BY TOMMY BOUTROS
The Dennis family have been living in Concord West for 24 years. Nicholas, the eldest in the family has lived in the house for his whole life, 21 years.
Now, Nicholas and his family are being forced to say goodbye – forever. Their home is the next casualty of compulsory aquisitions of Westconnex.
“Leaving our home is going to be a long and emotional process for my family. All the memories we have are being stripped away, without as much as a second thought,” says Nicholas.
Nicholas’ home, as well as the whole block of land, will be transformed into apartments to make room for Sydney’s growing population, against the will of current residents.
As outlined in the WestConnex Updated Strategic Business Case (2015), “WestConnex was originally put forward by Infrastructure NSW in 2012, (and) one of its central features was to enable urban renewal and regeneration along Parramatta Road. This remains one of the main objectives of the project.”
The WestConnex action group (WCAG), is an organisation who strongly oppose the WestConnex.
A spokesperson for WCAG, Pauline Lockie said “The way it’s been handled has been terrible. I’m not against compulsory acquisition in general, if it’s handled well and it’s for a project that is for the greater good then I can see where they have a role.
“I don’t think either of those two things applies to WestConnex, it’s a project that is very short term in nature,” she said.
“The way people have been treated during the acquisition process is absolutely appalling. There are numerous reports of people being offered hundreds and thousands of dollars less than they were entitled to receive in compensation.”
Nicholas’s home can be saved if WestConnex is scrapped, since the proposed apartments are a by-product of WestConnex.
The community feedback found in consultation report of Westconnex very much echoes the sentiments of Nicholas and his family: “The Draft Parramatta Road Plan should only relate to Parramatta Road. Instead this plan only generates unsustainable pockets of density in the suburbs-unacceptable! The inner west is not a dumping ground for all future development and population growth. The draft plan will decimate the Concord community, changing the fundamental nature of Concord. To convert this parkland suburb into soulless canyons of concrete is criminal,” it reads.
Nicholas says that he has been offered compensation to leave, but no amount of money would make him feel better.
“Money isn’t going to give back what is taken from my family, it’s not going to give us instant happiness.m Buying a house is not the same as buying a home,” he says.
The development of WestConnex will ultimately link up two of the main motorways in Sydney — the M4 in western Sydney and the M5 in south-western Sydney, which will provide commuters more direct access to the city, Sydney airport and Port Botany.
However, the project is going ahead on spoilt soil. No WestConnex: Public Transport Not Motorways (NoW PT) show their strong stand against WestConnex with a bold statement on their website: “We must stop the WestConnex toll road from carving up our communities and streets and harming our quality of life.”
Andrew Chuter a spokesperson for NoW PT clearly states “We oppose WestConnex primarily because it won’t work. Public transport is needed instead.”
“Even if built, we will never lose this fight because in the long run, our argument is correct – you can’t build roads to relieve congestion. Sooner enough, with worsening climate change, the tunnels will have to revert to public transport or be shut down,” he said.
A strong voice in the community who are against WestConnex, the group are tackling the plans head on.
“We describe WestConnex as a climate crime. We need greater active transport such as walking and cycling. WestConnex and car culture in general is obesogenic. There will be ongoing health repercussions for a generation,” said Mr Chuter.
But it seems that the government has made a habit of gathering community feedback, acknowledging it, but refusing to take it on board.
A spokesperson for WCAG, Pauline Lockie also commented on the city of Sydney’s alternative proposal.
“The City of Sydney has been very clear in noting that it is not necessarily the alternative to WestConnex, but it should be enough to give the government a push to halt the project and look at the alternatives.”
Jenny Leong, the Greens Member for Newtown also commented on the City of Sydney’s plan.
“What the city of Sydney plan shows is that there are genuine alternatives to the current WestConnex madness. Exploring these alternatives – that prioritize reducing congestion, sustainable transport options and much needed housing in our city – should be what the NSW state government is doing.”
But the burning question still remains, will the decreased commute times proposed by the government for residents of Sydney’s west be worth the environmental and social impacts of WestConnex?