By Alexander Lewis
It’s been more than 100 years since dinosaur remains were discovered in St Peters, but the Baird government plans to bring one back, according to residents.
The WestConnex motorway will wipe out more than 40 houses in the historical suburb and a portion of Sydney Park if construction plans go ahead.
Some residents have been told to move as early as next year, while others are still waiting to hear if their homes will be acquired.
Sydneysiders toured the path of destruction at St Peters on Saturday June 27 in protest of the plans.
The ‘Jurassic Car Park’ event was organised by WestConnex Action Group (WAG), which has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the project.
WAG spokesperson Pauline Lockie told City Hub her home is one of hundreds that will be forcibly acquired and demolished if WestConnex goes ahead.
“It was wonderful to see so many people come to discover the rich heritage of our wonderful suburb, which is now under threat from this dinosaur of a toll road,” Ms Lockie said.
“It’s disgraceful to see Mike Baird wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and gearing up to destroy thriving suburbs even as he refuses to release the WestConnex business case.”
Margot Oliver, who has lived in St Peters for 22 years, said the “old working class area” had become a successful urban village.
“It’s become what the state government says its aims are, which is to make urban villages and liveable cities,” Ms Oliver said.
“Now they want to bisect this tiny little triangular suburb with this massive, great highway that is a road to nowhere.”
“I don’t know what’s worse: being in the firing line and having to go or being next door, with no compensation of course, and just seeing the whole neighbourhood being decimated.”
Ms Oliver said the community had been kept in the dark over the project.
“It’s been shrouded in secrecy. What we know of it makes no sense whatsoever,” she said.
“What they call ‘community consultation’ is some [signs on] shopfronts that tell us what’s happening.”
She said the government is “putting the cart before the horse” in conducting an environmental impact study on the area after the tendering process is complete.
“There is no case that anyone can look at that says this will be the benefit for Sydney and the area.”
The WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) compulsorily acquired the Dial A Dump waste site in St Peters late last year.
A City Hub investigation earlier this year revealed that negotiations between Dial A Dump and WDA began five months prior to the public announcement of plans to construct an interchange on the site.
According to Professor Wendy Bacon, who addressed the rally, it is currently costing taxpayers more than $1 million a year just to hold the site, which is contaminated with asbestos.
State Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong has called for more transparency on the part of the government.
Her party was successful in forcing the government to release some of more than 200 documents relating to the project earlier this year.
“We need to be halting the acquisition of people’s homes and halting the construction until an environmental impact statement has been undertaken and until we have seen the release of a business case,” Ms Leong said.
“The fact that we have spent already public money on a project where neither of those things have been made available is shameful.”
“We’ve got a notice of motion coming up in the lower house calling for the government to immediately halt the construction of WestConnex and to release the business case.”
She said she hoped Labor would reverse their position on WestConnex and support the motion.
Shadow Minister for Roads Jodi McKay said Labor did not support the construction of WestConnex at St Peters.
“Labor supports the widening and lessening of congestion on the M4 motorway,” Ms McKay said.
Ms Oliver, who was part of the Green Bans union movement in the 1970s where workers refused to demolish historical sites such as Queen Victoria Building and The Rocks, said history was repeating itself.
“It’s a real turn of the wheel again, and it’s the circling developers just drooling over all the public land in Sydney going here’s an absolute motser to be made.”
“History means nothing. An urban community means nothing. It’s all about cars apparently.”
“If the population of Sydney does double by 2030, we will need absolutely fabulous world class public transport and that’s what we should be doing.”
Ms Lockie said WAG will be holding another rally on July 4.
“The Baird Government can expect more protests as opposition to WestConnex continues to grow and more people realise this toll road is just one big con.”
A WestConnex spokesperson said an Environmental Impact Statement will be displayed for public comment in coming months and that the Town and Country Hotel will not be acquired.