Eds: This is a sample submission relevant to the failure of RMS or AECOM to conduct meaninglful community engagement as required by the Secretary of Planning for this EIS.
It’s written in the first person but you can easily change it for a group submission or use part of it for an information sheet.
- copy and paste whole or part of this submission for your own submission or share it with others
- use it to trigger your own ideas
- use some it and mix it with objections on other topics relevant to the EIS ( for example Air Quality).
When you have finished drafting a submission, here’s the link to ouronline submission. Remember you can make as many submissions as you like.
Submission to WestConnex New M4/M5 EIS, project number SSI 16_7485
Overall, there has been a lack of meaningful consultation with stakeholders and the community before this EIS was lodged. Since “meaningful consultation’ was one of the Secretary’s requirements, I ask that you reject this EIS on this basis along.
It is shocking to think that a project of this magnitude should have had such poor and inaccessible presentation of its concept design.
The Concept Design was a woefully inadequate document totally devoid of any real depth of detail in terms of maps, scales, distances with only vague suggestions and glamorized Artist’s Impressions of an idealized view of what Stage 3 would be like. It was another example of current city planning documents that consistently accentuate huge areas of tranquil green spaces with families and children out walking and riding bicycles in idealized parks and suburbs. All this is PR spin and bears no reality about the real outcome of the build. This cynical approach to achieving planning approval undermine public confidence in the planning process.
The EIS was released just 12 days after the closing date for submissions to the Concept Design. This categorically proves that all the Community Consultations and Submissions to the Concept Design were a total sham. There were at least 800 posts on the interactive map. These were limited as the community only had 140 characters available to make their point which was woefully inadequate. But there were at least 1500 written submissions, some of which were highly detailed and of considerable length. There is no way that all these submissions could have been read, considered, their arguments integrated into the EIS and then for the EIS of 7200 pages to be put together, printed and released 12 days after the the closing date for submissions to the Concept Design.
There needs to be a major investigation into this flagrant abuse of the way NSW planning principles have been flouted for the whole of Westconnex and particularly Stage 3.
We agree with the Inner West Council that the NSW government’s decision to release the WestConnex Stage 3 EIS just days after the end of the consultation period on the Concept Design “short-changed the inner west community.” We would add that it shortchanges all of those who will depend on transport in Sydney in the future.
The EIS is based on an indicative design and has insufficient detail for the impacts to be properly assessed and addressed, and the public consultation has been woefully inadequate.
Insufficient Detail for Approval
- This EIS provides no basis on which to approve such a complex project including the building of interchanges underneath Sydney suburbs Rozelle and Leichhardt. It would be absurd to approve the building of up to three tunnels under people’s homes on the basis of such flimsy information. I am appalled that the Sydney Motorway Corporation could seek approval to build complex interchanges under the suburbs of Rozelle and Leichhardt on the basis of an EIS that is based on a concept design rather than detailed proposal that includes engineering plans.
- EIS 6.1 (Synthesis, Page 45) describes the Process for addressing project uncertainties. “The EIS is based on the concept design developed for the project. As such, it is to be expected that some uncertainties exist that will need to be resolved during detailed design and construction and operational planning. As described in Chapter 1, construction contractors (for each stage of the project) would be engaged during detailed design to provide greater certainty on the exact locations of temporary and permanent facilities and infrastructure as well as the construction methodology to be adopted. This may result in changes to both the project design and the construction methodologies described and assessed in this EIS. Any changes to the project would be reviewed for consistency with the assessment contained in the EIS including relevant mitigation measures, environmental performance outcomes and any future conditions of approval”. The EIS should not be approved till the bulk of these ‘uncertainties’ have been fully researched and surveyed and the results (and any changes) published for public comment. It is unstated just who would have responsibility for such a “review(ed) for consistency”, and how these changes would be communicated to the community. The EIS should not be approved till significant ‘uncertainties’ have been fully researched and surveyed and the results (and any changes) published for public comment (ie : the Sydney Water Tunnels issues at 12-57)
- The EIS should not be approved as it does not contain any certainty for residents as to what is proposed and does not provide a basis on which the project can be approved. The EIS states ‘the detail of the design and construction approach is indicative only based on a concept design and is subject to detailed design and construction planning to be undertaken by the successful contractors.’ Therefore this entire process is a sham as the extent to which concerns are taken into account is not known as the contractor can simply make further changes. As the contractor is not bound to take into account community impacts outside of the strict requirements and as the contractor will be trying to deliver the project as quickly and cheaply as possible, it is likely that the additional measure proposed with respect to construction noise mitigation for (example) will not be adopted. The EIS should not be approved on the basis that it does not provide a reliable basis on which to base the approval documents. It does not provide the community with a genuine opportunity to provide meaningful feedback in accordance with the legislative obligation of the Government to provide a consultation process because the designs are ‘indicative’ only and subject to change. Because of this the EIS is riddled with caveats and lacks clear obligations and requirements fn project delivery. The additional effect of this is that the community and other stakeholders such as the Council will be unable to undertake compliance activities as the conditions are simply too broad and lack any substantial detail.
- The assessment and solution to potentially serious problems described in the EIS at 12-57 (where mainline tunnels alignment crosses key Sydney Water utility services that service Sydney’s eastern and southern suburbs) is “based on assumptions about the strength and stiffness of the water tunnels given that limited information about the design and condition of these assets was available. Detailed surveys should be undertaken to verify the levels and condition of these Sydney Water assets. A detailed assessment would be carried out in consultation with Sydney Water to demonstrate that construction of the M4-M5 Link tunnels would have negligible adverse settlement or vibration impacts on these tunnels. A settlement monitoring program would also be implemented during construction to validate or reassess the predictions should it be required.” The community can have no confidence in the EIS proposals that are incomplete and possibly negligent. The EIS proposals and application should not be approved till these issues are definitively resolved and publicly published.
- The EIS uses maps indicating alignment of the mainline tunnels. It is clear from more detailed reading deep into the EIS (ie 12-57 Sydney Water Tunnels) that the alignment and depths of the tunnels may vary very significantly, after further survey work has been done and construction methodology determined by the construction contractor. The maps provided in the EIS are nothing more than ‘indicative’ and are misleading the community. The EIS should be withdrawn, corrected and updated, and reissued for genuine public comment based on ‘definitive’ information.
- The EIS states ‘the detail of the design and construction approach is indicative only based on a concept design and is subject to detailed design and construction planning to be undertaken by the successful contractors.’ The community will have no opportunity to comment on the Preferred Infrastructure Report which forms the basis of the approval conditions. This means the community will have limited say in the management of the impacts identified in the EIS. The EIS needs to provide an opportunity for the community to meaningfully input into this report and approval conditions .
- Insufficient time has been given for the community to prepare submissions to the EIS, especially when one considers that whole neighbourhoods affected by the project were not even notified during the concept design period. e.g Newtown, east of King St.
- The Concept Design was a woefully inadequate document totally devoid of any real depth of detail in terms of maps, scales, distances with only vague suggestions and glamorized Artist’s Impressions of an idealized view of what Stage 3 would be like. It was another example of current city planning documents that consistently accentuate huge areas of tranquil green spaces with families and children out walking and riding bicycles in idealized parks and suburbs. All this is total PR spin and bears no reality about the real outcome of the build. It bears no reality as to what Stage 3 of Westconnex will be like.
- The EIS at 7-51 refers to concerns that were raised by the community that the alignment of tunnels in Newtown appeared to go to the east of King Street, an area that had had no geotech drilling or testing. SMC staff indicated at Community information sessions that the maps included in the Concept Design were broad and indicative only, and that further details would be available in the EIS. No further details have been provided. This casts doubt over the integrity of the entire EIS process.
- An on-line interactive map was published with the M4-M5 Concept Design that indicated a very wide yellow ‘swoosh’ that is upwards of a kilometre wide in some sections of the M4-M5 proposals. SMC have NEVER publicly published or acknowledged that the contractor to be appointed to build the tunnels will be ‘encouraged’ to do so within the yellow swoosh footprint, but may go outside the indicative swoosh area if found necessary after further geotech and survey work. The proposed Sydney Water Tunnels surveys (EIS 12-57) could potentially see a dramatic change in the tunnel alignments in the Newtown area. Why were these surveys not done during the past three years such that ‘definitive’ rather than ‘indicative’ alignments could be published. The EIS should be withdrawn till such time that it is a true and fair ‘definitive’ document open for genuine public comment.
- It is obvious the NSW government is in a desperate rush to get planning approval for the M4/M5. It has only allowed 60 days for comment yet the M4/M5 project is the most expensive and complicated stage of WestConnex. Critically, it involves building three layers of underground tunnels under parts of Rozelle. Such tunnelling does not exist anywhere in the world and as yet there are no engineering plans for this complex construction. Approval depends on senior staff in NSW Planning compliantly agreeing to tick off on the EIS, as was done with the New M5 and the M4. This demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of the residents of Rozelle and those who will be using the tunnel. WHAT IS THE RUSH?
- The EIS does not provide any opportunity to comment on the urban design and landscape component of the project. It states that ‘a detailed review and finalisation of the architectural treatment of the project operational infrastructure would be undertaken ‘during detailed design’. The Community should be given an opportunity to comment upon and influence the design and we object to the approval of the EIS on the basis that this detail is not provided, nor is the community (or other stakeholders) given an opportunity to comment or influence the final design.
Inadequate Public Consultation/Failure of Planning Process/Failure to Consider Alternatives
- The decision to build a three-stage tollway instead of expanding public transport has never been subjected to democratic decision-making and in fact has been opposed by the great majority of submissions received in response to the Environmental Impact Statements for the first two stages.
- I am concerned that the EIS provides no reasons why the City of Sydney’s alternative plan might not be preferable to the proposed WestCONnex.
- There has been no independent consideration of alternatives, in particular of a major expansion of commuter rail transport. The Department should reject this inadequate EIS and have a review of the flawed processes that have already led to massive expenditure on the inadequate option of privatised toll roads. This proposal is out of step with contemporary urban planning.
- There has been no ‘meaningful’ consultation with the community. Some areas affected by M4/M5 have not even been letterboxed by SMC. These include St Peters and sections of Erskineville. The SMC received hundreds of submissions on its concept design and failed to respond to any of these before lodging this EIS.
- The EIS identifies hundreds of risks at different construction sites. It relation to these risks the EIS recommends proceeding despite the risks; or seeking a way to mitigate risks during the “detailed design” phase. That phase excludes the public altogether. That is, the M4/M5 should be approved with no calculation of risks or what mitigation may mean for impacted residents.
- The EIS at 7-25 refers to 876 comments (limited to 140 characters) made via the collaborative map on the Concept Design ‘up to July’ that were considered in the preparation of the EIS. It does not mention the many hundreds of extended written submissions that were lodged in late July and early August. These critical ‘community engagement’ feedback submissions have clearly not been considered in the preparation of the EIS. This casts doubt over the integrity of the entire EIS process.
- The EIS claims to have saved Blackmore Park and Easton Park due to negative community feedback. I am concerned that this is a false claim and that this site was never really in contention due to other physical factors. I would like NSW Planning to investigate whether this claim is correct to have heeded the community is false or not.
- SMC have made it all but impossible for the community to access hard copies of the EIS outside normal working and business hours. The Newtown Library only has one copy of the EIS, and has extremely limited opening hours. Monday and Wednesday: 10am to 7pm. Tuesday: 10am to 6pm. Thursday and Friday: 10am to 5pm. Saturday and Sunday: 11am to 4pm. This restricted access does NOT constitute open and fair community engagement.
- In order to access material from the EIS online one has to be computer literate, have a good desktop or laptop, have good eye sight and a good internet connection. I feel that this format of consultation is a farce and a violation of people’s right to develop a well-informed opinion of, and to influence the WestConnex project, which is having and will continue to have a huge impact on the environmental and social fabric of Sydney. It excludes those of us who do not have adequate time, material and informational resources to pour over the EIS. Thus, the data it contains and the consultation process more broadly is inaccessible to many people across Sydney. This really undermines the democratic principles that should underpin the planning process.
- The EIS at 7-21 states that Community update Newsletters were distributed to residents ‘near the project footprint’ in many suburbs. This statement is simply not correct. No such newsletters were received by residents in central and northern Newtown. SMC was made aware of this fact, but has not responded to verbal and written requests for audited confirmation of the addresses ‘letterboxed’. This statement of community engagement should be rejected by the Department.
- A lot of the information provided in the EIS will just not be accessible and decipherable to most people. The documents are only on display for 2 months. Residents who want to engage will have to read and understand an enormous amount of information in this period. Information which has been prepared my multiple specialists from across different fields from engineering to environmental science to computer programming. Doing this requires a significant amount of time, energy and knowledge. There are 123 files in the Environmental Impact Statement folder, which contain 30 chapters and 24 appendices, a total of over 7000 pages. It is totally unreasonable to expect people to process large parts of this information within the time limits provided. Communities around Sydney have banded together and pulled resources together to understand the EIS, but this has been a difficult process and the consultants who prepared the documents are not available to explain their work. While I am certainly not arguing for a dumbing down of the information or a cutting out of any details, this process is not really a consultation. In order to legitimately consult a significant number of people on much of the information provided in the EIS you need to make sure the assumptions and data analysis in the documents are clearly explained and accessible to most people. There is just absolutely no equal playing field between the bureaucrats, politicians, technical experts and corporate interests that lie behind the project and that have formulated the EIS, and those of us who are affected by the environmental and social damage it is doing.