Beaches Link Tunnel Officially cancelled
On 8 September 2023, the NSW Government confirmed the decision to cancel the Beaches Link project.
The announcement came as no surprise. Then NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns stated in October 2021 a Labor government would scrap plans for the $10 billion Beaches Link toll road tunnel and redirect the money into public transport infrastructure for Western Sydney.
The current NSW Premier reiterated this during the campaign of the 2023 State Election.
In May 2023, the NSW Government formally placed the Beaches Link Project on hold, with associated land acquisition and project development activities to ceased.. This followed the decision of the former Government to deprioritise the project in the 2022 Budget, as recommended by Infrastructure NSW.
The State Infrastructure Strategy, published last year by Infrastructure NSW, recommended the state government reconsider its large infrastructure projects amid skyrocketing costs. In particular, the government was advised to re-evaluate the need for and timing of major road and rail projects and to prioritise these along growth corridors where new housing is rapidly being built without supporting infrastructure such as roads for workaday commuters - in Western Sydney.
The Upper House Public Works Committee released its report on the Inquiry into impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link on Monday December 5th 2022 and also recommended to not proceed.
An incoming government brief from the State Treasury revealed that the expected cost of the Sydney Metro rail project had doubled from its initial estimate to $45 billion for two lines.
In April NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey delayed the state’s budget until September as he attempted to stabilise a budget stretched thin by the Liberals’ $115 billion infrastructure pipeline.
“We are inheriting significant economic challenges and its difficult to avoid pressures on the budget, including unfunded government programs”, Mookhey said, claiming he had inherited the largest debt in the state’s history.
Heavy borrowings by the former government, used to fund the infrastructure 'list', put NSW’s net debt on track to hit $80 billion with an interest bill of more than $2 billion a year.
There have been more announcements this week to gouge down the debt and projected costs inherited;
- on September 8 the new NSW government announced it will slash gross debt by more than $7 billion by suspending contributions to the NSW Generations Fund (NGF) this year, ahead of a major shakeup of the state’s fund management policies.
''The new settings will be the largest single gross debt reduction measure proposed in the upcoming 2023-24 Budget. Interest payments are likely to fall by $1.1 billion over the forward estimates.'' the government said in a media release
- on Saturday September 9 an announcement the Government will reduce the State’s net debt by more than $4 billion by beginning the overhaul of the controversial Transport Asset Holding Entity of NSW (TAHE). That too is stated to be a big debt reduction measure in the upcoming state Budget, and a move to end a long-running saga that has embroiled the State’s finances for years.
Under the changes, the Government will convert TAHE into a non-commercial public non-financial corporation similar to Sydney Trains, NSW Trains and Venues NSW. The decision was made after the Government received advice that a further $615 million in funding in 2023-24 was being sought by TAHE under contractual arrangements it has with the Public Rail Operators.
''The changes will eliminate this funding requirement. It will also avoid the need for the general government sector to borrow [a further] more than $4 billion the former government intended for TAHE under the previous operating model.'' the Government said in a statement
- on September 6 the Government announced it will update NSW coal royalty rates to make sure the state earns a fair return for its resources under modern market conditions.
Coal royalties had not been increased since January 2009...
The new scheme will see coal royalties increase by 2.6 percentage points from 1 July 2024. It will replace the emergency domestic coal cap and reservation measures the previous government introduced in December 2022. The changes will improve the state’s budget position by more than $2.7 billion over the 4 years from 2024 to 2028, the Government states.
That decision also mitigates a $1.3 billion write-down in royalties revenue in the forthcoming budget.
Conversely, on September 7 the Minns Government announced it will deliver an $1.8 billion boost to help rescue NSW’s energy transition, including establishing the Energy Security Corporation and investing to connect new projects to the grid.
''The commitment will help put transmission and energy storage projects back on track, as the Labor Government works hard to keep the lights on during NSW’s switch to cleaner, affordable electricity.'' a media release states
''The investment forms part of the government’s commitment to rebuilding the essentials in our state, including ensuring homes and businesses have reliable power at the lowest possible cost. The government will commit an additional $800 million to the Transmission Acceleration Facility to connect the state’s Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) to the grid sooner and bring forward the benefit schemes for communities.
The NSW Government’s funding injection will support early works in the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone, around Dubbo. This renewable zone, the first in NSW, is expected at its peak to support around 5000 construction jobs and bring up to $10 billion in private investment in the region by 2030.''
The Western Harbour Tunnel, which included the Warringah Freeway Upgrade where residents are concerned about the sites being razed, is fully funded by the NSW Government and will proceed. The new NSW Government has committed to retaining the Western Harbour Tunnel as a public asset with any tolling revenues to be retained by the State.
Above - North Sydney Council: 9 November 2022 - ''When the State Government announced changes to the Western Harbour Tunnel construction techniques this week we called on them to stop and reassess the project. This massacre of trees on Arthur St, North Sydney is the response. Our thanks to the residents who are documenting the trail of destruction across the area''. Images: NSC
Transport for NSW has advised it will write to the Department of Planning and Environment to withdraw its State Significant Infrastructure Application for this project.
Transport will continue to carry out a road network review to assess what, if any, network improvements may be required in northern Sydney and other impacted areas to ensure a safe, efficient and reliable road network for motorists, TfNSW stated.
The houses that have already been acquired for the project, displacing some people who had thought those homes would be the last time they had, and putting those who opposed the acquisitions under four years of stress just to stay put, will be kept by the government in case they and the land they sit on are required for future roads projects.
The announcement has been applauded by some residents, while others who travel via The Spit bridge are furious they will have to pause and watch the water, birds and sailing, still, every time a boat wants to pass and the bridge is lifted.The announcement means Balgowlah Golf Course won't need to be trashed, Middle Harbor will not be subject to possible pollution incidents during construction, the tunnel funnels that may have delivered exhaust fumes into nearby school grounds need no longer be feared, and all the wildlife that would have been killed with the razing of habitat alongside the Wakehurst Parkway will now get to live.
However, those who were counting on the tunnel to expediate funnelling thousands of more developments and people into Frenchs Forest around the northern beaches hospital to create a mini-city there are predicating gridlock on local roads during the next few years or decade.
In May the Minns Government, during Question Time, new Wakehurst MP Michael Regan directed a query asking;
'Will the new Government deliver its pre-election commitment of $13 million for the flood mitigation works, as well as the previous budget allocation of $75 million for the Wakehurst Parkway, so that the people of the northern beaches who rely on this crucial arterial road can have it fixed once and for all?'
The Hon. Jo Haylen, Labor Minister for Transport, stated;
' As the member well knows, and as his community knows, Wakehurst Parkway is one of the most important roads in the northern beaches. It passes through Oxford Falls, Narrabeen and Frenchs Forest to North Balgowlah. It is a critical thoroughfare but it is also surrounded by places of important cultural heritage and environmental significance, so the Government needs to get this right.
The parkway north of Warringah Road, as the member for Wakehurst and locals know, is prone to flooding. In fact it floods and is closed six to seven times a year on average. Consequently I am pleased to confirm to the member and to the House that the Minns Labor Government has committed $13 million to fast-track work on flood mitigation measures along the Wakehurst Parkway. This funding is in addition to the $18.1 million already provided to the Northern Beaches Council to improve flood mitigation on Wakehurst Parkway.
The member will also be glad to know that the New South Wales Government is investing $75 million in total to improve safety and capacity on the parkway. The proposed improvements to the road will help to reduce accidents. They will improve access to the Northern Beaches Hospital—something that is very important for the member's community. Ultimately, it will save commuters time. The Government wants to make sure it is dealing with the environmental impacts. It will improve efficiency, safety and active transport along the corridor. It is also using technology better, particularly when it comes to flooding incidents. Along the way, the Government wants to ensure that it provides better access to public transport.''
The Hon MP for Summer Hill confirmed that the Government is carrying out widening of Dreadnought Road to the Oxford Falls Road intersection, with an additional southbound lane from Dreadnought Road to Trefoil Creek, and improvements at Elanora Road at Elanora Heights and Mirrool Street at North Narrabeen.
The investigations and works will ensure that this Government gets this right, and the community will be informed along the way. Ultimately, it will improve road safety, network efficiency, capacity for future traffic flow, public transport and active transport opportunities. While a lot of the work will be carried out to minimise traffic impacts, there will be some disruptions along the way, so I welcome the member's enthusiasm for these works. The Government will work with the member and his community to minimise the impact on commuters across the northern beaches.''
Ms Haylens' response indicated the new Minns Government differs from the original proposal put forward that would require $75 million from the previous NSW Coalition Government in that it includes costings for fast-tracking flood mitigation works and includes both an Elanora Heights and North Narrabeen traffic trouble spot that have needed attention for some time to increase safety for drivers.
The original listed works formed part of what was announced for the Beaches Link project in October 2020 and again in January 2022. Although touted as 'fixing Wakehurst Parkway flooding' so people north of the Wakehurst Parkway could access the Northern Beaches private Hospital, the works were not going to be undertaken where the flooding occurs, further north towards the Narrabeen end of the parkway.
The works would have helped with forwarding aspects of the previous NSW State Government's Frenchs Forest Precinct plans for 2000 new houses and/or units. As the main body of Narrabeen lagoon is fed by stream flow that drains off surrounding elevated suburbs, and the NSW Government was facilitating not only the FF Precinct but proposed housing developments on MLALC lands in the same vicinity, the water runoff through these creeks and bush areas would have only increased and caused environmental degradation to what is a state park along with the reserves surrounding it.
However, this fresh approach includes, rather than excludes, the people of Pittwater - and now excludes what residents referred to as the 'tunnel funnel' project.
New Pittwater MP Rory Amon stated on July 11, ''Should the Government continue with the cancellation of Beaches Link, there are now reduced opportunities to ease local traffic congestion. I fear that over the coming years, our community will be left in worsening gridlock especially as the Government foists population and significant development growth upon us. In this case, I urge the Government to allocate funding in the September budget for pinch point planning works across the northern beaches State Road network, especially pinch points through Mona Vale, Narrabeen, Dee Why (including the Warringah and Pittwater Roads intersection), Brookvale, between Condamine Street and Pittwater Road, Forest Way and along the entirety of Warringah Road,” .
On 1 August 2023 the Government confirmed that a review of the Pittwater Road corridor between Mona Vale and Balgowlah would be undertaken.
“Transport for NSW will be carrying out a road network review in Sydney's north, including the Northern Beaches, to assess what, if any, network improvements may be required to ensure a safe, efficient and reliable road network for motorists” said the Minister representing the Minister for Transport in a statement.
“I welcome the Government’s commitment that Transport for NSW will undertake a corridor planning review for state-classified roads in Pittwater and the northern beaches. As a starting point, I am calling on planning and works for the Mona Vale / Pittwater Road, Wakehurst Parkway / Pittwater, and Pittwater / Warringah Road intersections. This review is a win for Pittwater. It reflects what can be achieved when we call out Labor’s neglect of our area.” Mr Amon said in a statement.
- Beaches Link Detailed Design Now Open For Further Community Consultation - July 2018
- Beaches Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Released: Open For Feedback Until March 1st 2021
- Renewed Calls To 'Fix' Wakehurst Parkway Following Rain Event Provide Short-Term Mitigations Ensuring Long-Term Recurrence
- Wakehurst Parkway Improvements: More Details On $75 Million Spend Announced By NSW State Government
- Beaches Link Inquiry Recommends Not To Proceed
- Wakehurst Parkway Funding For Warringah Intersection, Installing Pedestrian Bridge Scrapped From Federal Budget; Continued Closures Isolate Pittwater Community From Nearest Hospital
- Warringah Freeway Upgrade: Future Beaches Link Tunnel Environment Destruction Apparent In Cammeray Local Residents/Groups State - Just Two Trees To Be 'Retained'