Inner West Independent

St Peters parklands meant to compensate for WestConnex are contaminated, says environmental scientist

The potential parklands were offered as 'compensation' to the community for WestConnex. Photo: Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore Facebook.

By KATELYN MILLIGAN

An environmental scientist is calling for an independent contamination assessment into landfill offered by the NSW government as potential parklands to ‘compensate’ for WestConnex to the St Peter’s community.

The proposed hilltop park at the southwestern end of the St Peters Interchange was previously a highly polluted landfill site which contained contaminants such as asbestos.

Concerns have been raised that the former tip has not been properly closed to protect public health and the environment.

Environmental scientist and previous landfill consultant Charlie Pierce said that sufficient remediation has not occurred and is calling for an independent contamination assessment.

Landfill sites that have not been properly closed can continue to emit emissions for over 50 years following site closures. If it is not done properly, there can be serious consequences for the immediate environment. Vegetation growth is a sign that landfill sites have been properly closed.

“That landfill was closed in 2018 and you still see hardly anything is growing on it, and there is evidence of erosion,” said Pierce.

Over six hectares of parkland was initially offered to the St Peters community as compensation for the impact of WestConnex on residents and the environment, with the WestConnex interchange carving 19,294 square meters from Sydney Park. The green space was due to be completed in 2019 but most of the site remains closed to the public.

Pass the Parkland

The NSW government is attempting to negotiate with City of Sydney and Inner West Council to take over management of the uncompleted parkland. Both councils are unwilling to accept the burden.

Pierce supports the councils’ refusal to accept management of the site, “it would be an unfortunate liability if the council were to take it over.”

Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said it is a waste of ratepayer’s funds, “our inner-city communities need new parkland, not the liability for contaminated land under a highway spaghetti junction.”

Inner West Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie has continuously criticised it as the “world’s worst park.”

“They were talking about compensating [the community] for the hundreds of trees they were ripping out across the WestConnex project. But anyone who knows the history of that site knows it was a toxic landfill.”

“If we’re going to prioritise out ratepayers’ funds, I want it to go towards parks that the community can actually use, and that are safe and valued,” Lockie told the Independent.

Recent rainfall has exposed the poor stability of the hill located at the south-western end of the St Peters Interchange. Transport for NSW said there are plans to undergo additional planting and drainage to repair the site, with a final completion date yet to be announced.

In a statement to the Independent, Transport for NSW said they, “will continue to consult with City of Sydney over the plans for this parcel of open space,”

“This future open space will be a valuable and important asset for the local community,”

“Transport maintains it will be suitable for its original planned use for recreational activities.”

Community lacks confidence

Local resident Greg Shapley opposed the initial proposal by WestConnex for the park at St Peters Interchange, and told the Independent it wasn’t a good enough compensation for “having to put up with a lot.”

A section of the first part of the St Peters Park containing a shared path and cycle way that runs along the Princess Highway was opened over a month ago by Transport for NSW.

City of Sydney, Inner West Council and NSW government remain in a deadlock as to who will open the remaining sections of the park.

Inner west community members against WestConnex have said the status of this promised park throws into question the Rozelle Parklands Interchange Project, which is a similar NSW government WestConnex project aiming to build a park to please community affected by WestConnex on Rozelle’s former rail yards.

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