Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Concerns raised by local governments and communities

4.1        This chapter discusses concerns about the Perth Freight Link raised by local governments and communities, and in particular addresses evidence concerning:

Lack of consultation

4.2        The committee received evidence suggesting that the Commonwealth and state governments did not undertake appropriate or sufficient consultation about the Perth Freight Link with local governments, industry stakeholders and the communities who would be affected the most by the project.

Local government and industry stakeholders

4.3        The Mayors of Fremantle, East Fremantle and Cockburn all told the committee their communities would be negatively affected by the Freight Link. All agreed that they first heard of the project through the media and had no contact with Main Roads WA until well after the Budget announcement had been made.[1] Councillor Logan Howlett, Mayor of the City of Cockburn, reflected that the Freight Link was presented by the state government as the only potential option for transport infrastructure to support Fremantle Port:

...the level of public consultation with regard to Roe 8 focused only on one option and that was to build Roe 8. There were no other options put forward to be considered by the community.[2]

4.4        Even the City of Melville, which supports the Freight Link proposal, conceded that they had not been consulted by Main Roads WA on the Freight Link proposal until June 2014, well after the project was announced.[3]

4.5        Regarding industry stakeholders, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), told the committee that key stakeholders in the freight sector, including the main leaseholders of the Fremantle Port and the MUA, had not been consulted over the Freight Link proposal.[4]

Local communities

4.6        Main Roads WA maintains that plans for the Freight Link were developed with extensive and 'award-winning community consultation'.[5] However, the committee received a great deal of evidence that challenged this, and suggested the communities that would be affected most by the project were not consulted until after plans had been decided and announced.

4.7        The committee heard that many communities did not feel as if they could challenge or inform the development of the project, as its parameters had already been set by the state government. For example, Mrs Kim Dravnieks, Campaign Coordinator, Rethink the Link, commented:

Consultation is not about just hearing somebody and ignoring it. It is finding out what those impacts are. For anyone trying to design anything, if you have not been out and talked to the stakeholders you are not designing a full design; you have no idea of what those impacts are. And this is what has happened with the Perth Freight Link. It has been put on top of us. There has not been that consultation this time round...[6]

4.8        Ms Kate Jones, Vice-President, Hamilton Hill Community Group, also submitted that state government consultation had been poor, and noted how this had affected her community:

There has been no meaningful engagement, no information, no traffic modelling, no costings, nothing about stage 2 - nothing that assists in bringing the people of Hamilton Hill or other affected communities along in the process... The approach the government is taking at the moment lacks openness; it lacks transparency and distances the government from its people...The people of Hamilton Hill are in the dark, and the WA government is giving them nothing to fill the void, nothing to help them understand how it intends to manage the impacts of the PFL on their lives. This makes them scared for their future. It makes them angry, too - angry at being rendered invisible, overlooked and ignored.[7]

4.9        Mr Joe Branco, Action Convenor, North Lake Residents, spoke of the frustration of many communities who felt as if they were only consulted in a tokenistic way, after the decision to implement certain policies had already been made:

This brings me to a very key point in our submission: there is no point to consultation when there is no other option but to build a highway. What is the point? Why spend all that taxpayer money if the consultation is about: 'Where you would like your little plaque to be placed on the road? Where would you like these little flowers to go once we put the six-lane highway there?' Consultation means that you have a democratic right to challenge the word on [the state government's] own pamphlets which says 'proposed'. It is a proposal that the community have a right to challenge. This consultation process had none of that—none of that at all.[8]

Negative effects of the Freight Link for local communities

4.10      Many submissions made by the individuals and local communities that will be most affected by the Freight Link raised concerns to the committee, including:

Damage to the natural environment

4.11      The committee received evidence that argued the proposed Roe Highway extension through North Lake and Bibra Lake would cause significant damage to the natural environment (see map below). Moreover, some submissions highlighted that the decision to implement the Roe 8 extension contradicts earlier advice from the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).[9]

4.12      In their submission, North Lake Residents drew the committee's attention to a 1988 study that found that the area is 'probably the most important fauna conservation location in the [Perth] metropolitan area'.[10] Ms Katharine Kelly, Chair, Save Beeliar Wetlands Inc. told the committee that the Beeliar Wetlands contained significant and rare species of plants and animals, including the graceful sun moth, an unidentified and potentially unique millipede, as well as rare woody pears and orchids.[11]

4.13      As discussed in chapter 2, the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) advised that the Freight Link should be approved subject to the following conditions being met:

Proposed roe highway extension road reserve through North and Bilbra Lakes

4.14      Some witnesses argued that this approval contradicts earlier advice from the EPA undertaken as part of the state government's Freight Network Review in 2003. Although no formal proposal for the Roe 8 extension was being considered at the time, the EPA assessed that any construction through the Beeliar Regional Park would be environmentally damaging as:

...the overall impacts of construction within the alignment, or any alignment through the Beeliar Regional Park in the vicinity of North Lake and Bibra Lake, would lead to the ecological values of the area as a whole being diminished in the long-term.[13]

4.15      In a Supreme Court hearing for the challenge to the Freight Link mounted by the Save the Beeliar Wetlands group, a lawyer for the EPA conceded that the agency did not follow its earlier advice when it approved the Roe 8 extension.[14]

4.16      Dr Danielle Brady submitted that the Beeliar Wetlands could not be 'offset' as they were a unique and irreplaceable natural resource:

Offsetting with 'like for like or better' is a key principal of both State and Federal environmental guidelines. As the Beeliar Wetlands system is unique, it cannot be offset by the purchase of additional land (details of which have not been provided in the offset package).The offset package contravenes the EPAs own guidelines which, in general terms, preclude offsetting of critical assets including Public Conservation Reserve Lands, Bush Forever lands, native vegetation of high conservation value and wetlands.[15]

4.17      Some evidence taken by the committee spoke about the potential negative effects of the Freight Link on the environment more generally. For example, Mr Samuel Wainwright, Spokesperson, Fremantle Road to Rail Campaign, suggested that the Freight Link would increase the total carbon emissions produced:

Although transport contributes to about a third of our emissions, it is the fastest-growing greenhouse gas contributor. All significant transport investments should have as an aim the qualitative reduction in emissions. Instead, Perth Freight Link, by its own definition, seeks to increase them. In the 21st century, investing in freeways is the equivalent of building new coal fired power stations. There has to be a different path.[16]

4.18      The committee understands that, in late 2015, the Supreme Court of Western Australia found the environmental approvals for the Roe 8 works were invalid. The committee also understands that the Western Australian government is appealing this decision, and that this process could take up to one year.[17]

Indigenous sacred and culturally significant sites

4.19      Some evidence to the committee highlighted the spiritual and cultural significance of the Beeliar Wetlands for Indigenous Australians. Additionally, concerns were raised about the process by which consent for the Roe 8 works was granted by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in September 2015.[18]

4.20      The North Lake Residents highlighted that the National Trust of Australia (WA) found the North/Bibra Lakes to be a site of historic and ongoing cultural significance for the local Noongar people, containing 'many registered and mythological sites'.[19] Councillor Logan Howlett, Mayor of the City of Cockburn, told the committee that there were 13 registered Aboriginal sacred sites around the North and Bibra Lake area.[20]

4.21      Ms Lynn McLaren MLC submitted that the current Roe 8 plans would extend the highway directly through the largest site of mythological significance in the area:

The largest of these sites is a registered mythological site known as DAA 3709 which encompasses North and Bibra lakes and is known as the birthplace of the Waugyl, a serpent of great spiritual significance to the Nyoongar people of Perth and the South-West. The proposed path of Roe 8 runs directly through DAA3709.[21]

4.22      Reverend Sealin Garlett, Chairperson, Cockburn Aboriginal Reference Group, spoke of the ongoing spiritual relationship that local Indigenous communities had with the land around Bibra Lake:

On that land, in the area that we are sharing today, there are food resources, there is medicine and there is healing. I, for one, and my family still practice those medicines that we get from that area now.

We as Aboriginal people find that that area has a tremendous impact and sense of belonging. There is a pride when we look at that place and say, 'That belongs to yesterday and will go with us today and will go with us tomorrow.' As Indigenous people we hold that area up very highly because it is a part of our dreaming. It is a part of our connection and it is a part of our identification. It is part of our identity, of being able to access that place as Indigenous people.[22]

Concerns about Indigenous heritage consent

4.23      Regarding the heritage consent granted for the Roe 8 extension by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Main Roads WA states:

The local knowledge shared by the Traditional Owners, which included an emphasis on minimising impacts on sacred and mythological sites, rehabilitating degraded areas of the wetlands and maintaining hydrological and ecological links, has helped shape the project's preferred design, construction approach, footprint and alignment.[23]

4.24      However, consultations in 2010 and 2012 suggest that there was no clear approval from local Indigenous stakeholders. An ABC news story suggests surveys undertaken by Main Roads WA with traditional owners in 1987, 2010 and 2012 found significant opposition to highway works being built over the Beeliar Wetlands:

[From the 1987 survey] 'A number of Aboriginal people consulted are implacably opposed to the proposed highway development between the two lakes'... 'All people consulted would prefer a situation where the highway did not pass between the lakes. However the majority did not want to be seen as opposing the Main Roads Department'...

[From the 2010 survey] 'Of the 54 people consulted, 26 expressed approval of MRWA/SMC’s plans to seek approval under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act (1972) for registered sites including no. 3709 to be disturbed to allow the highway extension to proceed. A total of 28 others were not in favour'

[From the 2012 Survey] 'A total of 45 people who participated in seven consultation sessions between 21 and 25 May 2012, most had taken part in the initial survey... Most remained opposed to the highway extension plans'.[24]

4.25      The committee heard some concerns that due process had not been followed in the 2015 decision made by the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC) that overturned its 2013 heritage assessments. Ms Lynn McLaren MLC outlined how the decision made was not transparent in her submission: February 2013, the ACMC recommended consent [for Roe 8] was not granted 'based on the ethnographic significance of the sites' and objections raised by the 'majority of Aboriginal (sic) consulted'.

...For reasons that do not stand up to scrutiny, the ACMC was asked to reconsider its decision in June 2015 at which point it agreed to the Section 18 application.

The WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister’s explanation to date for the re-referral to the ACMC and the CMC’s change of heart does not make sense. The Minister has referred to 'new information about the archaeological heritage places on the land' but given the major site in question is a mythological site, not archaeological, any archaeological data should have no bearing on the information on the decision.[25]

4.26      The committee understands that a case is currently before the Western Australian Supreme Court challenging the Roe 8 extension on indigenous heritage grounds.[26]

Other heritage sites

4.27      The committee received evidence that Roe 8 works could irreparably damage other significant heritage sites in the Bibra Lake area.

4.28      Some submitters were concerned that roadwork over the Bibra Lake area would destroy a recently-discovered Australian Women's Army Service Searchlight Station, which was built during World War II. These submitters emphasised that this site is the only one of its kind in Australia and is yet to be researched comprehensively.[27]

4.29      The committee also received submissions highlighting potential negative outcomes for the Randwick Stables, currently Perth's oldest working stables and listed on the permanent State Heritage Registry as a class-A site.[28] Submissions were concerned that these stables are located on land owned by Main Roads WA, which could be used for tunnelled sections of the Freight Link. Moreover, it was also suggested that the stables could not continue to be used to stable horses should Roe 8 proceed.[29]

Uncertainty in the reacquisition process for some home owners

4.30      The committee also received evidence from some individuals whose houses are set to be repossessed by the state government and demolished to make way for the Freight Link.[30] Ms Tania Smirke told the committee that uncertainty over the implementation of the Freight Link continued to affect her family profoundly:

I stand to lose my home of nearly 18½ years, a home that started off as a modest four by two but is still being renovated by me, my husband and my four boys to become a seven-by-four dream castle...After we received the letter...from Main Roads - that we received on 22 April...we got on the website. It showed the preferred route was the one that destroyed our home. There was no mention of what the other options were, only that they had been considered. If they have been considered, where were they and why weren't they mentioned?[31]

4.31      Mr James Gleeson outlined to the committee the effects of his house being forcibly acquired by the state government and demolished for the Freight Link proposal:

On 20th April 2015 we were given this information, and we are still left hanging in the air, on our future, which has caused a lot of worry and stress to the people of [my area]... I do not want to lose my home, as at my age (88) I don’t know where I can relocate. My mobility is limited, and I would have big problems trying to wind up this home and move to I don’t know where.[32]

4.32      Ms Smirke told the committee how frustrating communication from the state government and the relevant minister on the implementation of the Freight Link had been:

Suddenly, on Friday afternoon just gone, we received a call from [an adviser] who works in the transport minister's office. He said it was too hard for the minister to personally talk to us but he wanted to tell us he would have everything he needed to make his decision by the middle of this month, and that it would be [the adviser], not the minister—who would call us and tell us whether we had lost our homes. They want to take our homes, yet they will not come and see us to let us know our fate. This is wrong. Surely we deserve better than that.[33]

Other negative effects on the community

4.33      A number of other concerns were raised about the Freight Link's effects on the health and recreational opportunities enjoyed by local communities.

Community health

4.34      Proponents of the Freight Link project have suggested it would lead to improved health outcomes for local communities by reducing pollution and increasing public safety from the reduction of traffic volumes on some roads.[34] However, the committee received evidence that suggested that pollution would actually increase for many local residents and, moreover, that it could make some roads more dangerous.

4.35      The summary of the Freight Link Business Case estimates that it would remove 500 trucks per day from the Leach Highway by 2031, 'reducing noise and increasing mobility by removing slower vehicles from the road'.[35] Some submissions noted that conflicting figures had been released by Main Roads WA. For example, Miss Pascale Angliss observed that:

It is stated in the Business Case published in December 2014 that the Project will benefit the community by removing 500 fewer trucks per day on sections of Leach Highway by 2031... This is in contrast to more recent figures released by Main Roads that Roe 8 at completion will "divert approximately 2000 heavy vehicles from (a particular) section of Leach Highway".[36]

4.36      Ms Christine Cooper, Chairperson, Bibra Lake Residents Association Inc., told the committee that increased traffic being diverted away from main roads could cause many issues for local residents:

The 5,000 trucks per day will cause major issues such as noise, light and serious health issues resulting from diesel pollution for those living in the areas and the children attending the closely located schools. There will be traffic congestion issues for our residents, as important local roads will be permanently closed if the highway is built. Congestion issues that exist now will be transferred to our suburbs.[37]

4.37      Ugo di Marchi, Member, Bibra Lake Residents Association and Coolbellup Community Association, suggested the government recognised there would be significant leakage from the Freight Link, which would have uncertain effects that had not been modelled sufficiently:

In the state government Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations, Main Roads, when questioned, admitted that with, as a conservative figure, 42 per cent of the 1.3 million trucks using the road, there will be a leakage to suburban streets. That is at the maximum number of trucks on the Perth Freight Link in here; it quotes 2031. That is on page 30 of the report by the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations of the state government. Not everybody is going to use Perth Freight Link. They will still proliferate on the other roads. So, as we all know, why should Roe 8 go ahead when we are not sure what is going to happen and whether all of the trucks will be using it?[38]

Reducing recreational and educational community activities

4.38      Some evidence received by the committee highlighted the negative effects of the Freight Link on community educational and recreation activities that take place in the Beeliar Wetlands. For example, North Lake Residents submitted that extending Roe 8 as planned would significantly reduce the recreational and educational opportunities available to the local community, citing a 2004 EPA report that found:

The environs surrounding North Lake and Bibra Lake currently support recreational activities which involve cycling, walking, exercising, picnicking and educational pursuits for school and university students.... Currently, the Cockburn Wetlands Education Centre is located within the Beeliar Regional Park and is utilised by [a various number of] groups such as the Bibra Lake Scouts, the Wetlands Conservation Society, Friends of Ken Hurst Park, [and the] Wildlife Conservation Society.[39]

4.39      Councillor Howlett, Mayor of the City of Cockburn, also highlighted the effects of the Freight Link on the recreational opportunities for local communities:

Importantly, over and above that, Roe 8 impacts on wetlands, on the banksia woodlands and on the recreational opportunities of thousands of people who come to this location every year—it is the most used recreational area in the City of Cockburn, and probably has been for the last 30 years. It is in a pristine state.[40]

Effects on Fremantle and surrounding areas

4.40      The committee received evidence that the Freight Link would damage the long-term viability of Fremantle as a living and working city. The study undertaken for the City of Fremantle by Professor Newman and Dr Hendrigan found the project would damage the liveability and economic health of the city and its surrounding areas in a number of ways, including:

4.41      The following chapter sets out the views and recommendations of the committee.

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