The public has less than a week to make a submission to an inquiry into the impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link.
The inquiry has been running since April with the Legislative Council’s Public Works Committee examining whether there is an adequate business case and whether alternative options were appropriately considered.
The inquiry is also looking at the effectiveness of public consultation and several potential environmental impacts should it proceed, among other terms of reference.
Dried up local creeks, ecological destruction, disturbance of toxic sludge and six years of high impact construction noise are among the major concerns shared by submissions to Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) earlier this year.
The Western Harbour Tunnel will connect the Rozelle interchange with the Warringah Freeway, via under Sydney Harbour. The construction of the tunnel is expected to run from the first quarter of 2021 until 2026, at a cost of $14 billion. A further tunnel link is then planned from the Warringah Freeway to Balgowlah in the Northern Beaches.
The Beaches Link, also known as the Northern Beaches Tunnel, is scheduled to start in 2023 and be completed by 2028. It will have two portals (entries/exits) – one in Balgowlah and one in Seaforth – taking vehicles through 7kms of tunnels under Middle Harbour and the lower North Shore, connecting with the Warringah Freeway in Cammeray.
Manly Observer has left messages wishing to speak with the Committee Chair the Hon Daniel Mookhey MLC to ask about the inquiry timeline and what powers if any it has should it find the project wanting. We will update the story once these discussions have occurred.
A previous statement from the Labor MLC said that “While it is no secret that something needs to be done in terms of the traffic in Sydney, the community has voiced their concerns about the costs and socio-environmental impacts associated with the construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel and related road projects.”
“That is why the committee established this inquiry to examine the adequacy of the business case, costs, governance structure and consultation methods of the project.”
“The committee will also review the processes for assessing and responding to noise, vibration and other impacts on residents, and consider the impact of the project on the environment, especially marine ecosystems,” Mr Mookhey continued.
“Furthermore, COVID-19 has changed people’s work and travel patterns, even where people live. The committee is interested to find out whether the original cost benefit ratio remain current for the purpose of the project,” Mr Mookhey added.
Manly MP James Griffin, predictably in favour of his government’s project going ahead, kept his remarks on the inquiry amiable.
“Discussions about the Tunnel have been ongoing for more than five years years,” he said. “The final report of the Upper House Inquiry will hopefully provide some useful and sensible information that will benefit commuters and communities alike”.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit ranks the North Sydney–Northern Beaches Corridor as the fourth most congested corridor in Sydney’s PM peak periods during 2016, and forecast seventh most congested in 2031, as measured by total vehicle delays.
Both the State Government (who is responsible for the project) and the federal government considers it a priority project. Warringah MP Zali Steggall continues to signal her support for the project, telling constituents at a recent community meeting in Seaforth that she expected it would take closer to a decade to complete.
But the major project has been met with considerable community resistance and concern, particularly across the communities most likely to experience environmental impacts, such as the Balgowlah and Seaforth area and Northbridge and Cammeray communities on the other side of the harbour.
A directory of concerned communities has been established linking several groups together and providing information on how to make submissions.
The committee welcomes submissions from interested stakeholders and members of the community. The closing date for submissions is Friday 18 June 2021. You can lodge a submission online or email Public.Works@parliament.nsw.gov.au.
For information about the inquiry, including the committee membership and the terms of reference, visit the Inquiry webpage.