City News

NSW Government forced to release WestConnex documents

An artist's impression of the WestConnex tollway. Photo: westconnex.com.au

An ongoing struggle for transparency regarding the NSW Government’s WestConnex project has resulted in the release of over 200 documents that had previously been kept secret.

The documents had not been released to the public as they were being held under government privilege.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC of the NSW Greens challenged this use of government privilege in the NSW Parliament. The challenge was upheld and the documents were subsequently released to the public this week.

This process began when the NSW Greens moved a call for papers for all documents relating to the WestConnex business case in March of this year.

“The release of the additional documents was vindicating for those who support transparency and open government. It was quite disappointing to see that the government had unnecessarily claimed privilege over so many records,” Dr Faruqi said.

Dr Faruqi has also called for the release of a cost-benefit analysis of the WestConnex project, however the state government has refused to release this information to the public.

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay said the transparency challenge was unnecessary.

“The documents now released were not relevant to the final business case but I am confident the Greens will enjoy themselves with the extra paperwork,” said Minister Gay.

“Everyone knows the Greens are ideologically opposed to building roads and delivering infrastructure.”

A spokesperson for the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) confirmed all requested documents would be released to the public.

“WDA complied with the recent parliamentary order for papers and the subsequent challenge.”

“Since the business case was delivered last year, work has progressed swiftly on delivering this critical infrastructure project.”

The NSW Government’s WestConnex process has also been criticised for transparency issues relating to property acquisitions.

City Hub reported in July the NSW Government and the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) had not definitively announced to the public which residents would have their homes acquired in order to construct the tollway.

City Hub subsequently reported the WDA had accidentally sent out emails to residents informing them their homes would be acquired, and later informed them they would not.

The confusion surrounding the project is ongoing and Dr Faruqi has indicated she will continue to pressure the state government to release all project information to the public.

“The government needs to come clean with residents about how the proposed road would affect their lives. That’s why we are pushing ahead to get support for the Greens call for an Upper House inquiry into WestConnex.”