to the demolition of houses to make way for the controversial WestConnex tollway. Contractors employed to demolish the homes are being allowed to sell valuable items including tiles, bricks, light fittings and leadlight doors and windows, according to the July 12 Inner West Courier.
Up to 150 residents of inner western Sydney crammed into the chambers of the now-sacked Ashfield Council to oppose the state government's dismissal of three suburban councils and their merger into an "Inner West Council" and to protest the controversial WestConnex tollway project. They demanded that undemocratically installed one-person administrator Richard Pearson take action on his stated intention to oppose WestConnex, in line with the unanimous positions of the three sacked councils, Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville.
More than 200 residents filled Glebe Town Hall on June 20 for a Stop WestConnex public meeting organised by the Coalition of Glebe Groups. A panel of transport and campaign activists slammed the $16.8 billion WestConnex tollway project, and outlined the case against the plan on environmental, health, economic and political grounds.
"The NSW state budget brought down by the Mike Baird government on June 21, which was trumpeted by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian as 'the strongest in the country,' is a scam, based on stamp duty from overpriced housing sales and the sell-off of the state's electricity assets," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the federal election, said on June 23.
WestConnex is a $17 billion, 33 kilometre toll road proposed by the New South Wales government and backed by the federal government. Its tunnels, multi-layered interchanges and four to six lane highways will cut a swathe through the inner west of Sydney. Pauline Lockie is a spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group, one of the groups opposing the project. This is an edited version of a speech she gave at the Rally for Fair Fares in Sydney on June 21. * * *
Protesters gathered outside the Four Seasons Hotel on June 15 to oppose the controversial WestConnex private tollway, which is being forced through by the Coalition state government at a massive cost to New South Wales taxpayers. The hotel was the site of an Infrastructure Conference, addressed by Premier Mike Baird, federal Labor opposition infrastructure spokesperson Anthony Albanese and other political and urban development leaders.
Up to 500 people packed into the Balmain Town Hall on May 19 to protest the state government's $17 billion WestConnex tollway project, which will destroy a large swathe of the city's inner western suburbs, and spew massive traffic flows and pollution into suburban streets. The forum, sponsored by No WestConnex Annandale, heard from a panel of speakers, including Labor member for Grayndler Anthony Albanese and Greens candidate for the seat Jim Casey.
Stage 2 of the $17 billion road project WestConnex, the M5 tunnel from Beverley Hills to St Peters, was approved last week despite massive public opposition. — 99% opposed — sent to planning minister Rob Stokes were ignored and the approval was pushed through. The planning department was blockaded by protesters on the day of the announcement.
Contractors carrying out construction works for the controversial multi-billion dollar Westconnex tollway, even before official planning approval has been given, called police on February 2 after some local residents occupied their planned drilling site in the middle of Tempe Reserve. No arrests were made during the peaceful protest, which stopped the contractors starting work after residents set up a picnic in the public space where they planned to conduct drilling. One resident also climbed the drill rig and occupied it for several hours to stop work going ahead.

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