Inner West Independent

Minister warns mayors on WestConnex

Parramatta Road

Parramatta Road

Roads Minister Duncan Gay has dismissed the threat of a community campaign against the WestConnex motorway and says the project will go ahead regardless.

And he warned that mayors who do not cooperate would be locked out of the planning process.

Leichhardt Council will spend up to $20,000 providing information and lobbying kits to residents in an attempt to block or hinder the infrastructure project.

“It has become clear that WestConnex is proceeding to a political timetable without any regard for proper planning processes,” mayor Darcy Byrne said.

Mr Gay said the project would continue undeterred despite “grumblings from Labor mayors who want to play politics”.

“Those mayors that are considering wasting ratepayers’ money to fight Westconnex are also wasting their time and out of touch with every single Sydneysider who wants us to fix Parramatta Road,” he said. “We want to work with local government and have already held more than 20 meetings with councils in Western Sydney.”

But the minister warned that a concerted campaign by mayors like Mr Byrne would see them sidelined from negotiations.

“We will continue to work with the professional officers on councils and the local community but we will not waste time on mayors who don’t want to work with us,” he said.

Marrickville mayor Jo Haylen has also stepped up a campaign against WestConnex. Ms Haylen is expected to seek preselection for the newly-created state seat of Summer Hill, where there will be compulsory land acquisitions as part of the WestConnex project.

Mr Gay insisted the government had engaged in the planning process faithfully, conducting 40 information sessions since September in addition to meetings, property visits, phone calls and written correspondence.

The minister said the WestConnex project is the only way to resolve persistent traffic problems surrounding Parramatta Road, and would take 3000 trucks a day off local roads.

“It will also enable 10 kilometres of bus lanes to be built that will almost halve the travel time for those commuting between the inner west and the city,” he said.

But Leichhardt Council believes the evidence to support those claims is unsubstantiated. Deputy Mayor Linda Kelly said Macquarie Street had failed to clarify the benefits of the project.

“The state government has ignored council’s repeated requests for the necessary planning information we need in order to assess the project merits for our residents and local businesses,” she said. “Council has now resorted to using freedom of information requests to seek this background information and data.”

The government has already established a WestConnex Delivery Authority, chaired by Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd. A planning application for the project’s first stage – widening the existing M4 motorway – has been lodged, with construction to begin early in 2015.

But Matthew Hounsell, president of the No WestConnex Action Group, said the motorway’s distance-based toll was robbing the poor to pay the rich.

“This toll will take millions of dollars out of the pockets of NSW families to pay well-connected companies like Transurban, Leightons, and Macquarie Bank,” he said.

Mr Hounsell said WestConnex is designed to induce traffic flow from new apartment towers to fund the road. A planned revitalization of Parramatta Road would allow for 25,000 new dwellings to be built along the corridor.

‘With 50,000 new residents moved into the suburbs around Homebush and deliberately limited public transport, they will have no choice but to use the Westconnex,” Mr Hounsell said.

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