Big changes are underway for the problem plagued Wakehurst Parkway with long-planned flood mitigation approved by Council, and major upgrades announced by Mackellar MP Jason Falinski yesterday.
The major upgrades announced by the the Federal MP, however, are for the area around the Northern Beaches hospital site (on the Seaforth side) and an element in the Beaches Link Tunnel project and so do not relate to flooding impacts.
Flood mitigation works finally underway
The Wakehurst Parkway, especially on the Oxford Falls/Narrabeen side (as opposed to the Seaforth side), is notorious for motor vehicle accidents and constant closures from floods.
The section between Narrabeen and the relatively new Northern Beaches Hospital is closed by flooding about six times a year, which has caused considerable community angst, particularly since the closure of Mona Vale Hospital.
The Wakehurst Parkway is a state-managed road, but there are sections to it involved in flood mitigation that fall in Council’s jurisdiction.
A state-funded study on options for flood mitigation along the stretch of road brought to Council early last year showed, in the words of Mayor Michael Regan, there are “no easy or quick fixes.”
“The road runs through the middle of a sensitive, rich ecosystem supporting an array of threatened plants and animal species, and there are no options that fix the wider flooding problem without environmental impacts,” the Mayor said in a statement.
The feasibility study mentions the proposed works would potentially impact on a dozen species identified as threated under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2017.
As such, Council took the decision to the community, essentially asking it to ‘pick its poison’ and decide between some environmental impact and reduced closures.
Council says feedback made a clear preference for flood mitigation works, though the method in which these works should be delivered was a matter of varied opinion.
The NSW Government announced in November 2020 it would allocate a further $13.1 million to reduce the frequency of flooding along Wakehurst Parkway, with Council to manage the project if it goes ahead. Last Tuesday the newly elected Council voted to start flood mitigation works at the Oxford falls site and investigate further to achieve a more sensitive outcome for the Bends site. You can read up on the details here: https://yoursay.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/wakehurst-parkway-flood-mitigation
What’s the deal with the $150 million upgrade?
The flood mitigation approval has since been followed by a joint state and federal announcement to spend $150 million on other major upgrades to the parkway closer to the Northern Beaches Hospital site.
The money will be used to widen Wakehurst Parkway to two lanes in both directions at Warringah Road and includes a new pedestrian and cycle bridge, connecting Aquatic Drive and Fitzpatrick Avenue East, plus new fauna rope crossings.
Federal Mackellar MP Jason Falinski said the projects would make “Wakehurst Parkway safer, reduce travel times and boost the economy.”
When asked if the project was connected to the Beaches Link project, a spokesperson confirmed it was. “The extensions are consistent with what is required for the BL [Beaches Link] extension,” he said.
However, he said the works were not dependent on the Beaches link tunnel going ahead, and would relieve congestion.
We could not yet be provided drawings of the plans to better understand them.
The project is expected to commence construction in early 2023 and be completed by mid-2025.
Northern Beaches Council was asked for comment on the announced works and we were provided a statement from the Mayor, who said he had some reservations about it.
“Council always welcomes investment in local infrastructure, and this is a key project necessary ahead of the Beaches Link tunnel. However of concern is that Minister Stokes today announced the Beaches Link was under review along with several others, signalling it could be delayed. This upgrade is mostly on the Southern side of Warringah Road heading to Seaforth and will involve significant tree loss on both sides of the road for a project that may not now go ahead,” he said.
“Further we note this project will not reduce the frequency of the State-owned Wakehurst Parkway road closures caused by flooding, which I understood to be Jason [Falinski]’s main issue. Council will continue to progress flood mitigation designs as endorsed at the last Council meeting with the funding provided by the NSW government on the surrounding lands we own.”
You can view Jason Falinksi’s full media release on the announcement once it is uploaded to his website. It will, eventually, be made available on the federal infrastructure webpage and we will include this link once it is available.