This story was first published in City Hub, a publication of the Alternative Media Group.

Thanks to Miska Mandic for permission to use her photos.

Liberal donor company turns on Westconnex

A Sydney waste company has accused the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) of behaving aggressively and secretly in its negotiations to resume its St Peters property in inner Sydney.

As City Hub reported last week, the WDA compulsorily acquired the Dial A Dump waste site at the southern boundary of Sydney Park in mid-December 2014.

While the rest of the St Peters community remained in the dark, confidential negotiations between Dial A Dump and WDA began in mid 2014. This was five months before Prime Minister Tony Abbott, NSW Premier Mike Baird and the WDA first publicly announced plans to construct a huge interchange on the site.

After the publication of last week’s report, Dial A Dump’s lawyer Christopher Biggs wrote to City Hub stating that WDA had subjected the company “to a process…that was lacking information, devoid of transparency and aggressive in its approach…”

He said that WDA compulsorily acquired the site after negotiations failed. A purchase price will now be decided by an “independent statutory process involving the NSW Valuer General and courts.”

Since the WDA took control of the Dial A Dump site it has issued acquisition notices to 40 St Peter homeowners. Dial A Dump’s Biggs wrote, we “genuinely sympathise with local residents and those families whose homes are being compulsorily acquired…”

Biggs’ letter stated that last year’s negotiations only took place under the WDA’s “strict conditions which prohibited us from releasing any information or making any disclosure to anyone.” City Hub asked why the company could not have told the community when WDA first indicated it wanted to buy the site but before formal negotiations began. Biggs declined to make any further statement.

Dial A Dump Managing Director Ian Malouf has been a Liberal Party donor and supporter. After being told of Dial A Dump’s response, WestConnex Action Group spokesperson Ngaire Worboys told City Hub, “ If this is how they treat their business friends, you can imagine how the community feels being kept completely in the dark while the Dial A Dump negotiations were being held. ”

St Peters residents are concerned that Dial A Dump evacuated the extremely contaminated site the day after WDA acquired it. The company said it left the site because it ‘had no choice’ but to leave as it no longer owned it. But WDA says Dial A Dump could have stayed until March 2015 but ‘chose’ to leave. To address contamination concerns, a spokesperson for WDA said the site was secure and an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for the project will go on display later in the year.

Anti tollway protestor in King Street, Newtown ( Photo Miska Mandic)

Why disrupt community before EIS? ask residents

St Peters resident, parent and nurse Pania Fleming said it’s unbelievable that a government owned authority could disrupt communities without doing an EIS first.

“St Peters public and preschool would be a stone’s throw from a massive interchange. We’d have massive traffic, smoke stacks, not to mention the toxic waste including asbestos at the dump being excavated.” Ms Fleming said.

“It’s well known that NSW Health and doctors’ groups have raised health concerns about concentrated emissions from motorways.” she said. “We’re also worried about noise and pollution during construction and impacts on the health of our children.”

Residents were heartened on the weekend when thousands supported them in a Reclaim the Streets and WestConnex Action Group march down King Street in Newtown. If WestConnex goes ahead, King Street would become a congested clearway.

In a speech opposing the WestConnex at Sydney Park Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that Federal and State Liberal Governments’ biggest plan for our city will only increase traffic.

“WestConnex is a bad 1950s project recommended by an unelected advisory body, Infrastructure NSW, and promoted by big businesses, vested interests and their lobbyists”, Clr Moore said, explaining that a $5 billion cost of Sydney traffic congestion would rise to $10 billion a year by 2012, if the $12 billion WestConnex goes ahead.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore speaking in Sydney Park at Reclaim the Street, Westconnex Action Group rally (Photo: Miska Mandic)

Motorways create more congestion

Greens candidate for the seat of Newtown Jenny Leong told the rally that the Greens’ vision is one of public transport, not motorways which lead to more traffic congestion.

“Why did the last Federal Labor Government commit $1.5 billion to the project without a proper business case or environmental impact study?” Ms Leong said.

“Why are both the Government and Opposition in NSW supporting the building of the most expensive road project in the history of Australia when the rest of the world, and our community, knows that public transport not dirty tollways is the answer to our transport needs?

Greens candidate for Newtown addresses the Westconnex Action Group and Reclaim the Streets protest in Sydney park, Feb. 2015

Both Heffron MP Ron Hoenig and Shadow Minister for Transport and Labor’s candidate for Newtown Penny Sharpe declined invitations to speak at the rally. Sharpe said a statement would be released later in the NSW election campaign.

For more on the march, read Lauren O'Connor's report in the City Hub.

Wendy Bacon is a long term resident of Newtown who attended the Westconnex Action Group rally. She belongs to no political party but is supporting the Greens in the NSW State election.