Statement on Tunnel Projects

Delivered to Parliament 20/10/2022:

I rise to speak on the Western Harbour Tunnel, Warringah Freeway Upgrade and Beaches Link tunnel projects and to record my and the Willoughby community's strong views on the need to make changes to aspects of these projects.

When I asked the people of Willoughby to place their trust in me, I promised I would listen, learn and prosecute their concerns about tunnel projects, among other issues. I've since listened and consulted widely with the community, and it is clear that a considerable portion of the Willoughby community disagree with parts of the projects in their present form. I share these concerns.

It's the duty of a local member to stand up for their community and be a vocal advocate to government of the community's views. This is what I have been doing and will always do.

The Willoughby community and I cannot support Beaches Link in its current form.

This is not about us opposing a project to minimize our personal inconvenience, but rather a community with real and valid concerns in relation to major infrastructure and expenditure. I have advocated for Beaches Link to be put on hold to give more time to consult, amend and get the project right if it is to proceed.

With Beaches Link now on an effective pause and approval not imminent, we have the time and opportunity to review and refine details to ensure any proposal works for our local area and that local views and concerns are addressed.

There needs to be a reassessment of Beaches Link, including new modelling, the sharing of the business case, and a refreshed round of consultation to better engage the community.

There are many benefits to these three projects and many reasons to deliver substantial infrastructure improvements to our roads network, including materially improved travel times, road safety and enhancement to local amenity. However, we must ensure that all costs and consequences have been thoroughly considered and addressed.

It is clear that the proposed use of land within Flat Rock Gully in Northbridge for a dive site for Beaches Link is unacceptable to my community and an alternative option, if at all needed, must be found. I've made strong representations within government on behalf of Willoughby, calling for the abandonment of the Flat Rock dive site. Given the history of land use of this location, the need to ensure local green space is preserved and its present utilization, this is a reasonable and fair change that must happen.

I am calling also for filtration of ventilation outlets in Cammeray. The community has expressed understandable concern about the location of these near residential areas and many local educational facilities. This location and tunnel length both make these particular outlets mandatory, in my view, for every precaution to be taken. I'm advised that filtration would be about $50 million per outlet and in the overall project cost this is minor yet very material to our community.

Additionally, I have made strong representations directly to Transport for New South Wales regarding its need to significantly improve community consultation. Government must genuinely reach out to residents, listen and respond in good faith.

I stand with my community in expressing deep concern and frustration about the loss of green space at Cammeray Park. Whilst the current situation is mostly temporary, there is a need to ensure the rehabilitation of the park as soon as practicable and ensure the planting of two trees for every one tree removed within a 500 meter radius and with mature suitable local specimens.

These projects must deliver a net positive return of green space to the local area. I have made it very clear that Berrys Bay is not an acceptable return for our community, and I've set out a vision to return local green space by reconnecting Anzac and Cammeray Parks with a green canopy which is attracting strong support across my community, including via an online petition.

The facilities buildings adjacent to the freeway should be underground to return as much green space as possible. I have raised this with the premier, among others in government, and said that if it's good enough for WestConnex, so it is for Willoughby.

Community engagement and consultation over the future vision for Cammeray Park needs to begin now, not next year. I've called for the place, design and landscape plan to be brought forward to give the community urgent clarity and a say on the future of the site, including the extensive green space and tree planting to come.

Other improvements I'm calling for include reviewing the proposed impacts on local roads and early delivery of improvements to impacted local roads. We also need a study on improving public transport and active transport accessibility across the Willoughby electorate, including fully considering the option of a metro rail alternative to the Beaches Link Tunnel.

I'm proud of this government's $112 billion infrastructure pipeline investing in the vital infrastructure that Willoughby needs, including public transport such as the Sydney Metro.

But there is one chance to get these major projects right, just one chance, and I want to ensure that they are done right and work for the residents of the Willoughby area.

I will continue to strongly advocate for Willoughby's interests in relation to these major infrastructure projects.