By Lauren O’Connor
On Sunday an estimated 3000 people marched down King Street to oppose a four lane motorway and clearway being established in St Peters and Newtown.
The dress up parade was organised by the WestConnex Action Group and Reclaim the Streets for communities to demand a stop to stage three of the WestConnex development.
Families, residents of Newtown and St Peters, representatives of the Greens party and activist groups marched from the Hub in Newtown to Sydney Park. Event organiser, Garth Montgomery, said the main objective was to ensure community opposition to the infrastructure project was considered in March’s state election.
“Newtown has spoken loud and clear, that this is an election issue. We have grave concerns about King Street we’re just not going to survive WestConnex, we cannot live in an area that will be saturated by smoke stacks,” he said.
WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) plans to build a traffic interchange at Saint Peters meaning smoke stacks, a four lane highway and a tunnel will be built in the suburb. The major retail strip of King Street may be designated a traffic free clearway. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said if it goes ahead as planned, the clearway and interchange at St Peters, will destroy the south end of King Street.
“The extended M5 will exit at a major interchange here at St Peters, just by this beautiful park there will be tunnels, ramps, portals and ventilation stacks [and] a four lane roads with fast moving traffic,” she said.
“[It will be] on your doorsteps with devastating loss of homes and your neighbourhood.”
“Neighbourhoods around the St Peters interchange [will] more traffic, that means Newtown, Erskineville, Alexandria, Waterloo, Redfern. WestConnex puts traffic on King Street, our most successful main street,” the Lord Mayor said.
Based on estimates by local police, attendance for the ‘King Street Crawl,’ was double what event organisers expected. The Facebook event page has had over 22,000 hits organisers said, building on the attendance at a similar street festival in December.
Protestors came from the inner west, western Sydney and as far north as Newcastle. Amongst the crowd of protesters were a stilt walker, a naked cycling club, an Elvis Presley impersonator and Star Wars characters holding protest signs.
Patricia DiCroce and Peter Mason certainly took the theme on board. DiCroce also attended the Reclaim the Streets event on Campbell Street and said she enjoys the fun, friendly atmosphere. She and Mason arrived in costume as Princess Leia and a stormtrooper from science fiction film Star Wars.
“So we thought this would be a good way to kind of mix what’s important to us…it was a dress up parade so we though it would get visibility,” she told City Hub.
Greens Candidate for Newtown Jenny Leong said the electorate lived up to expectations with an imaginative and colourful turn out.
“It’s our sense of diverse community that accepts and acknowledges that you could be a home-owner with two small kids or you could be a radical, creative activist and you can come out together and celebrate…common values of community action,” she said.
“This is what I love about Newtown. This isn’t just a party in a park, this is thousands of local members coming together to publically show their concern about this WestConnex project,” Ms Leong said.
Euston Road, Campbell Road and the Princes Highway at the junction of south King Street will be widened. WestConnex stage three report says upgrades to the M5 will ease congestion on the Eastern Distributor and shorten travel time to Port Botany and Sydney Airport.
“The final design for the new M5 and St Peters Interchange will be known mid-2015 when a preferred design and preferred contractor is selected,” a WDA spokesperson told News Limited.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the project would ensure a “better run west and a better run east.”
“Over 50 percent of traffic get off before they get to the…M5 East so this is going to make a difference particularly for the people going west but also those going east,” he said.
“On coming to government we pragmatically put a group together with an independent body between us,” Mr Gay said. “We delivered this project and it’s a great project.”
But the Jenny Leong and other speakers questioned whether communities in the inner west and western suburbs would benefit from WestConnex. The 12 billion dollar motorway would need to charge commuters a $26 dollar toll fee for developers to make a profit.
“None of the communities along this motorway want to see it delivered and that’s why its so important in the lead up to the state election that we don’t allow the State Government to say it’s about serving one communities’ interests over another,” Ms Leong said. “This is about the vested big business interests of the NSW government, not about community…”
Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi, the Lord Mayor and the City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott have called on the government to release a business case, an Environmental Impact Statement and a considered response to the Auditor General’s report in December.