By EVA BAXTER
Community around Balmain fears the looming construction of the controversial Western Harbour Tunnel will make the harbour west of the Harbour Bridge unfit for human use.
Marine scientists have reported construction of the tunnel risks disturbing hundreds of years of toxic pollution on the harbour floor.
The Western Harbour Tunnel route connects Rozelle to North Sydney. Transport for NSW proposes the tunnel will make it easier, faster and safer to get around Sydney and improve transport capacity in and around Sydney Harbour.
Greens MP for Balmain Jamie Parker said in a media release the government has ignored overwhelming expert and public opposition to the Western Harbour Tunnel as well as evidence about the significant environmental impact of the project.
He worries the toxic sediment disturbed by the construction process will make beloved harbourside swimming spots including Balmain’s Dawn Fraser Baths, which have faced a number of delays to their reopening, unsafe for the public.
“The pollution could risk closing Dawn Fraser Baths indefinitely during construction,” he said.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson told the Independent that the Baths are 1500m upstream from the proposed dredging site. They say even in modelling which predicts the worst-case scenario, water quality there won’t be impacted.
But the community is not convinced. Ros Dunlop lives in the middle of the North Rozelle Construction zone. She said WestConnex is an organisation that cares absolutely nothing about people. She “hates its guts”.
“We do daily battle with this appalling organisation; they will not be any different in their attitude to building the Western Harbour Tunnel.”
Ros said WestConnex goes against everything Dawnies and the community who use it and care about it represent. She has been a swimmer at Dawnies for over 30 years.
Agitation in Council over Dawnies Delays
The Dawn Fraser Baths have been closed since October 2019 for heritage upgrades, a council project that Mayor Darcy Byrne recently referred to audit over its management and oversight. Ros questions whether the trouble was worth it.
“It is totally depressing, worrying and I am completely bemused as to why the state and local governments bothered restoring Dawnies if the state government was then to turn around and approve this abominable tunnel,” said Ros.
“Dawnies and all pools west of the Harbour Bridge will read red for years!” she said.
The Inner West Council has not seen any evidence that construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel will impact on Dawn Fraser Baths.
A spokesperson for the council told the Independent, Council, NSW Government and the Australian Government all agree it is worth spending more than $8 million on the heritage upgrade to secure the Baths future.
Council successfully obtained a $2.2 million grant from the NSW government and a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth Government for the Baths.
The Western Harbour Tunnel Environmental Impact Statement states all toxic materials will be contained with the use of coffer dams and silt curtains. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in February marine scientists were divided over the effectiveness of measures along the tunnel’s route.
Construction of the tunnel is expected to start in 2022.