Sydney’s new Inner West Council has voted to assign an officer dedicated “to assist local activist groups with their advocacy and local residents with complaints” about the giant WestConnex tollway project.
Some Sydney councils were amalgamated before the Berejiklian Government reversed its stance on amalgamations. Inner West Council is one of them, formed by the merger of Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville Councils. It has a population of 192,000 people.
After the NSW council elections in September the new council is dominated by the ALP and the Greens, which won five seats each, with two seats to the Liberals and three to independents. Labor’s Darcy Byrne won the mayoralty after a deal with Liberals, which handed them the deputy’s position.
At an Extraordinary Council Meeting soon after the election Mayor Byrne proposed a policy of opposing the WestConnex project, and of initiating a series of actions to ameliorate existing and future impacts on inner west residents. The motion was unanimously supported.
“We will vociferously oppose this reckless project as well as fighting for every possible protection for local residents, if the Government is so bloody-minded as to ram it through,” Mayor Byrne said.
“Everyone knows that elected Mayors and Councillors were removed from office so the Government could give the green light to WestConnex. Now that democracy has been restored we are going to hit back hard against their destructive agenda in the inner west.”
The WestConnex project is the largest tollway construction Sydney has ever undertaken. It has 33 km of new or widened roads, half of which is tunnelled, connecting the existing M4 and M5 motorways with each other and Sydney Airport.
Construction costs and land acquisition are now estimated at more than $20 billion. The project has been roundly criticised by the state opposition, the City of Sydney Council, and many environmentalists. It will be partially funded by selling 51 percent of the project to private operators.
At its meeting Inner West Council unanimously committed to:
- Dedicating a Council Officer within Council’s WestConnex Unit to assist local activist groups with their advocacy and local residents with complaints about ongoing unacceptable impacts.
- Convening a series of on-site meetings for residents and business affected by construction sites.
- Initiating an independent dilapidation and structural assessment service for home and business owners impacted by tunnelling.
- Seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for WestConnex to discuss the unacceptable impacts on residents and the ongoing failure of the contractors to adhere to conditions of consent.
- Demanding more stringent conditions of approval, stronger enforcement of compliance and improved management of construction contractors.
- Demanding actions that will curtail ‘rat-running’ on residential streets.
- Setting up a log of complaints register.
The council has formed a special WestConnex Unit, with an annual budget of more than $800,000, to implement the proposals.
“We need the Unit staff to stay on the case every step of the way, because of the astonishing lack of transparency, oversight and accountability the Government has displayed at every step of this project,” Mayor Byrne said.