Bondi Rail Project
BONDI RAIL PROJECT
Mr DEBNAM (Vaucluse) [5.29 p.m.]: The Bondi local community is concerned that the proposed rail project is in limbo. In early December I wrote to the consultants undertaking the environmental impact statement and pointed out that the extension of the rail line to Bondi Beach was not receiving good community support and that opposition to the concept was increasing daily. Many residents were angry that the Government’s proposal appeared to provide considerable benefits for tourists but not for residents. Effectively, the rail extension is perceived as a premium tourist tunnel between the beach and the city with accompanying social, and law and order problems. When I wrote that letter I pointed out that law and order difficulties associated with the rail extension would be aggravated by the Government’s decision to downgrade the police presence at Bondi Beach, including the apparent cancellation of the proposed new police station.
Rumours abounded from government sources that the police station was not going to proceed. I emphasise to the Government that if the rail service is extended to Bondi Beach and the police station is not established on the block of land that has been vacant for 15 years, significant problems will be created. I suggest that the Government re-examine the matter if it is seriously considering putting the construction of the police station on the backburner. My letter pointed out that if the heavy rail extension were reworked to move the station out of the beach park - perhaps incorporating it with a new police station in the shopping precinct - and a mid-station were placed on Bondi ridge, large numbers of residents would be attracted to it as regular rail commuters. That concept may receive more community support.
My letter stated further that the light rail concept must be seriously evaluated. I was pleased to receive a letter in January from the EIS consultants, who noted all the points I had raised and said they correlated with many other points raised by community groups during a stakeholder meeting. They said the significance of the issues would be evaluated during the EIS process. The consultants pointed out also that feasible alternatives, including light rail, would be properly investigated - I hope they are. Since January it appears that the Government has suffered severe indigestion in relation to the Bondi rail project. Rumour has it - I can only work on rumours because the Government does not provide information to me - that a discussion paper was prepared within the Rail Access Corporation or the Department of Transport and circulated in January, but it has been held up in one of the departments and has not been issued to the local community. The community expected the paper to be released in February or in March, but it is now April and it has not surfaced. Everyone is concerned at the disappearance of that discussion paper.
In February I wrote to the Rail Access Corporation asking for a copy of that discussion paper. I said that the community was concerned about many aspects of the project and was anxious to review the paper. In March the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport wrote to me, but did not mention the discussion paper. I am convinced the discussion paper exists. The letter stated that in due course everything would happen through the EIS process. However, the letter stated also that the EIS process would identify the best possible transport solution for Bondi Beach. I hope the Government takes note of that because undoubtedly, after a proper review, it will learn that light rail is the best option. The Government has been silent on the process - apart from these few letters - so I issued a press release to the local community that emphasised my concerns and asked the Government to come clean on the plans for the Bondi Beach rail extension. I pointed out that the local member and the community were losing confidence in the Bondi rail EIS process and that the Government must give careful consideration to the project.
The Government may not have substantial support for this project, but if further support is lost it will experience problems. For some months I have
asked the Government to release the discussion paper. I ask the Minister for Gaming and Racing to ask his colleagues to come clean with the discussion paper as soon as possible. The local community is concerned about this project. It is time for the Government to come clean about its plans. I thought the discussion paper would be issued before the Parliament resumed; perhaps it will be issued at Easter when the Parliament has concluded this two-week session. When the Government decides to release the paper it should be properly circulated throughout the community.
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.34 p.m.]: The honourable member for Vaucluse has intertwined the police with the Bondi Beach rail extension project. I have little doubt that he will keep talking up this issue politically. While I am not a lawyer, I learned very early in my police career that assumption is not a matter of fact. Of course, much information about the Bondi Beach rail extension is based on rumour. However, I will forward the honourable member’s convoluted speech to the Minister for Transport and to the Minister for Police to see whether they can fathom something out of it and thus help resolve the speculation of the honourable member for Vaucluse about the project.
Private members’ statements noted.
House adjourned at 5.36 p.m.