On Tempe M5 corridor expansion – community consultation

February 20, 2010

Some 400-500 residents of Tempe, St Peters and Alexandria met RTA representatives today as part of the RTA’s $2m community consultation program.  After meeting beforehand in the Tempe wetlands, residents walked around to the RTA marquee on Tempe Reserve.  Judging from the four reps on hand, one large table showing a map, various display panels and half a dozen plastic chairs, I’m not sure RTS was expecting as many as 400 people; from their event management logistics, they appear to have only anticipated 50 at most. NSW Police were present, so I guess the RTA suspected they might get more than 50 and thus need crowd control management.

The free sausage sizzle was patronised and what I found particularly gratifying was a strolling troubadour type giving voice to the Joni Mitchell song about tress and carparks. I guess I’m grateful at my age that anyone actually remembers this anthem about progress, from so many decades ago.

I collected the handouts, consulted the very large map and tried to listen as carefully as I could to the RTA reps. I’m horrified by the their admissions of the failed M5, Those of us who use it know, from daily first-hand experience, that it has long ago become a Tunnel for Trucks. Very brave of the RTA to talk up the M5 when it was being built as a luxurious 80km ride. What a let-down for them to admit the average traffic speed is now half that. Stop the rot, stop encouraging cars and trucks, find alternatives to simply building more and more highways.

As a corporate spindoctor, I’m highly attuned to the logistics and layout of event management. I feel for the RTA reps – there but for the grace of God, etc. But Tempe residents weren’t in the least feral or working class “difficult”. We politely raised hands, as in a classroom, to ask questions.

The changing face of RTA information

I’m also attuned to the ‘legalities’ of information provided according to the medium it’s presented in. If it’s verbal, it can be denied (“I’m sorry you misheard me”), but once it’s in print, it’s hard to deny. So what do I see on the large table – a map showing a road (underground or overground wasn’t indicated) across the golfcourse, around Tempe Reserve and the wetlands and up through industrial land behind IKEA, parallel to the canal. Regardless of the fact that Tempe Reserve and wetlands appear not to be concreted over – at least according to this map, Tempe residents are still looking at 3 years of their green space turned over to the construction of any M5 expansion or “link road” up to North Airport.

Confusion abounds

My interest in the presentations faded when the microphones broke down, when speakers didn’t use the microphones effectively and they started to use descriptors in their speech nowhere to be found in the printed material, things like a “link road” between the M5 and Campbell Road St Peters. What’s a “link road”? Isn’t that code for an overpass at Tempe, half of east Tempe demolished with a large Marsh-St type access installation at Campbell Road? And despite talk of politicians supposedly dropping the idea, it’s still in very great detail in RTA literature, very much front-of-mind for road transport planners. Some keen residents stayed on past noon with the verbal presentations; standing at the back I couldn’t hear or follow the questions and answers. I find it hard to feel sorry for truck drivers supposedly driving in from Bringelly to Alexandria in their hundreds of thousands each day.

So this is the map as presented at the community consultation event today… Things have obviously moved on from an ominous generic arrow overshadowing Tempe Reserve and wetlands into a red arterial/link road from Marsh Street to Campbell Road.

Not being built for traffic into the CBD….?

Of great interest was an ‘access point’ away from the M5 to areas north of the airport. The RTA tells me that no-one is predicted to come off the M5 and drive to Campbell Lane in order to directly access the CBD – at least, only 5% of anticipated trucks are likely to do that. So if I’m to believe this, then it appears that future plans (after any Campbell Road exit) might not include concreting over areas of Sydney Park and creation of additional highway and road-widening into Alexandria and Redfern. Residents today used apt analogies such as “funnelling” of traffic from the west into local residential areas; the RTA reps present could provide no new insights beyond what was already in their printed material. Like any other spin doctors talking about the future, everything dissolves into macaronic, future “strategic options”.

Move the Airport

Apparently most of the traffic comes into the airport. Move the airport or create a second one and hey presto, the truck/car traffic heading east would seem to disappear! Yet, the south of the airport is perfectly well catered for in terms of the Marsh Street exit and the airport roads. I still find projected truck traffic problematic, coming from the west to the north of the Airport, up near Sydney Park. All I see to the east of Sydney Park is residential, new high-rise apartments. Commuters to Green Square and the Airport from Glenfield are more easily fixed by freeing up Aiport line rail stations than by building yet another highway.

Tempe Green Space

Alienation of Tempe green space seems still on the cards, given local construction requirements – trucks have to come and out of any planned construction of tunnels or roads and Tempe green space is the only available. So more alienation, on top of the desal plant, and M5 and Wolli Creek Station and 200 Olympics.

Traffic dumping at St Peters

Still no relief that Campbell Road/Lane won’t suffer from massive increases in traffic. Which must mean knocking down houses to widen existing roads. Which must mean encroachment on to Sydney Park, new widened roads to join up with existing throughways into the CBD.

A sop to the marginal seats out West…

I still don’t see why I need to sacrifice my clean air and green space for truck/car traffic between Camden Valley Road and Port Botany.  Not when there’s already a perfectly good M5, General Holmes Drive/Eastern Distributor, Princes Hwy/Canal Road and hardrail line for container freight.

The Bleeding Obvious, if this was Japan…

I’m still hearing nothing about concreting over Alexandria Canal. Unless someone is saving this up for high-rise housing development.

The Only Conclusion Possible…

The only conclusion from today’s community consultation I can come to is that the RTA is hell-bent on concreting over as much of Wolli Creek/North Rockdale/Tempe/St Peters/Alexandria as it possibly can, so that it can connect Camden with the CBD. All because governments have moved Sydney Harbour port activity to Port Botany, won’t move the Airport or create a Second Sydney Airport somewhere and because they are hardwired into building highways instead of looking at transport alternatives.

Another instance of temporary alienation from our Green Space

I’m sure as I’ve ever been that Tempe Reserve and wetlands, if not completely concreted over, will be subject to temporary alienation, again, as a construction site, for the M5 Eastern expansion into four lanes and any access points where traffic will flood into Tempe and St Peters.

F6 expressway Loftus-to-St Peters

What I also found curious was the complete lack of any mention today of the F6 extension from Sans Souci up to Alexandria (presumably concreting over the wetlands behind Brighton-le-Sands in the process). The written literature is very specific about the Loftus to St Peters expressay.

Political implications

I saw no politicans present, from local Council, State or Federal government. I guess they think that if public servants want to make fools of themselves in public, they as pollies don’t need to help them. I understand Marrickville Council was at the head of the march to the RTA marquee; I was down the back and missed them. There was certainly no obvious interaction between Council and RTA at the event, whcih speaks volumes about public interface between pollies and bureaucrats.

What I find particularly annoying about this exercise is how levels of government hide behind jurisdiction. It seems as an ordinary Australian, I fall between the cracks between the levels of government, left to fend for myself, left to work out for myself why local government promotes action in relation to climate change and quality of local, physical environment, to watch all their work stomped on from a great height by State and Federal politics. While others around the world can’t get decent rule of law, voting rights, multi-party, we, who describe ourselves as enlightened, suffer as a result of over-government and lack of networking between levels of government.

Costs incurred by RTA in community consultation

With the marquee/chairs/display panels/table all most likely owned already owned by RTA, as part of their normal time-honoured public affairs travel setup, and their transport logistics to Tempe Reserve doubtless provided by RTA trucks, I can’t see where my $2m community consultation money is going. Apart from glossy printed maps and brochures, but they’re already printed in large enough printruns for householder mail drops.

I have to concede though that I guess some of the $2m must have gone into my sausage sandwich. With onions, hold the sauce.


2 Responses to “On Tempe M5 corridor expansion – community consultation”

  1. Trish Says:

    The sausages were provided by the Lions Club, so the RTA aren’t even spending the $2 million on feeding the people they plan to rape and pillage.

    • rodbyatt Says:

      Seems I was being too kind to the RTA! In which case, apart from costa ssociated with printing and household mail drops, Saturday’s event couldn’t have cost the RTA any money, apart from Saturday overtime for its employees. I’ll be on the lookout for more information about exactly where my taxpayer dollars are going in this $2m community consultation program.

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