INNER WEST LIGHT RAIL EXTENSION
Discussion on Petition Signed by 10,000 or More Persons
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT
(Marrickville) [4.32 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak on behalf of more than 10,000 people in support of the GreenWay: a walking and cycling path with bushcare sites in the inner west. It is rare in public life to see an issue on which there is such unity, agreement and unanimous support; the GreenWay is such an issue. It matters to the more than 10,000 people who have signed this petition, it matters to those seated in the visitors gallery on this cold Thursday evening, and it matters to the future sustainability of the inner west. We all have one clear goal: We want to make it matter to the O'Farrell Government so it will commit to constructing the GreenWay. The GreenWay began as a grassroots initiative to improve recreation and transport options in the inner west. Local environmental advocates were inspired to develop the GreenWay project after seeing what was being achieved elsewhere in Australia and overseas. The inner west freight corridor was a natural fit.
I pay tribute to the local community and groups such as the Mudcrabs and the Friends of the GreenWay, as well as Ashfield, Marrickville, Leichhardt and Canterbury councils, for their ongoing work to bring this project to life. The Friends of the GreenWay have been the heart and soul of the campaign. Light rail in the inner west has a long history. Currently, the Metro Light Rail is the only operating light rail in Sydney. The line, opened in 1997, was originally to serve the redeveloped areas of Darling Harbour, Ultimo and Pyrmont. Contrary to what the Premier told the House earlier today, in 1999 the Carr Government announced, and then built, the extension of the line to Lilyfield, which was opened in 2000. In February 2010 the Keneally Government allocated $500 million to extend the light rail to Dulwich Hill and Circular Quay—more than doubling the size of the light rail. The project also included the GreenWay. It was to be an integrated transport corridor that would include community bushcare sites to provide valuable habitat for flora and fauna.
The GreenWay was to run alongside the light rail and be constructed in conjunction with it. Community advocacy has always been critical to these projects, as has the support of local members of Parliament. Tonight both the member for Canterbury and the member for Balmain will make a contribution to this debate. I also acknowledge the work of Sandra Nori and Verity Firth, both former members for Balmain, who played such an important role in advocating within government for extensions to the light rail in the inner west. Prior to the March election, contrary to what the Government contends, substantial progress had been made on the inner west extension, including extensive public consultation, granting of development approval, and preconstruction work on the tracks and on the GreenWay.
Both the member for Canterbury and I inspected that work prior to the election and substantial progress had been made. Despite the clear recreational, environmental and transport benefits of the GreenWay, particularly for a high-density, inner-city community like the inner west, in less than a year of the Government winning office it announced that it would scrap the GreenWay and delay the time frame for constructing the light rail extension. The strong community support of the GreenWay is well known. It is so strongly supported because it will provide transport, recreational and environmental benefits. Clearly the O'Farrell Government has got its priorities wrong. It claims it cannot afford to proceed with the GreenWay, yet the Minister for Transport has spent $18 million on private consultants' fees in her first 10 months in office.
The Government claims it is committed to active transport, yet it has scrapped an active transport project with no legitimate explanation. The Government also claims that it will listen to the community, yet it is not listening to the 10,000 people in the inner west who are telling it to go ahead with the GreenWay. The Government must listen to what the community in the inner west is saying. The GreenWay will provide for sustainable transport and recreational opportunities, and a wildlife corridor for a relatively modest investment of funds. The community support for this project is huge. Community members have petitioned, rallied, cycled and talked, and at every stage the groundswell has grown. There is a very good reason for that—namely, the project makes good sense. I urge the O'Farrell Government to listen to the community as it said it would and build this project.
Order! I presumed those in the visitors gallery had been warned about interrupting the debate. People in the gallery are not allowed to make any noise during parliamentary debates. I acknowledge your excitement in hearing this debate, but I warn those seated in the gallery against making any noise. In the past I have cleared the gallery.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby—Minister for Transport) [4.37 p.m.]: I acknowledge those seated in the visitors gallery and I thank you all for signing this petition. Indeed, 10,000 signatures is a significant number of people and this is what our democracy is about. I also acknowledge and thank those residents who have come to see me and those who have participated in our various planning forums. I empathise with your wishes for better integrated active transport, cycling, pedestrian access and open space. Like many of you, I live in and represent a densely populated community in close proximity to the central business district. My community also values open space. I acknowledge that prior to the last election the Labor Government made some commitments in relation to the GreenWay and to light rail. The Coalition listened to those commitments and, just over a year ago, I had the honour and privilege of becoming the Minister for Transport.
Unfortunately the Labor Party said the cost of the GreenWay and light rail would be approximately $150 million. When I became the Minister for Transport, I inquired into that issue. Regrettably, the cost is at least $63 million more than Labor said it would be. It will cost at least $213 million if we proceed with the GreenWay and the light rail. More concerning than that is that a lot of the engineering work for the GreenWay had not been done, so we had experts do more of the engineering work. The advice I received was that if we proceeded with the light rail and the GreenWay at the same time, it would delay the light rail project. To my mind, that was a matter of concern.
Order! The member for Canterbury will cease interjecting.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN:
The cost blowout also was a concern. I emphasise the point that regrettably Labor Opposition members are not telling the truth when they accuse the Government of delaying the light rail. What they said before the election was that light rail would be completed by 2012. It did not mean that that was a fact. When I became the Minister of Transport I asked the experts and we did the work. They said, "There is no way you could build and have the light rail open by this year. There is no way that could happen." Regrettably, a long list of Labor transport projects were announced but were never delivered. I know I spoke to many visitors who are in the gallery about the CBD metro to Rozelle. That also was an ill-conceived project: It wasted half a billion dollars.
When Labor members talk about waste, that really gets my goat because Labor's record was appalling when it came to public transport. I do not want to take away from my responsibility, and that is why I have spent a lot of time on inner west transport, such as ferry services or light rail. I am very pleased that coincidently today we signed a contract with John Holland to construct the inner west light rail project. In as short a time as a few weeks we will have people on the site to start construction of that line, which is so important. In relation to active transport, I thank many of you who have made submissions to the Government's Long Term Active Transport Master Plan. For the first time in our State's history, cycling, pedestrian access and integrated routes will form part of an official public transport policy.
When I was the shadow Minister for Transport for four years one thing I was able to do was look very closely at plans the Government published at the time. The sad thing about Bike Plan 2000 and Bike Plan 2010, which were 10 years apart, is that not much happened in those 10 years. Unfortunately, while a lot has been said about cycling, pedestrian access and integration—and I do not take away from the fact that a lot has been said about that in the past decade—unfortunately, not a lot has been done. My commitment to communities in the inner west and other parts of Sydney is to make sure we get integration right and to make sure that when it comes to active transport, cycling and pedestrian access, we get the long-term vision correct.
I would much rather have time to spend to make sure we get the planning right and make sure that we have an integrated strategy for active transport, whether it is in relation to the GreenWay project or other projects. My decision to defer the GreenWay was not taken lightly. Even though 10,000 signatures is a lot, and I do not wish to take away from that, I also acknowledge that there are differing views on whether the project should have been deferred. The Inner West Courier
conducted a survey, which revealed that more than 80 per cent of people supported the Government's decision to defer, based on the fact that it would have delayed the inner west light rail extension and the engineering issues would have compromised the integrity of the project. [Time expired.
Ms LINDA BURNEY
(Canterbury) [4.42 p.m.]: I say to the many people in the visitors gallery who have come to listen to this debate today that what they heard just then from the Minister for Transport was a big fat "No". That is precisely what we just heard; let us not mince our words. I join the member for Marrickville in recognising the visitors in the gallery. I also recognise the hard work contributed by each person and their organisations, members of Parliament and local councils in the collection of more than 10,000 signatures, which is a magnificent effort of community advocacy. That is what those 10,000 signatures represent. It is incredible that there was no discussion, consultation or any decent answer given to questions and letters that were sent to the Minister, and no clear explanation except for, "Oh, it's not properly planned and not properly costed", which is very convenient.
Ms Gladys Berejiklian:
That is not true.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
The letters never ever got to you.
Order! Members will cease arguing across the Chamber. I have asked visitors in the gallery to contain themselves. I now ask members to contain themselves.
Ms LINDA BURNEY:
It seems to me the GreenWay has absolutely no downside, except that the Minister decided she was not going to spend money on people in the inner west who had spent years working passionately and collaboratively with local councils to design something that would be a winner all round for health, walking, riding, the environment and sustainable transport—the very things that the Minister is supposed to support. I acknowledge the magnificent work of the member for Marrickville, the member for Balmain, and visitors in the gallery. The campaign would not have been possible without the commitment to the project of people in the inner west and their local councils.
The GreenWay project is iconic in the area because it represents collaboration and good common sense, and it brings together all the things we would want in an integrated transport arrangement. I state very clearly to the Minister and to Government members that as much as they want to be snide and smile about this, if they think this debate is the end of advocacy for the GreenWay they are so very wrong. Every person in the visitors gallery, their families and the community groups they represent will let the Government know every day that this decision is wrong. It is a mean decision and it is not the decision that the Government proposed and advocated as its transport plan. [Time expired.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI
(Drummoyne) [4.45 p.m.]: I appreciate having the opportunity to participate in debate on this very important issue. I am a member of this House probably because my predecessor tried to deliver projects to the electorate without ever consulting. We all fought against the duplicate Iron Cove Bridge because we knew what it would do—pretty much nothing. We knew how much it would cost, and it exceeded that cost, yet it was delivered. I will never forget the opening of the bridge. The then Premier officially opened the duplicate bridge in a drive-by on a bus because she was too embarrassed to front the public.
Order! Members will cease arguing across the Chamber.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
Since being elected as the member for Drummoyne, I have listened to the public. We probably would not be arguing if Labor had not wasted $500 million on the Rozelle metro during its term in office. If that had not happened we would have the money to deliver on active transport projects. I would be a strong advocate for this project, but I will not put up with being dictated to by Labor Opposition members who delivered absolutely nothing in Labor's 16 years in government.
Ms Linda Burney:
What a load of codswallop.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
It delivered absolutely nothing.
Order! The member for Canterbury has had her opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
We deliver good public transport.
Ms Linda Burney:
Name one project.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI:
I stood up for my electorate of Drummoyne to have an extra five RiverCat services from Cabarita wharf every day, which is a total of 25 additional services a week. That will benefit not only Cabarita but also Drummoyne, Chiswick and Abbotsford. Hopefully, the additional services will be taken into Balmain. I advocate for active transport because I am a cyclist and a runner. We use common services, walkways and pathways not only in the Drummoyne electorate but also in the electorate of Balmain. The O'Farrell Government always has been up-front about proceeding with the inner west light rail extension from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill, but what we do not want to do is what the former Labor Government did—announce something and then not deliver, or announce something and try to deliver it at triple the cost.
The Government really must act in a fiscally responsible manner for the sake of the taxpayers of this State. We will not lower our standards for the sake of politicking by delivering a project that Labor designed on the back of an envelope six weeks prior to an election. Planning approval for the project that was granted by the previous Government included a shared cycling and walking path. The GreenWay largely followed the alignment of the inner west light rail. However, the GreenWay approval was granted without any depth analysis so it is very important. On coming to office Transport for NSW reviewed the work that the previous Government did not do on light rail and the GreenWay. [Time expired
Mr JAMIE PARKER
(Balmain) [4.48 p.m.], by leave: I welcome all the people here today who have dedicated themselves to supporting the GreenWay, in particular, the Friends of the GreenWay. I acknowledge all the fantastic work of local councils, which have worked tirelessly to support the GreenWay—Leichhardt, Marrickville, Ashfield and Canterbury councils. Their hard work and dedication brought the campaign to the floor of the Parliament to record the importance of this matter. It is just another step in the campaign. The collection of 10,000 signatures is a great achievement and is evidence of the groundswell of community support for the GreenWay.
It is a fact that campaigns work. This same campaign forced the former Labor Government to drop its opposition to the inner west light rail project from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill, and eventually it rightly supported the combined light rail and GreenWay project. With such strong support and an active, ongoing community based campaign, the Government cannot continue to ignore this. I have raised this issue in Parliament, along with other members who have spoken eloquently here today, in speeches, questions, meetings with the Minister and questions on notice. Today we have heard the Government make the positive and wonderful announcement that work will commence on the light rail project. However, the project is incomplete without the GreenWay. We have engaged in this campaign around the GreenWay because it stands on its merits.
It is not about deals, political expediency or politicking; it is about an important project that delivers environmental, social and economical benefits, not just to the people of the inner west but to all of Sydney. The GreenWay will deliver wide-ranging benefits both for the inner west and the thousands of commuters who will benefit from an integrated active transport option that will enhance the effectiveness of light rail. The GreenWay provides a safe option for children to walk or cycle to school, with 21 schools located in the GreenWay catchment. We have heard the Government talk about a lack of funding. Funding priority has been given to a $300 million gift to the registered clubs; a $300 million tax cut to poker machine businesses but there is not enough money for the GreenWay project.
It is time for the Government to commit to building the GreenWay alongside the light rail corridor; we know it will cost significantly more to add the GreenWay to the light rail corridor later. I am pleased the Minister for Transport is in the Chamber; I respect her for attending because Ministers are often not present for debate on petitions. I invite the Minister to tour the project and see firsthand how effectively the GreenWay links with other transport options, to encourage active transport and to increase patronage on the light rail system. The GreenWay enjoys huge support within my electorate of Balmain. After over a decade of community campaigning, I look forward to working with the Government and agitating to ensure that it acts now to build this important project. We call on the Government to build the GreenWay.
I thank the people in the gallery for their demeanour this afternoon. I wish them well with their future campaigning.