Open letter to the NSW Government

Tree loss3 northsydney WHT

Mayor Zoë Baker expresses her deep concerns about the Western Harbour Tunnel and the loss of natural habitat.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the NSW Government is set to reverse the construction techniques for the Western Harbour Tunnel which will require a new harbourfront site for a massive boring machine (Major U-turn in construction plans for Sydney’s Western Harbour Tunnel 4, November 2022).

This will result in significant changes to the project as approved. The length of the tunnels, gradients, route and location of the dive sites for construction will have to change. 

The NSW Government has not explained the environmental impacts of these changes and seems determined, no matter what, to enter into construction contracts before the end of this year and before the March election.

The early works for the Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway Upgrade are proceeding at pace, cutting a swathe of environmental destruction across the North Sydney local government area from Cammeray Park to High Street reserve. 

More than 1000 trees and precious urban habitat have been lost for a project without a public business case and which seems to change in scope, route and construction methodology daily.

In June, North Sydney Council called on the NSW Government to halt and reassess the project in terms of need and priority. In September, we called on the Government to not enter into any contracts prior to the election in March and called on the Federal Government to not provide funding for these projects until a review of the project had taken place.

We reiterate those calls today. STOP. REASSESS. Come clean with the public about the business case. Answer our questions about cost, routes, construction and the need for a new environmental impact assessment.

What sort of contract has been signed that there is no room to move when circumstances change? This project is costing the people of NSW billions of dollars, and the people of North Sydney their quality of life.

If the project is really worth that price, then the NSW Government shouldn’t need to hide behind a veil of secrecy. A sensible and responsive government would seize the opportunity with these tunnelling changes to reconsider the best use of taxpayers' money before throwing good money after bad.

Zoë Baker, Mayor of North Sydney

Published: 14 November 2022