Community being ignored over concerns about North Richmond bridge duplication route - MP Templeman
Updated: Sep 16
Questions from the community around the process for the duplication of the Richmond Bridge are being flatly ignored by government, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said today.
At half a billion dollars, the project is one of the biggest infrastructure undertakings the Hawkesbury has ever seen, and Ms Templeman said she shared residents’ frustration over a lack of answers on the preferred route for the new bridge – the so-called Green Route.
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has held online meetings on Facebook Live – face-to-face meetings cannot be held because of pandemic restrictions - however Ms Templeman says many residents’ questions simply don’t get addressed.
“People have been valiantly trying to get questions answered by Transport for NSW about the preferred option for the Richmond Bridge, and I am as frustrated as they are at the lack of response,” Ms Templeman said.
“I’ve been on all the Facebook Live events, I’ve seen people asking questions, and they’re either getting only partial answers or being outright ignored.
“It’s not good enough. Residents deserve to have their questions addressed, including outlining changes made to the project when an additional $250 million of federal funding was announced.
“There are many things we simply don’t know the answers to.
“I’ve also been continually denied any briefing on this project as the Federal Member for the area, despite the fact 80 per cent of the $500 million involved is from federal coffers.
“The NSW Minister for Transport has refused to brief me, and the Federal Minister says it’s not his problem.
“By contrast, I am regularly given briefings for projects happening on the Blue Mountains side of the electorate. I know what should be happening, and I can see what isn’t happening.
“The Richmond Bridge duplication is a once-in-a-generation chance to build something great. So why is there no transparency? What have they got to hide?
“It’s no wonder the community is questioning the process.”
Our MP is not the only one questioning the lack of information, and what often looks like stonewalling on the part of TfNSW.
A group called Richmond Matters –they have not revealed exactly who they are but appear to be primarily wealthy landowners on Richmond Lowlands – is trying to find out why the Green Route was chosen, and they don’t believe, given all the facts, it’s the right choice by any margin.
"You’ve just got to ask why the government is so hell-bent on pushing ahead with the Green Route when TfNSW didn't want it, the community doesn’t want it, it fails to provide flood resilience and doesn't meet any of their criteria for the project. Who ultimately made the decision to chose this route against advice, and why?” a spokesperson told the Post today.
“After numerous enquiries and requests TfNSW have declared they are withholding the hydrology study which was used to design the Green Route,” said the spokesperson.
“The TfNSW Project Development Manager told Richmond Matters by email on Tuesday we would need to seek the information under a formal application (GIPA) with the government.”
“It must be highlighted that there seems to be no evidence that the Green Route is the ‘preferred route’ of the community.
"Richmond Matters have repeatedly asked TfNSW to quantify this claim and have received nothing,” said the spokesperson.
Richmond’s Southee Road resident Joy Robson – who is leading that street’s opposition to the proposed preferred route which will ruin the residents’ views if a new road is built right in front of them, not to mention increased traffic noise – says many locals are being kept in the dark.
Ms Robson, who started Facebook page Save Our Streets (SOS), says, as an example, older residents are being completely ignored.
“TfNSW has not recognised that a group who cannot have their say on the routes are elderly who often do not have computer access,” she says.
Notes put together by SOS and delivered to local homes this last weekend as part of their bid to get the Green Route changed as the preferred route. The group has also signposted Southee Rd this last weekend
“They often also do not have access to friends and family. This means that COVID has prevented this part of the community from having any input.
“Despite their strong interest in the route proposed as preferred, their involvement is dramatically reduced.
“Some people were trying to assist this group but again COVID restrictions had made that impossible. I know of one person who was asked to visit nursing homes to assist people living independently to understand this information, or lack thereof,” said Ms Robson.
Ms Templeman says she “will continue to fight for residents to have proper consultation, as well as answers to the questions they are very rightly asking on this major project”.
Hawkesbury Council are also asking questions and getting in on the action – their involvement in the project is simply to represent ratepayers, but they want some answers too – and have decided to include in their submission on the plans that while they welcome the investment they have questions about the social impact, heritage issues, and generally would like more information so councillors can consider the route options in a well informed way.
The Liberal team who announced the $500m bridge duplication in North Richmond - Senator Marise Payne, sole Hawkesbury council representative at the event, Cllr Sarah Richards, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Federal Minister Paul Fletcher and Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Ms Templeman emailed Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, again on Tuesday (September 14) requesting “additional opportunities to discuss the Richmond Bridge Duplication proposal” for the community.
“[The Facebook sessions] seem like a “tick and flick” exercise – something for the Department to endure, rather than embrace. Without more genuine virtual engagement, or allowing face-to-face sessions, it is impossible for the community to feel that its concerns are being seriously listened to,” the email to the Minister said.
Mary Lyons-Buckett (Hawkesbury’s Deputy Mayor) was on the community reference group for the Richmond Bridge Duplication Project representing Council as Chair of the now dissolved Council Floodplain Risk Management Advisory Committee. Cllr Lyons-Buckett said it was important to make it clear in the Council’s submission that they required the outstanding information and answers the community are calling for.
She said the community reference group - of several community representatives, as well as Cllr Danielle Wheeler as Chair of the Heritage Committee - had been in regular meetings with TfNSW representatives leading up to the stage where the preferred routes were being analysed.
"The next step was that there were going to be further consultations before the route was released," she said.
“However, next thing a political announcement was made, declaring the Green Route as being preferred, and an additional $250 million for the project,” said Cllr Lyons-Buckett.
“This was very disappointing given the previous commitment to the consultation as scheduled, as well as being very distressing for residents who were unaware this route was going to impact their properties.
“It is important now that the project is reviewed in the context of the additional funding, and taking on board the community feedback and questions that people await answers about,” she said.
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