• Tony Bosworth

Potential threat to WSU’s world-leading research as Green Route set to impact Richmond uni lands

Western Sydney University is in talks with Transport for NSW "to understand how the Richmond Bridge project will impact on the campus, including its valuable research, experiment and biodiversity sites and bushfire mitigation and recovery research programs”.

The planned bypass will cut through these Richmond wetlands

While the finer details of the half billion dollar Richmond Bridge Green Route’s path are still being worked on, we already know a new stretch of road will plough through part of the university’s wetlands alongside Southee Rd in Richmond, and will also affect The Driftway.

At both Racecourse Rd and the Driftway, WSU manage "native vegetation for biodiversity conservation and bushfire mitigation, and that includes regionally significant wetlands”, a WSU spokesperson told the Post today.

Southee Rd locals are among several groups fighting hard for the route to be changed because they believe it will also heavily impact their homes through increased noise and pollution levels, plus loss of views and amenity – TfNSW plans a concrete wall topped with see-through glass to separate Southee Rd from the new road – and many have been photographing the local wildlife currently visiting those WSU wetlands in a bid to raise public awareness and ultimately get the route changed.

Ibis and Spoonbills are regular visitors to the Southee Rd wetlands

The large paddocks of land adjacent to Southee Rd is Crown Land leased to the university as part of its world-class research programs. A large lagoon sits at the Castlereagh Rd end, as well as several ponds, which can come and go depending on the seasons, and it’s a haven for birdlife and native animals.

Southee Road resident Joy Robson who set up a Facebook page, Save Our Streets, told us, “every day I see the eastern grey kangaroos who use the exact planned Green road route. They are growing in number and currently have joeys in their pouches.

“The Spoonbills are nesting. Ibis, White Faced Herons and wood ducks are there. We have also noticed the wide variety of frogs, including Green Tree frogs, and many other varieties.”

Ms Robson says the frogs also rely on Southee Rd drains, which they will not be able to reach once the wall barrier and road goes in.

WSU’s sprawling Hawkesbury campus holds a range of significant environmental assets which are managed as living labs for teaching, research and community engagement.

“Within the main campus,” the WSU spokesperson told the Post, “this includes 400 hectares of remnant Cumberland Plain vegetation, water recycling in partnership with Sydney Water, stormwater harvesting and reuse, and the Hawkesbury Farm. The University’s Riverfarm also includes important riparian vegetation along the Hawkesbury River.

"These environmental assets are the focus of significant research efforts, particularly led by the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. Significant research includes the EucFACE site and collaborations between the University’s School of Science and Sydney Water Corporation,” said the spokesperson.

Southee Rd as is (left), and TfNSW artist's impression of the same road with glass-topped concrete wall

“The campus environment and initiatives reflect developing best practice in peri-urban landscape management, reinforcing an identity respectful of history and indigenous custodianship, and forward looking to address climate change risks and the role of Hawkesbury in the future of Western Sydney.

“The University welcomes the opportunity to provide further feedback into this process [about the planned Green Route] and achieve a suitable outcome that minimises the project impacts.”

The Richmond Bridge duplication and bypass got the official nod in June, with the Green Route chosen as TfNSW’s preferred option. Since the announcement there has been a chorus of complaints from potentially affected residents and businesses, including those who own and run polo fields on Richmond Lowlands.

Back in 2019 on the eve of the then general election, $200m was promised for a new bridge and over the past three years that has now risen to half a billion dollars, the increase announced in June on the banks of the Hawkesbury River by a group of Liberal politicians in a blaze of publicity - Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the then Premier Gladys Berejiklian, two State ministers, Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Marise Payne, a Federal Minister, and a single Hawkesbury councillor, Sarah Richards, who is likely to be announced soon as the Liberal candidate for the second time for the Federal seat of Macquarie. She lost in 2019 to current Labor MP Susan Templeman by a couple of hundred votes, making Macquarie the most marginal seat in the country. Ms Richards is also standing again as a Liberal councillor in the upcoming December 4 Hawkesbury council election.

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