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Extensive WestConnex drilling creates further confusion

Marrickville Greens oppose WestConnex drilling. Source: Marrickville Greens

The announcement of drilling sites for the revised WestConnex route through Sydney’s inner west has been met with controversy and has sparked more lingering questions from the community.

The first stages of drilling commenced this week.

WestConnex authorities announced a total of eighteen drilling sites spanning Tempe, Sydenham and St Peters. The sites focus around the Princes Highway and include controversial locations such as St Peters Public School, Sydenham Green and Sydney Park, the majority of which fall within the Marrickville Local Government Area.

The WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) described the commencement of drilling as a “significant milestone”.

“Treasurer Joe Hockey, NSW Premier and Minister for Western Sydney Mike Baird and Roads Minister Duncan Gay today marked the start of geotechnical drilling along the corridor – a significant milestone towards delivering Stage 2 of WestConnex,” a WDA spokesperson said.

“Today’s geotechnical drill was the first of about 100 along the M5 East route as part of pre-construction work for the new tunnels.”

Marrickville Greens Councillor David Leary expressed serious concern following the announcement of the number of locations of the drilling sites.

The number of drilling sites was higher than expected, and Cr Leary feels their location is worrying in terms of the as yet unannounced revised WestConnex route.

“This is very disturbing news. I am especially concerned to see drilling will take place at St Peters Public School and Sydney Park. This is sheer madness. What on earth is this rotten state government thinking?” Cr Leary said.

“While this may be dismissed by the State government as simply exploratory drilling, we can now start to see what the possible route for Westconnex may look like. No wonder the State government has wanted to keep this all secret.”

Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen also expressed concern about what the drilling sites may indicate for the final WestConnex route.

“While the state government have indicated that the drill sites do not necessarily represent the route, they continue to refuse to publicly identify the route,” Mayor Haylen said.

“We need the details of this new route, exactly where the tunnel entry and exit points will be, and the locations of any exhaust stacks.”

In response, the WDA has insisted the drilling sites do not indicate where the final WestConnex route will be.

“The geotechnical investigations are not necessarily carried out along an exact alignment, as the information is used to produce a geological profile of the area. This aids in understanding ground conditions which may influence design criteria.”

The spokesperson also said the locations were specifically selected to minimise impact on residents during drilling.

Despite this, both Mayor Haylen and NSW Greens’ spokesperson for Transport and Roads Dr Mehreen Faruqi have expressed concern about the impact of the drilling on residents in the Marrickville local government area.

“I remain highly concerned about any adverse impacts of the proposal on local residents,” said Mayor Haylen.

“Now we know that residents living in the inner west will suffer the same fate as those around the M4, as the M5 tunnel will just funnel more traffic onto their residential and local streets,” said Dr Faruqi.

Uncertainty surrounding the WestConnex route may not be resolved until 2015. The WDA spokesperson confirmed that following the current drilling, a “preferred” design and contractor for the final WestConnex project will be selected in mid-2015.

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