Northern Beaches Catastrophe

Mike Baird got himself into the mother of all disasters –  when first we set out to deceive, oh what a tangled web we weave!  The Manly-Warringah Peninsula communities have been systematically deceived and betrayed.  That continued, with Abbott MP’s excursions into the 2019 Federal Election.  The reverence which is shown to Gladys Berejiklian is reflected in the disastrous confusion that is her trademark, becoming lore as well as law in the fused NSW/Canberra “bubble”, without deliberation or engagement:

Rozelle mess

Source:  SMH which cited “NSW Dept of Transport”

The Baird/SHOROC Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) cycle, which morphed into a massive freeway because WestConnex was so badly “planned”, shows a lack of understanding of the balance between infrastructure, land development pressures and taxation burdens – all affecting equity, lifestyle quality and affordability.  The current road and bus developments in the Peninsula are being criticised by local experts as reflecting inexperts’ confusion.

Berejiklian has not learnt from the incredible waste her projects – every one of them – produced since she knee-capped the Parra/Epping Link in 2010.  She is pursuing a lunatic cruise line terminal against the KSA runways, in a location that is ugly (industrial-brute, not Sydney Harbour), and lacking in land and seas links – yes, it is insane but no, it is not surprising.

And that is what has been revealed as the “Rozelle solution”.  More backroom shenanigans by parvenues, no expert “pre-planning” – just make-it-up-as-you-go, no learning from Grattan .  It is not a solution, it is loony-tunes inflicted on future generations which will freak-out at the cost of relocation, re-engineering and replacement – as with the Metro tunnels.

The professional ways of the past were reflected in the considered, affordable BRT strategy given to Mike Baird MP in 2008.  That disappeared into the Peninsula maelstrom and morphed into an impractical mish-mash.  BRT had been proposed to Warringah Council in 2004 but rejected without logic.

The Northern Beaches Peninsula has special environmental and lifestyle characteristics.  Congestion will be worsened by rail-based or freeway infrastructure because UrbanGrowth NSW, Greater Sydney Commission, Treasury and Planning will over-densify, adding proportionately more congestion.

The Pittwater MP was Planning Minister as was the MP for Wakehurst and neither was regarded as adding value.  “Transport” should be part of an holistic Metro Strategy that Sydney does not have, “bit arse-about” said Greiner.  Baird says population increase has to come before rail investment, another planning no-no (NRMA:   “Government must plan and build for tomorrow, not for today”) to go with chronic non-consideration of better options.

Berejiklian threw petrol on the fire with her March ’17 “the Western Harbour Tunnel was “absolutely integral” to the Beaches Link, and were likely to be undertaken as part of a single project” and “we are absolutely committed to building this piece of infrastructure” (without any indication or awareness of the strategic issues between the CBD/Peninsula zone or the need to compare options through a professional business case).  Unfortunately the NRMA was cheering this on.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t? – NO, sensible planning is the better way.  Pushing populist politicians out of the way of commonsense is the aim of the Grattan Institute and Gibbons.  In November 2010 Baird attacked a Freshwater development proposal in his blog and RG added “The last thing the Peninsula needs is a series of Bondi Junctions and Chatswoods.  There’s much to commend progress if it’s in scale with community perceptions and expectations – with both quality and affordability being evident”.  Baird’s words included:

The developer has disingenuously attempted to circumvent community consultation, rather than ensure that the proposed development does not destroy the fabric of one of the most incredible places on the New South Wales coastline. I would be remiss not to place on record my anger about the approach taken by the developer. It is not hard to understand why communities across the State are deeply cynical about development.

  • The BRT framework as proposed in 2008 by Gibbons at Mike Baird’s request was far more practical than Baird’s mutation, and might have been finished by now at a much lower cost
  • The subsequent ideas of a NorthEast Metro or train should be, but aren’t, analysed against using the eastern corridor on the Harbour Bridge for a tram extension or even putting the Metro there instead of in an expensive new Tunnel
  • The NRMA’s ideas for a train line along the beaches is a disaster scenario that should have been blunder-checked before it ever saw light of day – but it reflects the populist, unprofessional nature of the whole Sydney Metro/WestConnex/tramway conflagration that is wasting $ billions and damaging the environment for current and future citizens

Where this started, a case study in populist incompetence

In 1948 the Department of Main Roads kicked-off the Post War Reconstruction consciousness re “planning” with its Main Roads Development Plan.  The main claimed feature was its attention to scientific method in demographic and employment projections by region and place;  it did not propose road systems.  Most interestingly, it gave a top rating to the Warringah Peninsula with a 100,000 minimum population increase up to 2000.

In 2008 the 10,000 Friends of Greater Sydney announced a transport seminar at Dee Why.  They had already proposed closure of all trains within 15 kms of Central and a plethora of new metro lines all over the landscape, without any apparent discipline based on accepted network/project appraisals or land use logic.  (Those comments had been given direct to FROGS.)  Gibbons rang Baird on 3 July 2008 and said “you have a problem”.  Baird:  what do you mean?  RG – (as said.)  MB:  what would you do about that?  RG:  BRT  strategy akin to Curitiba.  MB:  sounds good, will you write that up for me?…  (Gibbons is a transport and regional planning specialist with many achievements.)

An Attachment to circulated documents summarises that “commercial in confidence” framework, dated 5 July ’08 and entitled Manly-Warringah Peninsula – Transport Land Use Improvement Strategy:  Sub-Regional Counter Attack, which had the potential to change Sydney’s future.  Baird refused, then and ever since, to acknowledge my contribution or pay for it; and transferred responsibility to SHOROC which adopted it in 2010 as the chronology shows.  It has gone on to almost change the world – but Baird and SHOROC introduced a critical error that he has not redressed through a cycle of correspondence from RG (never replied to by Baird, as usual … adding to the consequences of non-replies by the Health and other Minister

The DOTARS Study in 2003 found that “A short tunnel – 5.1 kilometres from the Warringah Expressway at Cammeray to the city side of the Spit – would cost $651 million”.

Baird liked the framework and sent it to SHOROC which missed the point and took the strategy towards large, long tunnels and forced densification.   It became more complicated and expensive and was deferred by iNSW several times.

Option 1

This is the Government’s default:  long tunnels and other links between the theoretical Western Harbour Tunnel, the Warringah Freeway and Burnt Bridge Creek deviation.  The announcement was on 16 March ’17.  No route, timing or other substantive details were announced but the CBD-centric nature was emphasised with “cut 40 minutes in travel time between Brookvale and the CBD”.  It did not refer to Cremorne or Mosman.  $77 million was provided for geo-technical investigations around the Spit Bridge.

Option 2

A short tunnel at the top of the Bradfield Highway would take traffic underground to about mid-Spit Hill (like the Southern Cross Expressway where it joins the Eastern Distributor).   That would allow a Crows Nest-like calmed zone through Cremorne and Mosman.  There would be significant street-level regeneration.

The Middle Harbour tall boat trades would move to the Eastern side of the Spit Bridge which would be much less expensive than building a tunnel there.  Another short tunnel would allow Peninsula traffic at Seaforth to flow under the right turn to Manly Road.

~ ~ ~ ~

The objective is to have Option 2 assessed, not necessarily approved – to get the process right.  RG is standing by to contribute as he can, the elements being some recompense for IP and meeting attendance fees until a contract framework could be defined, to prepare an issues paper for consideration at say SHOROC then more widely.

The Peninsula has been the Secret Bride of Sydney’s planning for many decades – lovely to look at, worthy of visits on special family occasions, “a million miles from care”, too precious to be spoilt by unrestricted housing development, happy places for the intellectual and skilled classes who found niches along the beaches.  Labor had recently increased such pressures through (the Administrator) of Warringah.

But while population and congestion increased The Peninsula was insufficiently populated to warrant an Eastern-Suburbs type transport strategy.  Indeed, it has been too safe for the several Liberal Governments to provide funds for, and too unsafe for Labor ditto.

Fact is, there is a vicious cycle in place.  Can we break that?  In these days of sustainable thinking, the millions of daily trips generated on the Peninsula are opportunities for public-transport conversion; the Global Arc is enshrined as a fundamental planning principle which relies on the Peninsula;  and Federal and State Governments are finally provide infrastructure funds – can the Peninsula win its share for a sensible strategy?

The Carr/Iemma Government had little to offer the Peninsula.  No progress has been made with the widening of the Spit Bridge at a time when the community is extremely well-informed of the stupidity of fixing bottlenecks singly and separately (Spit and Iron Cove).

The Government seems to have fully committed its budget for about 20 years – even allowing for electricity privatisation.  The NW, SW and western metros are top priority.


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