Ms CLOVER MOORE
(Bligh) [5.30 p.m.]: The cross-city tunnel was promoted on the basis that it would remove traffic from Sydney city streets. However, residents in Bligh suffer the disruption and pollution around the tunnel portals in Rushcutters Bay and Darling Harbour. Residents from Potts Point, Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Paddington have written to me asking why they have to pay—whether through tolls, inconvenience or environmental impact—to generate a private profit. My constituents have experienced two years of construction impact, including noise, dust, loss of business and even damage to their homes in some cases. Now they are living with the effects of changed traffic conditions, and the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] does not expect this disruption to settle down for six months. The people who live around projects such as the cross-city tunnel must be involved very early in the planning process through genuine negotiations that recognise residents' rights. Since the planning of this project started I have called on the Government to consult the local community. When the RTA has listened, ways around problems have been found. When it has not listened, the problems have festered.
Initially, the Minister for Roads did not agree to my requests for comprehensive local area traffic management plans for all suburbs affected by the cross-city tunnel, as had successfully occurred for neighbourhoods adjacent to the Eastern Distributor. However, after much pressure the tunnel consent conditions required local traffic measures for Paddington, but only for Neild Avenue and Glenmore Road. Although the tunnel has opened, this work has not started. While Woollahra Council was hampered in developing its local traffic measures due to staff vacancies, the RTA might have avoided this problem had it included local traffic management as part of the tunnel planning process, as it did with the Eastern Distributor. Following my requests, the RTA agreed to consult local residents and business owners affected by the eastern tunnel portal, leading to some traffic management improvements in Rushcutters Bay. Again in Woolloomooloo, local residents and I had to argue against the proposed "G-loop" access to the Eastern Distributor.
In response the RTA investigated three options and listened to local residents, and came up with a better scheme allowing a right turn from William Street. This solution takes traffic off local streets and it is better than the original proposal, demonstrating that local knowledge is valuable, and that government agencies plan better when they use it. There were also important changes when the RTA agreed to my request to keep Cowper Wharf Road open to provide local access to the city. However, the RTA would not agree to my representations on behalf of local residents to keep access from Sir John Young Crescent to the Sydney Harbour tunnel.
The tunnel is now open but problems remain. I call on the Government to continue working with the City of Sydney to monitor traffic and air pollution and assess community impact; filter tunnel stacks to remove toxins and greenhouse gases from Sydney's air; ensure urgent completion of local traffic measures in Paddington; restore all construction damage and reinstate former construction sites, particularly the open space under the viaduct, which the local community values as parks; and plant additional trees along high-traffic roads to reduce the impact on nearby residents.
The problems with the tunnel are symptoms of a larger problem with the Government's failure to develop long-term transport and infrastructure plans that have community support. I urge the Government to develop an integrated transport strategy that recognises the priority of public transport over private cars in the city, and public benefit over private profit. The policy also should support walking and cycling. The continued ad-hoc building of inner city tollways without parallel commitment to a rail-based public transport network is not compatible with Sydney's continuing residential consolidation. Without an efficient alternative to the private motorcar, investing in tollways just shifts congestion elsewhere. In the longer term, traffic will build up and cause gridlock again.
It is essential that Sydney has an integrated traffic and transport plan that includes public transport services that are regular, reliable, adequate, safe and clean, and designed to serve the changed needs of the twenty-first century—as in most other Australian and global cities; pedestrian networks that are safe, accessible and pleasant to use; safe, dedicated local cycleways linked to a comprehensive metropolitan network; a high-volume public transport system using light rail to connect train and bus routes in a synchronised manner; a ban on car parking on our parklands to return open space for recreation; and a new vision for road planning that breaks the stranglehold of the RTA over transport infrastructure. Under Minister Knowles the metropolitan transport strategy was being developed. He was, I understand, delivered a printed report. It would be a healthy start to a new, consultative approach to planning if the new Minister for Planning would release the document to the public.