An article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald concerned the State Government building deeper tunnels under Sydney Harbour and requiring a proposed new harbourside location for a massive boring machine for construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel.

The apparent backflip on construction methods prompted a series of responses today from our area’s local, State and Federal members of parliament. The statements from North Sydney Mayor Zoë Baker, State Government representative the Member for North Shore Felicity Wilson, and North Sydney Federal MP Kylea Tink are presented here in the order they were received.

Zoë Baker, Mayor of North Sydney

Image: North Sydney Council Facebook
Open letter to the NSW Government:
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the NSW Government is set to reverse the construction techniques for the Western Harbour Tunnel which will require a new harbourfront site for a massive boring machine (Major U-turn in construction plans for Sydney’s Western Harbour Tunnel 4, November 2022).

This will result in significant changes to the project as approved. The length of the tunnels, gradients, route and location of the dive sites for construction will have to change.

The NSW Government has not explained the environmental impacts of these changes and seems determined, no matter what, to enter into construction contracts before the end of this year and before the March election.

The early works for the Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade are proceeding at pace, cutting a swathe of environmental destruction across the North Sydney local government area from Cammeray Park to High Street reserve.

More than 1000 trees and precious urban habitat have been lost for a project without a public business case and which seems to change in scope, route and construction methodology daily.

In June, North Sydney Council called on the NSW Government to halt and reassess the project in terms of need and priority. In September, we called on the Government to not enter into any contracts prior to the election in March and called on the Federal Government to not provide funding for these projects until a review of the project had taken place.

We reiterate those calls today. STOP. REASSESS. Come clean with the public about the business case. Answer our questions about cost, routes, construction and the need for a new environmental impact assessment.

What sort of contract has been signed that there is no room to move when circumstances change? This project is costing the people of NSW billions of dollars, and the people of North Sydney their quality of life.

If the project is really worth that price, then the NSW Government shouldn’t need to hide behind a veil of secrecy. A sensible and responsive government would seize the opportunity with these tunnelling changes to reconsider the best use of taxpayers’ money before throwing good money after bad.

Zoë Baker, Mayor of North Sydney

Kylea Tink, Independent Federal Member for North Sydney

Image: Kylea Tink Facebook
North Sydney has a right to know the plans for Western Harbour Tunnel
In response to today’s story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Independent Federal Member for North
Sydney, Kylea Tink said:“Newspaper headlines should not be the primary form of communication with the North Sydney
community when it comes to considerations around developments with the Western Harbour
Tunnel.“I welcome the reported changes to tunnel depth and entry points, but we can’t rely on newspaper
reports for details of the plan. The community has a right to know, and have input into, the options
being considered by Transport for NSW and Transport for NSW must be answerable to the
communities that enable it to exist.

“There is a great deal of warranted concern about the impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel on the
North Sydney community. Not only on practical things like the amenity and traffic flow of North
Sydney CBD, but importantly ultimately the liveability of our community with the removal of
hundreds of trees and the health of our harbour.

“It is hard not to feel like this project is driving itself with little to no local engagement or obvious
State Government direction.

“Given the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local
Government recently confirmed with me that there is no federal funding committed to the Western
Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link, we need further clarity about the financial viability for the project.

“They must take this opportunity to ensure the community is genuinely consulted and to provide
details on their plans for public view.”

Felicity Wilson, Member for North Shore

Image: Felicity Wilson Facebook

The NSW Government is completing the tender phase of the contract for the Western Harbour Tunnel project, and will continue to do so in line with the legal and probity requirements of this major infrastructure project, regardless of speculation by the media.

It is my expectation that my community has full and detailed information about the project following contract award.

The Minister and I remain in constant contact for each and every milestone of this and every other major infrastructure project within my community.

I have been clear throughout the design and planning for Western Harbour Tunnel that my community rightly expects and deserves for construction impacts to be minimised and for open space and amenity to be left in as good as, or an even better condition, following delivery.

There is no clearer example of this than our commitment to revitalise Berrys Bay – an area of neglected and fenced off Sydney Harbour foreshore which we saved from threat of overdevelopment and have undertaken extensive community planning to release a grand masterplan to transform this space into a thriving public precinct.

My record on protecting and enhancing our environment is clear. I’ve worked to expand and improve public open space throughout my community, including:

  • the acquisition of land above Luna Park and transformation into the much-needed new Northcliff Park
  • the compulsory acquisition of 1 Henry Lawson Ave – also under a development application – to incorporate it into an expanded and continuous harbour foreshore park at Blues Point
  • reclaiming local streets for pedestrian and shared spaces – including Miller St in North Sydney and multiple locations in Kirribilli and Neutral Bay.
  • successfully advocating to underground the Holtermann St car park and turn it into a brand new park for Crows Nest
  • facilitating the construction of an over-rail plaza at St Leonards to deliver a unique public concourse
  • the many millions of dollars invested in Sydney Harbour National Park at Middle Head through to Bradleys Head to increase public access and amenity, while preserving and protecting its rich heritage
  • my continued lobbying for the transformation of the Lavender Bay rail line into public open space as a Harbour High Line

No one can question my love for and commitment to protecting our local environment – nor my dedication to preserving our entire planet from a future threatened by climate change.

I will always ensure that the environment is front of mind in decision-making on infrastructure projects within my community.

Felicity Wilson MP
Member for North Shore

What do you make of the controversy? Email us at northsydney@thelivingcollective.com.au.

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