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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 7 December 2007
Split in NSW green movement in 2000 prefaces Lane Cove River rail crossing 'debacle'
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: nsw govt


The Daily Telegraph have gone the near fatal blowtorch on the NSW ALP govt:


End of the line for Morris

EXCLUSIVE: THE $2bn Epping to Chatswood underground rail link has been bungled. It is the Iemma Government's latest disaster - will it be its last?

89 comment(s) about this story

But one should be a little sceptical who specifically caused this particular stuff up as the fatal decision to tunnel rather than bridge the Lane Cove River was championed by one narrow faction of the green movement we came to know back then as "the urban bushland mafia". We understand it was this faction with excellent local Liberal Party connections who eventually got the ear of the Carr govt who in the end went for 'a shallow' (versus 'a deep') tunnel, when the great majority of the greens preferred 14 metre high bridge option for greater mass transit utility (more stations, design concerns).

We are advised this was a 'bridge too far' for the silvertails in Lane Cove (green or otherwise) who didn't want more busy viable train stations accessible to snot nosed westie students amongst other more ethical concerns of disruption to bushland and noise.

This writer loves urban bushland. We really do. But because they are small areas we accept as a trained ecologist that these have remnant amenity and aesthetic rather than major conservation importance - by contrast with say large intact (Indigenous) wilderness/world heritage quality national parks. In this case it was a balance between air pollution and remnant bush.

So when it came to the planning of the Epping to Chatswood rail line to expand mass transit (in the badly congested Sydney urban context) we considered 8 years back the loss of maybe 200 square metres of bush for the sake of an extra railway station/bridge over, not under, Lane Cove River as ethically jusitifiable.

At the time we were an organiser and natural areas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Sydney. We were receiving faithful reports from our long time (eccentric?) transport colleague Ted Floyd, who typically was outraged at the urban bushland mafia controlling the agenda for the whole enviornment movement in Sydney, ie by Dr Judy Messer as long time Chair of the Nature Conservation Council and also appointee to Sydney Water Board by the Carr Govt.

We spoke to Floyd again this morning and he confirms he got out of transport policy because it was "all too hard" so he went on to something 'easy' like drought and urban water policy.

Oh how the chickens have come home to roost now for Messer and her ilk pictured above receiving the Vincent Serventy Conservation Medal of 2000 (pdf here). But not because of Friends of the Earth Sydney our erstwhile green group, or the sustainable transport lobby or even the Green Party. We all got done over by the 'urban bushland mafia' only to read about it today in the press, and how. Ouch.

Indeed that wasn't the plan back in 2000 in the NSW Parliament Upper House or the view of the main weight of the green lobby like this submission. They were definitely for a bridge over the Lane Cover River for many good mass transit reasons as you can read below in Hansard and the Carr govt agreed with us to begin with.

As late as 26 April 2001 the bridge option was still being reported as the official one.  But the urban bushland mafia were still on the case, and to be fair this was their right in the normal Environmental Impact Assessment and submission process. Floyd refers to some kind of Carr Govt so called  'win-win' resolution in 2001 with a shallower tunnel cut and cover through the river.  Then Holroyd Council reported by August 2001 the shallow tunnel was in the official development plan and by 23 August 2001 InfoLink architecture trade newsletter confirms it. But even the peak National Parks Association, normally a great ally of the urban bushalnd mafia, back on 23 August 2001 seemed to think tunnelling at Lane Cove River was a wrong and dumb approach.. The controversy infested their own journal letters page too including a local council leafleting campaign to their 5,000 odd members.

The unexpected consequences of the bridge option being lowered to a cut and cover option started as early as 4th Sept 2001 according to a local MP for Roseville area. Shallow enough as well to impact one resident with cracks and subsidence issues in one spot along the corridor.

Here is some NSW Hansard of 30 May 2000 which is MOST illuminating , bold added for emphasis, and keep in mind this was all in the context of draining and desperate losing campaigns against the M2 and Eastern Distributor motorways, so most of the democratic base of the green movement wanted a mass transit win ..... badly (this writer was arrested on both campaigns 1995, 1997):

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [5.15 p.m.]: The bill will amend the Transport Administration Act, the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the Public Works Act, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the Heritage Act in order to provide for the development of the Parramatta rail link. The bill enables land within the Parramatta Regional Park and the Lane Cove River National Park to be acquired for the development; confirms that the Public Works Act applies to the development; excludes the development from the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act which relate to the liability of private certifiers; allows approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the Heritage Act to proceed concurrently; confirms that no compensation is payable for the construction and use of the tunnel, underground stations and platforms if the surface is not disturbed; and protects underground rail facilities from interference or damage.

It has been a long time coming, but finally the Government has produced a sound transport infrastructure and initiative that I and many public transport, conservation and resident groups applaud. Those groups include Action for Public Transport, Eco-Transit Sydney, Coalition for Transport Action Groups, Blue Mountains Commuters and Transport Users Association, Ryde-Hunters Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society, Bundara Bushcare Group, Blue Mountains Conservation Society, North Ryde Residents Group, New South Wales Urban Environment Coalition and Friends of the Earth. They all support the project.

Other members and I have received numerous letters of support for the project from individuals and families who live or have lived in or close to the Lane Cove Valley. I have also received a number of emails and representations from groups that are very much opposed to the alienation of any land from Lane Cove River National Park, and that is entirely understandable. The $1.4 billion Parramatta to Chatswood rail link, which will cover 27 kilometres and have five new stations, will be the largest railway line built in Sydney since the Blacktown to Richmond line in 1864. Seven existing stations on the Carlingford and western Sydney lines will also be upgraded during the project. The new double-track line will travel from Westmead through Parramatta, Carlingford, Epping and Macquarie University to Chatswood and St Leonards. It will offer great travel benefits to the residents of the western suburbs and other areas, including the Carlingford region, North Ryde, the Central Coast and the North Shore.

While concerns about the impact of the project on Lane Cove River National Park have not been addressed entirely through alterations to the plans, the Government has proposed a course of action that will ensure minimal loss of land and the addition of other land as a trade-off. I understand that this trade-off is not satisfactory to many residents and conservationists—and I fully understand why as I have passed through the area many times and was reminded of it today when shown photographs. Following discussions with Peter Katz and Bill Grant of the Parramatta rail link project, I understand that, while 1.9 hectares of park land must be acquired for the construction of the Parramatta rail link, only a small proportion of that land will be required permanently for the operation of the link. Any land excised that is not required permanently will be restored and returned to the park. The Government will also add to the park approximately a further 2.8 hectares of land at Brown's Waterhole, which featured in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.  .....

These additions to the park also ensure that the precedent set for similar or other intrusions into national parks in New South Wales is one of no net loss—that is, any intrusions must be mitigated with compensatory additions. It is understandable that many people are upset about the idea of losing this precious little piece of the park, which includes some important rock structures. In fact, the precedent set by this project goes further: not only will there be no net loss of land within the park as a result of the link, but the park will actually be larger. Although that is true, the same result could have been achieved without any net loss to the park at all.

While I understand that some residents would have preferred scrapping the planned 14-metre railway bridge through the edge of the park in favour of a tunnel, I understand also that such modifications would have severely reduced the public transport benefits of the project. Others oppose that view. The tunnel option would require building a tunnel under the Lane Cove River. It would also require 800 metres more track and eliminate the proposed stations at Delhi Road and the University of Technology, Sydney [UTS] Kuring-gai campus.

The maximum gradient at which rail track can be built is a grade of three in 100. Therefore, railway lines can rise and fall at a rate of only 3 per cent. The combination of the depth of the tunnel required to get under the river and the maximum rail gradient mean that the proposed stations at Delhi Road and UTS Kuring-gai would have to be constructed at a depth too great for safety. In the event of an emergency, platforms have to be cleared in four minutes and everyone must be able to reach a safe location within six minutes using fire stairs, not escalators. According to our information, this would not be possible at stations that are 50 to 75 metres underground.

The removal of the Delhi Road and UTS Kuring-gai stations would serve to take an expected 10,000 train passenger movements from the line each day, many of which would replace car trips. That is up to 3.5 million train trips per year. Abandoning the two stations because of the depth of the tunnel would also mean that a third of the 27 kilometres of line would be underground without stations. The tunnel option also places a constraint on the operating capacity of the railway as it is considered undesirable to have more than three trains in a single segment of tunnel, however long. Operational safety protocols also allow up to three trains only in a tunnel section at any time as it is not considered safe to bank up more trains in a long tunnel section. The bridge option, on the other hand, splits the underground train line into two sections and would, as a result, accommodate twice as many trains and lead to speedier recovery from delays. The bridge option would also be less intensive due to the shallower gradients and shorter distance, and it would have no operating costs. ....

The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: ... The issue that has caused the most controversy is the crossing of the national park. I have received 66 letters, 25 emails, and submissions from Helen Fern, David Robinson, Caron Morrison and Jim Donovan of Action for Public Transport, among others.

The crossing of Lane Cove River National Park by a low-level bridge, which is the favoured option in the departmental material, has the advantage of requiring the least construction and the lowest gradients. Another advantage is that commuters will have a view, albeit fleetingly, of the park. As the Hon. R. S. L. Jones said, there is the important aspect of improved safety for trains because of access to the bottom of the tunnel. A newspaper article the Sunday before last reported that the Greens made a deal to support this option in return for saving Browns Waterhole. Labor people have quietly murmured to me that Browns Waterhole was already going to be incorporated in the park, but it was smart to get the Greens vote. I am not able to comment on the rights or wrongs of that; I merely note it in passing. ....

I received a submission from Caron Morrison, who has studied this matter for some considerable time and has been an activist, particularly for the Lane Cove River National Park. Her submission on this matter is significant. It states:

There is a real merit in the argument that the rail line should proceed to St Leonards, rather than to Chatswood. Unfortunately the M2 contract, signed by Bruce Baird several years ago makes consideration of this route extremely difficult. The M2 contract contains a clause which requires the State Government to financially compensate the Motorway operators if the patronage levels are affected by alternative transport in the area of M2 influence. This can be either private roads or public transport, and is referred to as an "adverse material impact". I have a good reason to believe that the State Government has received legal advice that, because the St Leonards route more closely parallels the M2 than the Chatswood route, this option could become extremely expensive for the State as a whole. Once again, we see that the M2 involved much more than the destruction of bushland and communities.

.....If the route is set by such a constraint, the option of building a bridge is probably the lesser of a number of possible evils. ....

I quote from Caron Morrison, who deals with this humbug extremely well. Although she may be in this House tonight, she does not normally write about this House as we do not get that much publicity. She said: 

    Mrs Chikarovski and Mr O'Farrell appear to be attempting to present themselves as Parliamentary "guardians" of the Lane Cove Valley. This makes me deeply unhappy. These two individuals have had plenty of opportunities to protect the bushland of the Lane Cove River and its tributaries. When the M2 issue was being hotly contested, and constructed, Mrs Chikarovski was fighting for preselection in Lane Cove, and when in government was a staunch supporter of Bruce Baird, Minister for Roads. Mr O'Farrell was Bruce Baird's Chief of Staff. Many of us tried, and failed, to protect the Valley, but none of us were as well placed as Mrs Chikarovski and Mr O'Farrell. Why didn't they protect the Valley when they could?......

Caron Morrison continued: 

    Peta Seaton, the Opposition Environment Spokesperson, issued a press release on May 26 saying that Labor and the Greens had "sentenced thousands of road users to decades of future road transport problems". That is arrant nonsense. I could easily accuse Bruce Baird and the M2, or even Laurie Brereton and the Harbour Tunnel of that particular sin, but I cannot say that Peta Seaton's argument has any validity at all. When Ms Seaton says that "Bob Carr is treating national parks as vacant construction space", I can only say that I wish she had been there when the Devlins and Terry's Creek bushland was being cleared for the M2.

Caron Morrison went on to say: 

    I am also worried by the Opposition's insistence that this rail line was their idea. That is certainly not my interpretation of events. I distinctly recall being contacted by several large engineering firms, including Barclay Mowlem, Abigroup and Ove Arup, in the very early 1990s, when they were canvassing community support for the then-called Macquarie Rail Line (Chatswood-Parramatta). Over time, and with a number of other people, I attended several meetings to discuss this proposal, only to see them lose interest after they formally approached the Fahey Government. I formed the impression that the Government had asked them to delay their interest until after it had the M2 up and running. It may be my imagination, but at the time it seemed that reducing its interest in the Macquarie Rail Line was beneficial to Abigroup who now has a major interest in the M2 consortium. It cannot be disputed that the construction of this rail line was part of the Fahey Government's 1995 campaign platform, but it was there as a result of a concerted community and corporate campaign. It was there to defuse community anger and concern over the M2, not because they genuinely had the communities' interests at heart.

That is merely one activist's opinion [very trusted expert, SAM editor] , but it is nice to talk to someone who was there at the time. The Opposition is strident in its saving of a tiny bit of park when it puts a motorway through a huge slab of it. I need to be persuaded that the rail link has to go across the park. If it cannot go along the Epping Road route for either technical or contractual reasons related to the M2, then that is the best option. ....

The construction of the bridge should include noise-mitigation engineering, similar to that used under the Tivoli Theatre. I understand that trains can run on rubber tracks to reduce their noise. It cannot be disputed that the proposed route damages the park, but we may not be able to use Epping Road, even though it would be preferable from the point of view of workers along Lane Cove Road, the residents of Lane Cove, the high density housing along Lane Cove Road, and the industrial areas of south Artarmon and along Epping Road.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO .... The Guardians of Lane Cove River National Park also stated that a "patronage demand study" from an unspecified source revealed that 2,600 people would commute daily to UTS in 2021. This figure is questionable in the extreme. Estimates by Action for Public Transport suggest that commuters using the UTS station alone will make about 10,000 to 12,000 trips per day. While we cannot look into a crystal ball to see whose prophecies about patronage will come true, I remind honourable members that the campus at UTS has about 5,000 students. If we consider also the number of local residents who would be likely to use the station, I suggest that Action for Public Transport's prediction is more likely.

Another inconsistency within the presentation by Guardians of Lane Cove National Park was that, on one hand, it stated that UTS Kuring-gai is situated in "a remote area of bushland" but, on the other hand, it alleged the campus is already well serviced by public transport. ...In the past week I have been inundated with letters, emails and faxes about the impact of the proposed bridge in Lane Cove River National Park. Community groups including the Blue Mountains Conservation Society Inc., North Ryde Residents Group, Bundara Bushcare Group, New South Wales Urban Environment Coalition and Eco-Transit Sydney support the existing rail link proposal. Other groups including the Fullers Bridge Residents Association, the Environmental Liaison Office, Willoughby Environmental Protection Association, Guardians of Lane Cove National Park, West Lindfield-Killara Residents Group and West Killara Residents Action Group have sent me letters arguing against the bill.

As in any similar situation in which railways are being built there is considerable criticism from the residents who do not want the project in their backyard, including, in this case, the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Kerry Chikarovski. On the other hand, through the newspapers and the briefing I received from the Parramatta Rail Link Project Director and other concerned parties, I have been informed that the area affected is not pristine bushland. Indeed, the area in which the bridge is to be constructed was a vineyard, an orchard and a rifle range before its present incarnation as part of the park. Some opponents of the bridge suggest that the tunnel should be built. To build a tunnel under the Lane Cove River, it would be necessary to dig in the rock beneath the river at a considerable depth so as to penetrate under the problematic soils and rocks.

I was advised that this alternative route would necessitate 27 kilometres of underground tunnel with no stations to be constructed because of factors such as topography and exceeding the gradient at which it is safe to construct rail stations. Stations which would then be scrapped would be those at UTS and Delhi Road. I believe the experts. The Hon. J. F. Ryan said that we parliamentarians would understand those simple terms and judge for ourselves whether the proposal is good or bad. I suggest that the tunnel does not resolve perceived problems with the construction of the rail link. Instead, it creates more problems. Is it not the purpose of the link to provide better, safer and faster public transport options? A tunnel stretching 27 kilometres underground should be the last resort. It is usually only in cases where there is no alternative that such a long tunnel would be constructed with no stations in its entirety, as it can be dangerous in emergencies.

Furthermore, if the tunnel option were to proceed, many thousands of people would not have access to a station which they would have if the bridge over the river were to be built. The public needs stations to access the benefits that train transport can bring. If an underground station were to be constructed at UTS I have been told that it would need to be at a depth of more than 60 metres. ......

 For all of the reasons I have outlined, I am absolutely not opposed to the construction of the bridge.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: What I am most concerned about is the political trade-off and sell-out of the national park. If honourable members think that is over the top, I refer them to a press release issued on 22 May by Judy Messer from the Nature Conservation Council. The press release is headed "Political Trade-off is a Sell-out for Lane Cove National Park" and expresses my views and the views held for a long time by people up that way. As many honourable members would know, there have been many plans to construct various freeways through that area to connect Hornsby to the freeway at Lane Cove. The press release states: 

    The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has expressed strong opposition to the construction of an overhead railway bridge within the Lane Cove National Park and the political expediency driving the decision-making.

    "Whilst NCC supports the proposed Parramatta Rail Link in principle, the NCC is always concerned that public transport initiatives should not occur at the cost of conservation of NSW's natural and cultural heritage", said Council Chairperson Dr Judy Messer. "The NCC is specifically disturbed that the current preferred option will result in an unacceptable level of impact on Lane Cove National Park and the adjoining bushland areas of high conservation value."

    Dr Messer said that adverse impacts will include: loss of biodiversity and habitat values, public open space, recreational amenity, Aboriginal and European cultural heritage, the alienation of national park lands, and unacceptable noise.

They are all the things that the Hon. I. Cohen and Ms Lee Rhiannon sprout about every single day.

[Interruption from gallery]

I agree with that comment from the public gallery: "Used to." Dr Messer continued:

    "The Council is further concerned that the NSW Government proposes to enact legislation to remove the affected portions of land from the jurisdiction of the National Park—

something, of course, that the Greens are complying with— 

    thus pre-empting the outcome of the EIS but in no way legitimating the destruction of park land."

    "It should also be noted that the Lane Cove National Park has over 1 million visitors a year thus confirming its premier recreational importance for the people of Sydney. Clearly the overhead bridge option is not at all acceptable. There is no way that the dedication of Brown's Waterhole will compensate for this gross alienation of national park values."

Despite this press release and this now considered opinion by the Nature Conservation Council—

The Hon. I. Cohen: A person in the Nature Conservation Council. It wasn't the opinion of the whole organisation. There has been a lot of debate within the organisation.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: That is what Dr Messer, the head of the Nature Conservation Council, said. I accept that the Hon. I. Cohen is a forthright person who does his job with some diligence. However, I will read from an article from the North Shore Times: 

    Conservationists and the State Government have cut a deal, swapping a patch of bushland in return for supporting a bridge across Lane Cove National Park.

    Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon has secured a commitment from Transport Minister Carl Scully that Browns Waterhole, near South Turramurra, will be gazetted as part of the Lane Cove National Park.

It is an awful shame that Ms Lee Rhiannon does not have that commitment from the green Premier or, in fact, the Minister for the Environment. The article continues: 

    In return Ms Rhiannon is expected to support a rail bridge across the Lane Cove National Park as part of the Parramatta-Chatswood link.

    The Browns Waterhole land has long been part of a political football—a small parcel of bushland contained in the abandoned freeway corridor formally earmarked for a connecting link between the M2 and F3. ....


Yet the tunnel under the river was indeed built according to the urging of a narrow green faction led by Dr Judy Messer and the so called Guardians of  Lane Cove River Park etc we knew as the 'urban bushland mafia' over the consensus of the greater majority of the green movement and the debate in the NSW Upper House back in 2000. Such is the evolution of the green movement from a weaker Green Party 8 years ago to a much stronger machine today in 2007 when a democratic support for the bridge option would have stuck. How the bridge option unravelled in 2001 making way for the tunnel we are not too sure and imagine Dr Messer might be able to explain better. We are going to dive back in the files and see any clues.

The NSW Govt are marshalling their PR forces today but it's looking bad for them. Very bad. And the dinosaurs in one faction of the green movement.

Posted by editor at 9:24 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007 4:18 PM EADT

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