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Issue #1725      April 6, 2016


Legal cloud over toxic waste

Marrickville Council last week voted to release confidential legal advice which suggests that WestConnex has been operating for months without any legal approval, including in the handling of toxic waste and asbestos.

Greens Marrickville Councillors and Greens WestConnex spokesperson Jenny Leong MP have called on the Minister to issue an immediate stop work or to produce evidence of the legal authority issued for the works and what environmental protections have been put in place.

WestConnex would connect two existing motorways and run underground eight kilometres eastward from Concord via Haberfield to Rozelle, two kilometres west of the city, then five kilometres south to St Peters, then seven kilometres southwest to Kingsgrove. The proposal is accompanied by proposed mandatory zoning to allow high-rise residential development adjacent to WestConnex and other transport corridors.

The proposal would involve construction of gargantuan above-ground spaghetti-junction interchanges at St Peters and Rozelle, plus the removal of 350 mature trees, 14,000 square metres of the magnificent award-winning Sydney Park, and a huge strip of historic Ashfield Park.

The project would necessitate the compulsory purchase and demolition of 118 houses and other buildings, many with historic significance, plus a huge increase in traffic and pollution in Green Square, Alexandria, Ashmore and historic Haberfield, Erskineville, St Peters, Newtown, Redfern and Rozelle.

Euston Road on the eastern boundary of Sydney Park would become a six lane highway carrying 50,000 vehicles each day – a tenfold increase in car numbers and pollution for a threefold increase in capacity. Much of that traffic would enter historic King Street, Newtown, which is already a bottleneck.

Marrickville Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore put forward the successful motion to release the legal advice last night. Councillor Ellsmore said, “Council sought legal advice on the St Peters Dial A Dump site last year, after a number of residents complained WestConnex sub-contractors had moved in and were undertaking excavation of toxic materials without approval.

“The legal advice confirms our fears that WestConnex has been undertaking development at the heavily contaminated former landfill site,  including the removal of buildings and other materials, outside Council approval and outside the strict local conditions imposed to manage known toxic materials.

“While the legal advice also confirmed what we knew about the broad ranging power of the state government to override local controls on projects like this, the advice suggests that the Minister had not even issued the required State approvals, despite several months of work at the site and the large number of resident complaints.

Jenny Leong said, “When large scale excavation and removal of landfill began in October last year at the Alexandria Landfill site in St Peters, we were originally told that this work was not excavation and that no asbestos contaminated fill was being removed. It was only through the consistent complaints by the community that an asbestos safety regime was instituted for all the trucks leaving the site.

“With the release of this information, we can now see that there’s significant doubt as to the legality of the work that was done last year and it’s time for some serious scrutiny of what WestConnex has been doing without consent,” Ms Leong said.

Councillor Ellsmore said, “In the rush to approve this highly controversial project, local residents have a right to know if Minister has bypassed even his own planning rules by engaging contractors to excavate and transport highly toxic material through high density residential areas.”

Next article – Vale Pat Geraghty

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