Ms Jodi McKay (Strathfield) [12.26 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of the House an issue that is causing great anxiety and concern to residents in my community—that is, the WestConnex project and in particular stage one, the M4 tunnel, which travels the length of the Strathfield electorate. The Government has indicated that the first stage of WestConnex, the widening and lengthening of the M4, will remove traffic from Parramatta Road. If that does happen it will be a good thing for my community. However, there is concern that this will not occur. There is no guarantee that it will occur. In fact the deafening silence from the Government when it comes to providing evidence to support its argument concerns me greatly. I will come back to that and other issues shortly.
First, I draw to the attention of the House the great deception that has been perpetrated by the Government on the people of Burwood, Homebush, Croydon, Haberfield, Ashfield, North Strathfield and Concord. In all its rhetoric, and there has been much, since 2012 the Liberal Government has indicated the tunnel from Homebush to Haberfield would go under Parramatta Road. Even in its June 2015 media release announcing the detailed design plans and the successful contractor that same commitment was made, and I quote:
The Australian and NSW Governments are wasting no time in delivering a world class motorway for Sydney, today announcing the preferred design for the M4 East tunnels to run under Parramatta Road.
But, of course, the tunnel does not travel under Parramatta Road; in fact it travels under around 500 homes. That is a rough estimate, because we have had to count the houses between feint dotted lines on a map to try to work out how many properties will be impacted by the route of the tunnel.
Residents have discovered there will be a tunnel under their homes by looking at the map—certainly not by being informed by the WestConnex Delivery Authority. Many residents are still unaware of the path of the tunnel. I recently held a street meeting to do what I could to inform residents. To their credit, staff from the WestConnex Delivery Authority accepted my invitation to attend the meeting. They were patient in answering questions, but it is clear there is still great uncertainty over issues such as vibrations from the tunnel drilling, potential damage to homes both during and after construction and, significantly, why the tunnel is no longer going under Parramatta Road.
There has been no consultation and information to residents has been sparse; in fact, in parts it has been non-existent. The environmental impact statement [EIS] has not been released. Although the Government has promised it will be released in mid-August, that promise is likely to be broken. While the EIS may provide some information for residents, the acquisition of houses indicates to me and my community that the EIS phase is merely a tick-the-box exercise and that comments and submissions by experts and members of the community will not really matter. These critical issues are causing great anxiety in my community. Today I instigated a petition—and I will continue doorknocking in the area to collect signatures—to have this issue debated in this Parliament. I acknowledge the work of Dora Makaritis and Tarja Shepard, who have been representing residents at forums and briefings.
I turn briefly to other issues of concern with this project. The latest information indicates that construction costs are at $15.4 billion, which is a $5 billion blowout since the project was announced in 2012. Without a business case, we do not know much about the project. It is critical, indeed fundamental that major projects are accompanied by a business case. It is disturbing, therefore, that there is no business case for this significant project. I also am concerned about the location of the stacks and the treatment of residents who are impacted by them. I have held a meeting with residents of Homebush and I am planning a further gathering in August. These residents live in the area where the stacks are to be located. Residents are working their way through the acquisition process with the Roads and Maritime Services. By all accounts, this process is being plagued by delays, lost paperwork, cancelled meetings and offers well below market value. The two stacks will be unfiltered. Without the EIS, there is no understanding why this decision was made. I can only guess it is a decision that was made on cost, not on evidence.
There is a lack of detail about the funding of this project. Even with State and Federal government contributions, including a $2 billion loan, a funding gap of $10 billion still remains. Tolls and private sector involvement will help fund the project. However, when the M4 is again tolled, motorists will do all they can to avoid that toll and will revert to travelling along Parramatta Road. For my community, that will defeat the purpose of the tunnel. The lack of transparency and secrecy with this project is on a scale not previously seen. Over the coming four years I will continue to hold the Government to account on this project, which will have a significant impact on my community.