WestConnex – the impact on the Wolli Creek Valley

See our general objections to WestConnex for NSW and Sydney. Here we look at the implications for the Wolli Valley.

Most people enjoying the bushland and waterways of Wolli Creek Valley assume that the bushland is already protected. It’s not. Some progress has been made, but the ALP’s Government’s 1998 commitment to creating the Wolli Creek Regional Park was still a long way from being met when they were defeated at the 2011 election.  The information below addresses a series of questions:

What would WestConnex mean locally, around its route?

What about the specifics in the Wolli Valley?

What about alternatives?

How much time have we got?

What can I do?


Some years ago, the increasing road traffic and congestion around Sydney Airport and Port Botany prompted the RTA to go public with its proposals for expanding the M5 East corridor by building a second M5 East tunnel. In November 2009, the RTA released an Overview of this plan for community consultation, with submissions closing three months later.

The proposals at that time included part of the new tunnel being built using a ‘cut and cover’ method. This would destroy the bushland at the western end of the Wolli Creek Valley, between Bexley Road and Illoura Reserve. A senior RTA officer at the time refused to rule out the forced acquisition of houses to achieve this.

Another part of the proposal was to expand the M5 to three lanes each way west of King Georges Road  and this is already under way, (June 2013). This of course will create a ‘bottleneck’ effect and will lead to pressure both to expand the M5 east of King Georges Road (currently two lanes each way), and to upgrade the Bexley Road crossing over the creek. There is an expectation that there will be four lanes each way between King Georges Road and Bexley Road and through the tunnels.

What would WestConnex mean locally, around its route?

Some of the issues that apply generally to the WestConnex proposal across Sydney  would apply in the Wolli Valley too:

  • The high tolls needed to make the investment attractive to private investors (the  State Government’s model) would be unattractive to drivers. As a result:
    • There would be the usual diversions and removal of signage to push more vehicles into the motorway and make alternatives less attractive.
    • More vehicles would engage in rat-running, congesting more local roads though the surrounding suburbs.
  • Increased traffic on feeder roads that lead to the motorway
  • Major disruptions and possible local damage during tunnelling and construction.
  • Further tunnel ventilation stacks, probably unfiltered, in residential areas.
  • Increased traffic noise outside of tunnels; increased pollution from extra traffic
  • Little or no improvement in public transport service levels because of funding being used for WestConnex – there is only so much money available.

For more detail on the Sydney–wide impacts of WestConnex see our general arguments against WestConnex.

What about the specifics in the Wolli Valley?

The M5East expansion would, at least initially, result in

1.     Traffic going up, pollution/ emissions increasing, health and biota impacts, and greater flooding in Wolli Creek

  • An increase in traffic on feeder roads such as King Georges Road, Kingsgrove Road, and Bexley Road and the roads that feed into them such as Homer St, New Illawarra Road, Croydon Road, Slade Road, Kingsgrove Avenue.
  • A major increase in noise and pollution fumes (such as the lung-penetrating carcinogenic particles from diesel exhausts) for those living close to the motorway and its feeder roads.
  • A recent discovery (May 2015), has been a diesel-induced developmental abnormality found in fungi growing near the current M5E Turrella emission stack – see Rosecomb press release There is scientific evidence that this abnormality can be caused by exposure to diesel fumes – see  Kearney 2009, Umar & Griensven 1999, Flegg 1983
  • Major disruption while the Bexley Road crossing of Wolli Creek is raised.
  • Another major ramp-up of hard surfaces in the Wolli Creek catchment, leading to a further increase in flash floods (which is the very reason given for raising the Bexley Road crossing).

2.   Destruction of the natural environment

  • The natural creek line east of Bexley Road would also be wrecked as the 2010 proposal included raising the height of Bexley Road where it crosses the creek. Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has already had people designing a re-alignment of the creek to accommodate this.

This may not mean much change where the creek is in a concrete channel west of Bexley Road, but the RMS has persistently held on to the bushland to the east, that was promised at a public meeting to become part of the Wolli Creek Regional Park. In the past the RMS has argued for the creek to be run in a concrete channel east of Bexley Road.

  • Destruction of two hectares of precious and regionally significant Wolli bushland from Bexley Road to Illoura Reserve (the Western Gateway bushland) for the cut-and-cover part of the new tunnel.

For further information on the RMS proposal affecting the Wolli Western Gateway bushland see the RTA map distributed in 2010 as part of consultations on the proposed duplication of the M5. A WCPS leaflet was later distributed showing what it would mean on the ground. To see what a cut-and-cover tunnel looks like see what was done to Hyde Park in the 1920s for the City Circle line for just a two-track railway line. A video giving a ten-minute presentation of the details is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP6YthqyDTk. There are some images of the bushland in a compilation sent to all State MPs around August 2010 and a video highlighting community commitment to the bushland at www.youtube.com/user/wollicreekvalley/videos.

For a running chronological summary of the history of the struggle to stop motorways destroying the bushland of the Wolli Valley download this Pdf  The Long Back Story

So what about alternatives?

We broadly support the alternative proposals made by Ecotransit NSW and the Australian Conservation Society in 2011 to reduce M5 congestion, though those need updating to link with the State Government’s SE light rail proposal. Based on that, key new arrangements for the SW transport corridor (M5 route) to make public transport more attractive include:

  • Completing the duplication of the East Hills railway line to East Hills to allow express services from the Macarthur region to bypass many stations.
  • Removing the hefty station surcharges for the Airport stations. These discourage those who work at the airports and those catching planes or taking passengers there from using the train.
  • Adding a new station to the Airport Line at Doody Street in Alexandria (between Mascot and Green Square) to service the Southern Industrial Area (SIA). This currently has very poor public transport, but is a workplace for many people along the SW corridor.
  • Building an East-West light rail link joining the existing light rail track at Dulwich Hill and running via Sydenham and the airport to the eastern suburbs to join the Government’s proposed new SE light rail. This would enable travellers on the Western and Bankstown lines to more readily reach the airport and the eastern suburb job centre, such as the hospitals precinct and the university.
  • Increasing ‘kiss and ride’ and ‘park and ride’ space at other stations along the East Hills line.
  • Creating a ‘Last Chance Park and Ride’ at Kingsgrove to feed only from and to the existing M5E, enabling people to be dropped off for rail to the airport and to the city.

All of these, taken together, are massively cheaper than the M5 section of WestConnex. To see more on this visit an EcoTransit Sydney video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dL62R9PK2w

How much time have we got?

Not a lot.  The current timetable starts building the Wolli section in 2015.  The M4  section, where there is the greatest opportunity to capture value from property re-development at the entrances and exits, was due to begin in 2014, but may be delayed until after the next State election in March 2015.

We need to muster our forces as soon as possible.

What can I do?

Here are some simple actions that you can take:

  • Spread the message – make your own opposition known to friends, family, neighbours via conversation, emails and social media, etc.  And provide them with the information and arguments to enable them to spread the word further – putting a link to this WCPS section of documents about WestConnex into emails, Facebook pages and tweets could be one way.
  • Boost WCPS member numbers – the more members we have, the more politicians pay attention to what we say. Become a member. That way you’ll be kept more up to date than we can manage via the website.
  • Write to your local federal and state MPs and their contending candidates
  • Come along to WCPS events to show support. For details on these as they come up see “What’s Happening” on the left hand side of the WCPS home page at http://www.wollicreek.org.au. We want to highlight community commitment to the bushland and opposition to the destruction of several hundred native trees and all the animal, bird insect and plant life that goes with them.
  • Help staff WCPS stalls. Just let us know you are interested and we’ll keep you informed; email info@wollicreek.org.au
  • Join NoWestCONnex at www.westconnex.info This is a community organisation linking up all those opposed to Westconnex along its entire route.

We recognise that the pro-WestConnex forces against us are large, wealthy and influential.

And on the political level, the State Coalition Government is clearly committed to it; the ALP has been supporting it too, though it has more flexibility while in opposition; only the Greens have come out clearly opposed.

The only countervailing force that is likely to work is people power – we have to show that there is massive public opposition to the WestConnex project. It can work, but it needs a lot of work from a lot of people. Join in!

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