By Jessica Yun
House owners cannot be certain if the NSW Government will acquire their property until the final WestConnex development plans are released in mid-2015.
Though a number of residents and tenants have received acquisition notices, a WestConnex Delivery Authority spokesperson confirmed that planning was still at the conceptual stage.
In late June, the state government notified a number of residents saying their property would need to be acquired to make way for WestConnex, but then notified them again stating otherwise.
Haberfield resident Vincent Crow, 65, received a letter and an email both dated June 26. The email arrived first, stating the NSW Government would be acquiring his unit. The following day the letter arrived stating otherwise. Mr Crow then received a phone call that day confirming that the letter was correct and the email should be disregarded.
While Mr Crow does not live in the unit himself, he leases it to tenants who are subject to the changes and are left feeling uncertain.
“The tenants don’t know whether they’ll be staying there or whether they’ll be asked to leave. … [WDA] haven’t worked out the final plans for WestConnex yet. It’s all still in the concept stage. So they might actually change their mind again, which is a possibility.”
“We might get a letter next week saying ‘We’ve changed our mind and we want your block of units after all’,” Mr Crow said.
Due to a database error, ten incorrect emails were sent to property owners, according to a WestConnex Delivery Authority spokesperson. WDA officers sought to rectify the problem and contacted all but one property owner.
Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay has acknowledged the issue.
“What happened shouldn’t have happened and it’s raised questions within the community.”
“My job is to make sure this doesn’t happen again. But it highlights that, despite being quiet on the subject, Labor is opposed to WestConnex and is using every opportunity to create unnecessary community concern.”
This misinformation has created confusion for residents, and a number of politicians have called the WestConnex project into question as a result. Among those politicians is Greens Member of the NSW Legislative Council Dr Mehreen Faruqi.
“It is clear that WestConnex was just a line on the map when announced, with no level of detail, planning or analysis of alternative options for easing congestion in Sydney. It is therefore no surprise that the transport planning is in chaos,” she said.
“The WestConnex tollroad is the largest infrastructure project in Australia, costing $13 billion and yet the community has not seen any justification for why this is a priority.”
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson and Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen have also called for clarity regarding WestConnex development plans.
“There’s a clear lack of concern for the local residents whose homes hang in the balance here. The government should not be alarming residents when, in reality, the route is not finalised,” said Mr Robertson.
“Our main concern at the moment is that the government keeps changing the information provided to residents about what’s going on with that project. It’s pretty clear that the government can’t plan this road, and so citizens can’t plan their lives,” said Ms Haylen.
The community has not been receptive to WestConnex thus far, according to Dr Faruqi.
“I have not spoken to one resident or community group who have good things to say about the community consultation of WestConnex.”
Mr Robertson is concerned that residents are becoming casualties in the Liberal Government’s bid to improve their public image.
“The Liberals are desperate to look like they are building infrastructure. However, the reality is the WestConnex project is nothing more than a line on a map and some animations. Now we discover that that line is far from permanent and is changing,” said Mr Robertson.
“This rush has been to the detriment and confusion of local residents who have previously been told they are in the path of the planned road.”
Dr Faruqi shares these concerns.
“Investing billions of dollars without detailed justification and then changing these on a political whim does not stack up as good decision-making.”
For Mayor Jo Haylen, the primary concern is the impact the conflicting information is having on residents, businesses and vulnerable groups of the inner west community.
“There are a whole lot of residents, many of whom have lived in their property for thirty or forty years. A lot are from the Italian community and therefore English is a second language who are grappling with this constant change; this information that changes daily from the government.”