Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) (23:39): I speak on behalf of residents in Homebush, North Strathfield and Concord who have had their lives turned upside down by the construction of the M4 East tunnel as part of the WestConnex project. For the past three years the construction of this tunnel has occurred beside and underneath their homes. They have put up not only with constant noise and dust but also with their streets being overtaken by workers' trucks and being kept awake by 24-hour work shifts. But most concerning is that homes have also been damaged inside and out by the tunnel's construction. It is this matter that I bring to the attention of the House tonight.
The M4 East tunnel is a government project managed by the Sydney Motorway Corporation, which has contracted the joint venture of John Holland, Leighton Contractors and Samsung C and T for the construction works. Somewhere in that complex mix of responsibility are Roads and Maritime Services, the Minister for WestConnex and the Minister for Roads. One would think that with such a large and expensive project as WestConnex—which at $17 billion is the largest infrastructure project in the State's history—residents could at least be assured that if their house was damaged there would be a fair, independent and transparent process to seek rectification.
But for residents in my area the property assessment process is not just flawed; it is actively working against them. In a clear conflict of interest, the joint venture of John Holland, Leighton Contractors and Samsung C and T is assessing the damage claims. This means that those companies that created the damage are assessing the damage and deciding whether they will pay for rectification of the damage. How on earth is that acceptable? There is no independence or transparency and no review mechanism for residents in my area if their claim is denied. Residents have no confidence in the process and nor do I. It is a shockingly conflicted process that the Government is aware of but has done nothing to fix. To date, not one resident's claim has been accepted despite obvious cracks in walls and damage to homes.
On Saturday I hosted a community forum attended by more than 100 residents from north Strathfield, Homebush and Concord. They came to hear from representatives of the M4 East project. To be fair, the Sydney Motorway Corporation has always attended my community meetings and I am grateful for that. It has never refused my requests. However, I now believe its response is only lip service. Unsurprisingly, representatives from the joint venture did not attend and face residents of my electorate, even though they are critical to this whole dreadfully conflicted process. If they had attended they would have heard countless stories and experiences from residents and they would have received a clear message that residents are furious with the way they have been treated. I am proud of my community for taking a stand and saying, "We have a right to defend our homes."
I am not making judgements in a case-by-case manner on each house but it is self-evident that an independent process is needed. This process is already in place on the M4-M5 Link construction; there an independent property impact assessment panel is responsible for overseeing property damage disputes. The panel was included as a consent condition of the M4-M5 Link, yet it has not been included for the M4 East tunnel. How is that fair? The Minister for WestConnex must implement the same assessment process for residents impacted by the M4 East tunnel construction.
It is true that all large projects have a cost—not only a monetary cost but also a social cost. Surely the Government learned this lesson with the compulsory acquisition process which it finally changed after many months of Labor highlighting the terrible way in which residents were being treated. I urge the Sydney Motorway Corporation and the joint venture to reflect on the social cost on these residents who continue to experience high levels of stress, anger and uncertainty. The residents are fed up with their treatment and they are tired of lip service and, frankly, so am I. If the Minister for WestConnex and the Minister for Roads have a shred of respect for residents living close to the M4 East construction they will direct the Sydney Motorway Corporation and the joint venture partners to establish an assessment process that is impartial, independent and, most of all, fair. I thank those residents who attended the community meeting for their patience during the construction of the tunnel. If the Minister for WestConnex and the roads Minister have a shred of respect for residents living close to the M4 East construction, they will direct the Sydney Motorway Corporation and the joint venture partners to establish an assessment process that is impartial, independent and, most of all, fair. I thank those residents who attended the community meeting. I thank them also for their patience during the construction of the tunnel.