EPPING ELECTORATE DEVELOPMENT
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping—Attorney General, and Minister for Justice) [6.32 p.m.]: Epping is a major gateway between Sydney's north and north-west. It is a delight to live there, with its beautiful gardens, natural reserves and parks, and its moderate climate. But its town centre is a mess, with shops on both sides of the railway line struggling to survive, many of them shabby, and roads choked with through traffic. A lot of hope was generated by the coming together of the Hornsby and Parramatta city councils—which each control one side of the railway line—with the Department of Planning to be involved in a study by a consultant to explore the potential for residential development and job establishment in Epping.
The aim was to maximise the use of public transport infrastructure developed by the State Government and to cater for future population growth in terms of the Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney 2036. The shopping and commercial areas of Epping are long overdue for upgrading and modernising but development has largely been frustrated by insufficient parking and traffic gridlock. Epping railway station is now a transport and bus hub as well as a train hub, with trains on the northern line and the Epping to Chatswood line. It will also be part of the North West Rail Link and the Parramatta to Epping rail link when built, and this has attracted, and will continue to attract, an enormous amount of traffic to the Epping station area.
This means that quiet streets within a radius of about one kilometre of Epping station are parked out each weekday by thousands of cars. Roads leading to the intersection of Beecroft Road and Carlingford Road and small roads such as Ray Road and Midson Road are regularly chock full of traffic. While the Epping town centre study has promoted a grand change, with massive commercial buildings recommended, the point has been made by many—including a majority of those on Parramatta council recently—that a solution has to be found to Epping's choking traffic and parking problems before proceeding with high-rise buildings that will generate even more traffic.
My colleague John Alexander and I set out our views in a piece that appeared in the Northern District Times
of 3 August. I reflected on the fact that at present Epping does not offer a friendly situation to the elderly, in particular, the disabled, women with prams and people on bikes. They used to be able to use a serviceable ramp across the railway station. However, when the modern railway station was built, the ramp was demolished and steep stairs and lifts—which constantly break down—were installed. I have had the sad experience of speaking several times to elderly people who tell me that their main pursuits are located on the other side of the bridge—such as their church and their social activities—but they often cannot get to them except by taxi, which they cannot afford so they are stuck.
I urge the Government and local councils not to block this proposal but to work with the Department of Planning, the citizens and those who want to pursue more commercial development in the Epping area to find a solution to the traffic gridlock. There must be ways of entering and leaving Epping that do not create traffic problems around main shopping centres and see thousands of cars parking in surrounding streets. Residents often find it difficult to park outside their own homes during the day. Sometimes their driveways are blocked or theft occurs because strangers are parking in the area.
The M2 is not a solution for those citizens. It would be if the tolls were reduced to equitable levels. Rather than paying the full toll from Beecroft Road to Marsfield—a distance of just three kilometres—the toll will be about $5 by the time the M2 is finished. It will cost motorists only $2.85 to travel 12 kilometres from Pennant Hills to Seven Hills. Something must be done so that a lot more traffic can be shepherded onto the M2. But both councils will have to do more to resolve the parking problems, the Government will have to provide assistance and the developers will have to chip in so that Epping can again become a lovely place to live and its citizens can enjoy their beautiful, quiet suburb.