BY ANNA FREELAND
Following weeks of complaints from residents in St Peters, Haberfield and Ashfield, the Inner West Council is calling on the NSW Government to halt construction and review plans for the next stage of WestConnex.
At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie put forward a motion calling for urgent action from key decision-makers, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres, to address major concerns from residents about ongoing noise impacts.
“I’ve been getting lots of reports from residents who are suffering stress and mental health issues,” Ms Lockie said.
“People are being driven literally mad by this, and it’s falling to residents to notify the Council so we can take action because the government has been so negligent when it comes to their duty of care.”
In recent weeks, night works on the new St Peters Interchange have generated dozens of complaints, from poor notification services to ineffective noise mitigation.
Ms Lockie says residents are being kept awake all night, several nights a week.
“I would think a reasonable expectation is that if WestConnex construction is happening right outside your door, which has been happening night after night for many residents, that you would be relocated for as long as that work was necessary so that you could get some sleep and actually function like a normal human being.”
According to Ms Lockie, residents in St Peters have been told that they’re ineligible for alternative accommodation and noise mitigation during construction.
“Not only are residents not receiving noise abatement measures that they appear to be entitled to, they’ll also be downgraded from these measures once the road opens.”
According to the M4-M5 Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), approved by the Department of Planning and Environment, impacted residents are entitled to noise mitigation measures as outlined in the Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan. The Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) and contractors are required to install measures according to this plan to comply with their project approval conditions.
Having reviewed the EIS, Ms Lockie believes that CPB Contractors, the company hired by SMC to carry out construction for this stage, may be in breach of their contract.
“From my reading, it appears they should have implemented a range of noise abatement measures on properties during the construction phase,” Ms Lockie said.
“They haven’t done that. Instead, the contractors have actively been telling residents they’re not entitled to measures until the road is open.”
A spokesperson for the SMC said that all work on the New M5 is being carried out in line with the Conditions of Approval.
“We’ve worked with the community throughout the planning, design, and construction of the project and will continue to do so with every effort being made to minimise disruption,” the spokesperson said.
St Peters resident, Jacinta Green believes the SMC may be being misled by CPB and that they are failing to meet their obligations as documented in the Construction Noise and Vibration Management Plan.
“We have no faith that the CPB are reporting accurately to SMC,” she said. “There has been no visible effort to minimise noise work.”
Ms Green, who has lived in the area for 17 years, says while she’s attached to it, “It’s more like a living hell now.”
She and her partner have been dealing with night works since August and says the contractors have treated them “like dirt.”
“Last week they had to replace the primary water main. We weren’t consulted, we were simply informed that night work would be happening on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00pm to 5:00am.
“I instantly wrote to ask for alternative accommodation because it was going to be directly under my bedroom window.”
After multiple emails and phone calls Ms Green says the company declined without explanation.
“It’s been a farce. This is the third week of ongoing night work, I’m already tired and now they’re literally cutting concrete underneath my bedroom window. How can this be acceptable?”
She says WestConnex contractors eventually offered to “loan” her a set of noise cancelling headphones.
“They were older, iPhone-specific headsets. I have an Android and my partner has a newer iPhone so we couldn’t even use these ridiculous things.”
On Thursday, after filming concrete being cut outside her window the night before, she was offered one night’s alternative accommodation.
“Many residents have resorted to taking videos or photos of incidents, otherwise we’re often informed it didn’t happen,” she said.
“To top it off, it seems they forgot to connect several houses to the new water main and now they have to redo the whole thing. It’s unbelievable.”
This is the latest in a string of incidents dating back to August which Ms Green says stem from an error in the noise and vibration modelling.
“The contractors said their modelling determined I wasn’t going to be impacted. I said, It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m awake and lodging a complaint so obviously your modelling is not accurate,” she said.
A professional Ecologist, Ms Green says CPB have repeatedly refused to provide a copy of the modelling, saying it is “too complex”.
“You have to go through such mental distress to get them to treat you like a human being,” she said. “We’re not even human beings, we’re referred to as ‘sensitive receivers’. It’s now November and we’re still not being notified about out of hours work because we’ve been modelled not to be impacted.”
Ms Lockie says the IWC will continue to lobby the government until resident’s concerns are addressed.
“We’ve found repeatedly that the government doesn’t do anything for residents until they’re absolutely shamed into it,” she said. “If CBP are in breach of their planning conditions I would expect the Department of Planning to come down on that and issue penalties accordingly.”
The NSW Government is yet to respond to issues raised by the IWC.
“I don’t know if Premier Berejiklian will listen but I would strongly implore her to do so because this is going to be her legacy.”