Janet’s Westconnex Journey – “we’re fighting to save the community we love”

Sydney Park Photo
Janet, Michael and their son, Fred in Sydney Park – 14,000 square metres of which will be taken by WestCONnex. Photo by Martin Brady

( Ed: Janet Dandy-Ward is a founder and key member of the WestCONnex Action Group WAG). She lives in Roberts Street St Peters, a suburb that will be devastated by WestCONnex . She is a friendly and familiar figure in the streets of St Peters, Newtown and in Sydney Park, squeezing the organisation of weekend campaigning stalls  into her busy life.  In this edited version of her submission to the New M5 EIS she describes why she is fighting WestCONnex and her observations of the planning process and impacts the project will have on her community and the rest of Sydney. You can help the WAG campaign by using their site to send your own submission to NSW Planning or go direct to NSW Planning site.  These will be open until midnight Jan. 29.)

My husband and I emigrated to Australia in 2011 (leaving all our family back in the UK) and we moved into this house in Roberts Street deciding that it could be a base whilst we think about what area we might want to move to. We fell in love with the street, our neighbours, our community, the community pre-school and our surrounding green spaces such as Sydney Park, Tilman and Simpson Park – all will be affected by WestCONnex. Incidentally, the neighbour I mention above is like a surrogate grandparent to our son. It is likely that she and her 80 year old husband will move from the street if this project goes ahead.

We have decided that St Peters is where we want to live and have already invested so much in the community – this is something that is worth fighting for; for my family, for our neighbours who are potentially losing their homes due to forced acquisitions, for those older and vulnerable residents who are now feeling uncertain about their future in this and other suburbs. Sydney deserves better.

As a social worker, I have a deep sense of social justice. I believe that this project will not meet its key objectives including reducing traffic congestion. This is a fundamental flaw. The social and environmental impacts briefly described in the EIS are unacceptable and far outweigh any benefits of the project. There are so many aspects of the traffic modelling that as a mum and a full time trainer in a large children’s charity, I have not had time to address in my submission. I have read the research about traffic inducement and I firmly believe that if you build more roads then more traffic will come, I saw this back in the UK with the development of the M25 London Orbital Motorway. Continue reading


AECOM cut and paste ‘Social and Economic impact study’ fails basic task

Ed: The lives of many thousands of people would be negatively affected by the New M5 project. Many have already been disrupted and experienced the severe stress of the threat of losing homes and community. Some renters in St Peters have already been evicted from their homes , forced to leave the friends and the community they loved,  long before the EIS was even lodged. Homeowners have been notified that they have less than three months to negotiate a settlement with RMS before their property is seized. Others are living in fear of the intense noise, dust and large-scale construction that will surround them for years or are worrying about what it would be like to be live beside a massive tollway. As Kathy Calman told a packed meeting in Erskineville last night, she and her neighbours have watched in distress as the vegetation they grew to protect themselves against the noise and visual impact of the old M5 being ripped down. Gone too are the old noise walls exposing her community once again to months of  road construction near the entrance of the New M5 project. 

The Planning Secretary’s EIS required Westconnex to include in its EIS  

  • a description of the existing socio-economic environment;
  • impacts on directly affected properties and land uses, including impacts related to access, land use, settlement and subsidence associated with tunnel excavation, property acquisition (including relocations and expenses for those properties acquired) and amenity related changes;
  •  social and economic impacts to businesses and the community within the vicinity of the proposal, with associated property acquisition, traffic, access, property, public domain and open space, and amenity and health related changes (including the broader regional impacts associated with the closure of the Alexandria landfill site should this be part of the proposal);

For the M4 East, AECOM conducted an economic impact study ( criticised as inadequate by local Councils and residents) but hired a consultant to do the social impact study. This study was inadequate but did at least acknowledge the significant  stress and psychological impacts on residents of  loss of community, the psychological impacts of  being forced to move away from your social networks and the stress of living with years of construction and loss of social and visual amenity.  However for the New M5 AECOM did not even bother with that and simply rolled the social and economic impact into one  It claims to have carried out out a cumulative assessment of direct, indirect, and cumulative social and economic impacts of the project on communities, residents, businesses, users of education, health, open space and other community facilities and road users and to have identified means of mitigation.

Transport researcher Anthony McCosker provided these comments on the AECOM study

Given even a fleeting inspection of the social and economic impacts listed in the EIS report (under “Appendix M: Technical working paper: Social and economic”), it is clear that the significant economic and social impacts that will arise from the New M5 project are only superficially covered.

The report exaggerates the potential positive aspects of the project, while the negative aspects are either downplayed, insufficiently detailed or omitted altogether. Where negative economic or social impacts are identified in the report, they are inadequately addressed in terms of management or mitigation actions to be taken. Whereas the previous M4 – East EIS report included separate (yet still insufficiently detailed and inaccurate) Social Impact Assessments and Economic Impact Assessments, this report claims to deal with all social and economic impacts of the project in a single, 76 page report. The following is a brief critique of some of the major social and economic assessment flaws of the New M5 EIS. Continue reading

Emma’s story : From my backyard to bigger picture

Behind all the masses of technical data, uncertainty and complexity, there are people and communities. Nicole Gooch interviewed Emma Pierce who lives in St Peters, not far from what Westconnex wants to turn into a massive tollway interchange.

Frankie and Thalia, 5, have grown up attending pre-school together. They played in the school playground most days when their older sibings were being picked up from school.The little girls were excited to be starting school together this year but their friendship is just one of many that has been cut short by Westconnex.

Instead, the community of St Peters is being torn apart as families, including Thalia’s , are forced to leave to make way for the Westconnex tollway.

Frankie’s mother, Emma Pierce, is a special education consultant and researcher. The family also have a nine-year-old daughter, and have lived in the same cul de sac for eight years. Emma, eloquent and energetic, says they felt “pretty fortunate” to be living in an “amazing little community”.

But if the Westconnex New M5 goes ahead, their front door will be 200 metres away from a Los Angeles style motorway interchange, and about 150m away from an unfiltered toxic emissions stack near the end of the New M5 tunnel.

Frankie and Thalia were looking forward to going to school together until Thalia’s famly was forced out of St Peters by Westconnex

Continue reading

Artist Wendy Sharpe: Westconnex, a whole of Sydney problem, not just for Inner West

One of Australia’s best known and celebrated female artists Wendy Sharpe lives in Erskineville in inner Sydney not far from her studio in St Peters, the suburb that will be most devastated by WestCONnex’s giant interchange at the end of Sydney Park.

Wendy bought her warehouse studio in 2002 because the old industrial area is one of the last places where there are small warehouses. It’s also not far from her home in Erskineville. If the New M5 goes ahead, Erskineville, which provides a through route between Alexandria to King St Newtown,  will be hit by even more traffic and pollution.

Wendy is currently overseas but before she left, the People’s New M5 EIS asked her how she was affected by Westconnex’s proposals. She told us that initially she was told her St Peters studio could be forcibly acquired. This was a blow not just to her but the whole neighbourhood where small affordable warehouses enabled an “enormous  concentration  of artists, musicians,designers and other creative businesses and is a short walk from vibrant King Street.”

Artist Wendy Sharpe in her inner west studio.
Artist Wendy Sharpe in her inner west studio.

Continue reading

Transport Planning expert Chris Standen identifies major flaws in New M5 EIS – Part One

Chris Standen is a Transport planning and modelling expert.  He has prepared this submission in response to the EIS for the New M5.  His submission will be published in four parts. Standen provides many important reasons for not supporting the project.  Draw on his ideas to prepare you own submission

  1. The EIS does not comply with the Secretary Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARS).
  2. There are major issues with the Traffic and Transport Assessment. There is insufficient information about the modelling inputs, assumptions and methodology for the forecasts to be independently verified. There is no sensitivity analysis of key assumptions.
  3. The social and environmental impacts described in the EIS are unacceptable and far outweigh any benefits of the project. Because of flaws in the modelling, the actual impacts are likely to be even greater than those forecast.
  4. The project does not meet the project objectives.
  5. Many of the project objectives, such as congestion relief, could be met through better management of demand on the existing road network, e.g., through reform of road pricing. The corridor already has an extensive and high capacity road network; there is just too much demand at present for it to operate effectively. Adding more capacity will not lessen this demand; it will only serve to increase it.
  6. A claimed benefit of the project is that daily traffic on the existing M5 East would reduce by 20-40 percent due to the new tolls. If it is acknowledged that tolls alone can be effective in meeting the main project objective (reducing congestion), then what is the rationale for adding more capacity
  7. The project makes little sense from a transport planning and policy perspective. The role of motorways is to allow traffic to circumvent densely populated areas. For radial transport into and out of urban centres, mass transit is more efficient and economical, and has less impact on the human population.
  8. The project is not in the public interest. It will be used by less than 1% of the NSW population each day. The rest of the population will pay dearly in terms of higher traffic impacts, poorer air quality, and state and federal taxes being diverted from public transport and other more worthy causes?
  9. The project has a high financial risk. The flaws and optimistic assumptions in the traffic modelling mean that toll revenue is likely to be significantly lower than forecast. AECOM has a history of providing over-optimistic traffic forecasts for toll roads, resulting in previous financial failures (e.g., Clem7).
  10. The average daily travel time in Sydney has been stable at about 80 minutes per person for decades, while the average trip distance has increased substantially (see graph below). In this time, billions have been spent on tollways. Travellers are spending more than ever on tolls, yet are not spending any less time travelling. Time:Distance travelled StandenThe higher speed of tollways has simply encouraged people to move further from work, drive more, and make longer trips than before, for example, visiting shopping malls instead of local shops. It has made road more attractive than rail for freight.
  11. This predict and provide approach to transport planning has been a failure, and is being abandoned by advanced nations. In a city of 5 million people, we can never provide enough road capacity to enable everyone to live as far from work as they like, and drive wherever and whenever they like in free flowing traffic.


The rest of this submission is in four Section. This post covers only the first section which  describes general issues with the EIS, the project and the broader WestConnex scheme (Section 1). The following sections will deals with non-compliances with the SEARs (Section 2), non-compliances with the project objectives (Section 3), and major issues with the Traffic and Transport Assessment (Section 4).  Continue reading

Vol-1B Chapter-15 Social-and-economic

Previous chapter: Vol 1B Chapter 14 Visual impacts and urban design

Vol 1B Chapter 15 Social and economic

hi-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 1B.pdf

Low-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 1B Chapter 15 Social and economic.pdf

Section Pages
15 Social and economic 15-1
15.1 Assessment methodology 15-2
15.2 Existing environment 15-7

Appendix: Vol 2E App M Social and Economic

Next chapter: Vol 1C Chapter 16 Soil and water quality

Vol-2E App-M Social-and-Economic

Chapter: Vol 1B Chapter 15 Social and economic

Appendix Vol 2E App M Social and Economic

Hi-res pdf: New M5 EIS Vol 2E App M Social and Economic.pdf

Section Pages
1.0 Introduction 1
1.1 Project overview 1
1.2 Overview of WestConnex 1
1.3 Overview of the project 2
1.4 Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements 4
1.5 Purpose of this report 5
1.6 Study area 6
1.7 Report structure 8
2.0 Methodology 9
2.1 Economic multipliers 10
3.0 Existing environment 11
3.1 Social 11
3.1.1 Population and demography 11
3.1.2 Families and housing 12
3.1.3 Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) 13
3.1.4 Labour force and household income 13
3.1.5 Recreational and community infrastructure 14
3.1.6 Summary of key findings 26
3.2 Economic 26
3.2.1 Workforce characteristics 26
3.2.2 Business and industry 27
3.2.3 Freight transport 28
3.2.4 Summary of key findings 28
3.3 Travel patterns 29
3.3.1 Road 29
3.3.2 Public transport 30
3.3.3 Active transport 31
4.0 Consultation and community values 33
5.0 Impact assessment – Construction 37
5.1 Social 37
5.1.1 Amenity and health 37
5.1.2 Acquisition of property 43
5.1.3 Recreational and community facilities impacts 45
5.1.4 Changes to accessibility 46
5.2 Economic 50
5.2.1 Changes to business turnover and employment 50
5.2.2 Amenity (business) 51
5.2.3 Business impacts arising from acquisition 52
5.2.4 Changes to accessibility 55
5.3 Cumulative impacts 56
5.4 Summary of key findings 56
6.0 Impact assessment – Operation 59
6.1 Social 59
6.1.1 Amenity and health 59
6.1.2 Recreational and community facilities impacts 61
6.1.3 Changes to accessibility 61
6.2 Economic 63
6.2.1 Changes to business turnover and employment 63
6.2.2 Changes in passing trade 63
6.2.3 Amenity (business) 65
6.2.4 Changes to accessibility 65
6.2.5 Efficiency impacts on freight and commercial vehicles 66
6.3 Cumulative impacts 67
6.4 Summary of key findings 67
7.0 Mitigation and management measures 71
7.1 Construction 71
7.2 Operation 72
8.0 Conclusion 73
9.0 References 77
Appendix A Tables A
Appendix B Community Facilities Inventory B