By Lauren O’Connor
Roads Minister Duncan Gay has ruled out the possibility of WestConnex encroaching on Petersham Park in stark constrast to plans revealed in November last year.
On November 23 the government announced that, as part of the Parramatta Road revitalisation plan, an entrance to an interchange between the new motorway and a tunnel would be in historic Petersham Park
State Minister for Roads & Freight Duncan Gay announced in December that the tunnel had been revised to avoid the park and would now travel under Leichhardt instead.
“The motorway would not impact on Petersham Park, and the new route would take the tunnels further from the historic park,” he said.
Community members of Petersham, Lewisham and surrounding suburbs immediately voiced their opposition to the $15 billion tollway threatening the parkland with rallies, a speaking event and a social media campaign: ‘Save Petersham Park.’
It is hoped WestConnex will connect the growing Western Subrubs to Sydney’s CBD and ease traffic congestion. Tunnels will be built for three lanes at a height of 5.3 metres and with a low gradient according to the government website.
Kath Reynolds, spokesperson for ‘Save Petersham Park,’ said although the group does not unanimously agree on WestConnex their intention to preserve the space is clear.
“It’s a heritage conservation area, the park is a wonderful place to be and a big community meeting place… it’s so full of character and it’s got a fantastic feel,” she said.
A Save Petersham Park community meeting at the local bowling club was attended by close to 200 people including residents and politicians who filled the venue to capacity. It is unclear whether activist groups affected Gay’s decision but Carmel Tebbutt Labor Member for Marrickville says the Baird government recognise the enormous community fight they would have on their hands if Petersham Park is impacted.
“The park is a much loved green space with great historic value. The community will remain vigilant to ensure Petersham Park is protected as a beautiful park and a significant community and sporting facility,” Ms Tebbutt said.
The park became legendary when Sir Donald Bradman made his cricketing debut on the pitch in 1926, scoring his first century there at age 18. ‘Save Petersham Park’ will not consider their campaign a success until Gay’s decision is finalised after the March state election.
“We’re not convinced that there won’t be a change of mind again, there’s been no reason given for why they’ve changed the route; if we were told the reason that would give us some assurance,” Ms Reynolds said.
WestConnex has come under scrutiny most recently in a commissioned report by the Auditor General Grant Hehir that investigated the phase one of construction from Parramatta to Homebush Bay.
“The review that was conducted found that the preliminary business case was deficient and fell well short of the standard required for such a document,” the report reads.
The audit was not concerned with analysing cost and effectiveness of the project but concluded that the WestConnex Delivery Authority had not met standards of best practice required for this scale of project. The Auditor General’s office could not be drawn for further comment.
Greens and Labor spokespeople for Roads, Mehreen Faruqi and Michael Daley respectively, have since called for a full Business Case release and an inquiry into the venture.
Labor is in support of WestConnex, but says it has become difficult to trust the Baird Government when it comes to the motorway.
“So far the Government has announced five WestConnex routes and their inept management of the project has been slammed by the Auditor General,” Ms Tebbutt told City Hub.
In a media release Duncan Gay outlined the objective of the motorway to ease congestion on Southern Cross Drive and the Eastern Distributor in anticipation of 1.6 million more people living in Sydney over the next 20 years.
Upon completion it is claimed motorists will save 40 minutes between Parramatta and Sydney Airport where much of the growth will be concentrated.
“A better run going west and a better run going east…as the premier said we have plans for the future and this is an indication of how we deliver them,” Mr Gay said.