Fear and loathing in Earlwood: locals galvanise and say no to WestConnex

Anna Le Masurier

Last Wednesday night, residents from Earlwood, Bexley and Turrella ventured into the Earlwood Senior Citizens' Hall. What drew them out of their homes on a steamy mid-weeknight, away from their TVs and after-dinner wines, was the Wolli Creek Preservation Society’s (WCPS) rallying call to find out how the WestConnex toll road would affect them. 

It was standing room only. The chairs we'd put out filled quickly; people continued streaming in 5, 10, 15 minutes after the start time of 7:30 until they were massed at the back  of the hall, like sentinels, with their arms crossed and eyebrows cocked. 

The WCPS organising team, which included me, were somewhat relieved. Collectively we'd spent many hours over many days designing ads for the local papers, posting updates on social media, drafting motions, meeting at local houses to finalise agendas, letter boxing affected suburbs, writing press releases, putting together presentations, calling on speakers. But there's always that concern - like the fear lurking in the back of teenagers' minds - what if we hold a party and nobody comes?

The main microphone stopped working (lucky there was a spare); the hall lights were either all on or all off; the whine from muscle cars intruded from Homer St outside - but 150 people left the hall after 1.5 hours with a strong understanding of:

  • how WestConnex is not the panacea to Sydney's traffic congestion that the Government is promising
  • what the public transport alternatives are - park and ride options, light rail, heavy rail etc - compared to a whopping great concrete motorway hoovering up green space and homes
  • how there is no safe level of particulates in the atmosphere, yet the Government is looking at engineering designs which will blow out toxic fumes in intense bursts at either ends for the new M5 East tunnel

Thanks to those who came, who voted overwhelmingly for the motion at the end of the meeting (rejecting government funding of the WestConnex toll road project, calling for public transport to be prioritised, and requesting that local bushland and other green space be preserved) and to my fellow WCPS collaborators who worked hard to increase local awareness of this Government white elephant!