December 3 - 9, 2023: Issue 608


mona vale road west upgrade has nOT been cancelled

Mona Vale Road Wests' Dust Heaps. Photo supplied
In early November 2023 households throughout Pittwater received a mailed form letter from Pittwater's MP stating the Mona Vale Road West upgrade has been cancelled and asking them to sign a petition :

The letter states at its base, as required, that it was 'Authorised by Rory Amon MP using Parliamentary entitlements'.

State MPs for NSW are given a Communications Allowance. The Purpose  of the Communications Allowance is an annual budget provided to Members to meet the costs associated with communicating with their constituents including:  production and distribution of newsletters and brochures; printing of letterhead and flyers; audio posters and other e-publications;  developing, hosting and maintaining a website and/or other social media; email distribution services; advertisements; and other forms of communications approved by Parliament. 

The 2023-2024 Legislative Assembly Base Allocation is $20,850 - compared to the Legislative Council allocation of $5,315. The 2023-24 Communications Allowance Additional Allocation for Pittwater is $86,329 for number of electors: 56,058.

Members are encouraged to submit material they are proposing to print or produce using the Communications Allowance to the Department of Parliamentary Services for a pre-production assessment. 

The letter had been preceded by an address given by Mr. Amon in the NSW Parliament stating the same on October 17, albeit to an almost empty chamber and given at 7.21 pm, and has been followed by a letter posted on social media by Mr. Amon addressed to NSW Premier Chris Minns, which opens with the same statement.

In late August 2023 The Hon. John Graham, NSW Minister for Roads, acknowledged a review of the MVR West upgrade and noted that the project’s future would be determined by the findings. On September 19 2023 it was confirmed the project has been put on hold for 2 years, although $348,000.00 in funding for planning works for the Mona Vale Road West was allocated in the Labor Governments' 2023-2024 Budget papers.

In an October ABC Radio Sydney interview the NSW Premier Chris Minns stated funding that had previously been allocated to various projects had been redirected to fixing regional roads, still recovering from flooding. 

During the October 10 interview a 'Dave' (begins at 48:50) rang to ask 'why the premier had cut the final funding for the extension of Mona Vale road' - not once mentioning the 2023-24 allocation of $348,000 for 'planning'. 

'Dave' went on to state that 42 thousand cars use Mona Vale road daily, the average daily traffic volume, including weekends, was approximately 36,000 vehicles in 2017 (per Mona Vale Road Upgrade West Traffic and Transport Assessment January 2017 - REF Appendix E) and that the Premier 'wanted people to move onto the beaches, it's a dedicated blackspot, but you'll spend a hundred million on easy access for bikes on the Harbour bridge' and 'are you against the northern beaches?'.

Premier Chris Minns replied they are not against the northern beaches and that he is sympathetic towards the northern beaches, it doesn't have the public transport links that the northwest and inner north part of Sydney does. Mr. Minns went on to explain the Beaches Link had been discontinued because the government has a massive budget deficit in NSW, 180 billion dollars worth of debt, the largest ever recorded, and that money available had been redirected to where it is needed.

Host Sarah Macdonald asked why Mona Vale road widening [funding] has been reduced. Mr. Minns stated money had been redirected towards regional roads, still being repaired after recent flooding. 

Macdonald, 'But if you're not doing the tunnel then don't we need that road widening?'

Premier Minns replied; 'Look, no, I don't believe so - there is a case for upgrading roads right across Sydney. It's all about severity, and we are applying a needs-based approach to infrastructure spending and not based on marginal seats or Labor electorates approach, and obviously those communities that desperately need the funds is where we're investing'. the Premier stated.

Macdonald, 'So no pork barrelling according to electorates in this city?'

Mr. Minns said, 'I'll give you an example; we're pumping out about $670 million in emergency road funding for regional NSW, and we don't hold many seats in regional NSW, but that's where the absolute priority is. When the storms and the floods came through last year it smashed the logistical and transport links for Dubbo, Oberon and Orange and the Northern Rivers and we've got to rebuild those communities.'

Anyone who lives in these rural areas will confirm the state of these roads make some impassable to the point of isolation of communities. There are potholes a truck can fall into - and unlike those that were repaired so quickly after the flooding that occurred here during recent storm events, and despite announcements that they will be fixed by the previous government, this has not occurred, as yet, in these regional areas.

The 'cancellation' phrase has now been repeated by a Liberal Councillor at the November 2023 Council Meeting. 

Councillor Karina Page has also posted on social media that the project is cancelled and calling on her 78 followers to like her post 'that Northern Beaches Council flexes its muscle to support this project'.

Ms Page was slotted into the seat Mr. Amon occupied on the Northern Beaches Council following his resignation in May after securing the Pittwater MP seat by a margin of 1.6%

Ms Page stood second on the Liberal ticket at the 2021 council elections and although the Liberal candidates as individuals did not secure a high vote, Ms Page's total being 100 votes, thousands voted solely for the Liberal party and secured a place for Pittwater 'ward' Liberals on council.

Voting for the same political party your whole life, regardless of their policies and conduct, has not been unusual in Australian politics. Many have parents and grandparents who were instrumental in forming these parties, some even have relatives who were the first State secretaries or became 'Young Liberals', and are now Old Liberals, and have 'heard about it' their whole lives. However, recent years have shown a drift away from dyed blue or dyed red voting practises of around 50% of local voters.

On 20 June 2023, the NSW Electoral Commission conducted a countback election to fill the casual vacancy in the Pittwater Ward following Cr. Rory Amon’s resignation to honour his new position as a state MP.  Karina Page was declared elected by the Returning Officer on 20 June 2023.

At the November Meeting a Motion tabled by Cr. Page, and seconded by Cr. Page, was preceded by a discussion wherein the statement that the project had been cancelled was again made.

The Motion, which was passed unanimously, reads:

That Council write to the Premier, the Minister for Roads, and the Member for Pittwater:

1. Noting Council’s concerns following serious accidents on Mona Vale Road West (Baha’i Temple to Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre).

2. Expressing Council’s support for the $340 million upgrade of Mona Vale Road West.

3. Calling on the State Government to fully fund the upgrade in the 2024/25 State Government Budget to be delivered in June 2024.

Following Pittwater Online's 'dust heaps of MVR West report' in mid-October, which included noting the 2023-2024 NSW Government Labor budget, tabled on September 19, provided $348,000.00 in funding for planning works for the Mona Vale Road West widening from McCarrs Creek Road Terrey Hills to Powderworks road and the Baha’i Temple, and that former Pittwater MP Rob Stokes had announced in June 2022 $25 million was allocated to the MVR West upgrade, a query was sent to Transport for NSW as to what that 2022-2023 allocation had been spent on. 

As Readers had emailed in their concerns, given the circulating 'cancelled' statements, that too was queried - true or not? Readers also wondered whether signing Mr. Amon's petition would mean they are then on a data base ever after, and would receive emails on other subjects as well.

The reply from a Transport for NSW Spokesperson was;

''Earlier this year, the NSW Government undertook an independent review of the state’s infrastructure pipeline, tasked with identifying projects and programs that should no longer proceed, be delayed or have their scope altered. As a result of this review, the Mona Vale Road West project has been deferred for two years. Transport for NSW remains committed to the delivery of this project. ''

Transport for NSW also confirmed the $25 million budget allocation announced in June 2022 wasn’t spent due to additional time required to undertake further planning investigations. The 2023-24 budget allocation of $348,000 was towards the continuation of the detailed design phase of the project. 

On 8 September 2023, the NSW Government confirmed the decision to cancel the Beaches Link tunnel linking Sydney's northern beaches to the city's north.

The statement was accompanied with '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.' and since then the widening of the Wakehurst Parkway to the turn off into Morgan Road has been announced and is currently scheduled to commence at the end of 2024. 

The 2 year delay of the MVR West upgrade project was announced at the same time.

No amount of post-truth politics*, post-factual politics or post-reality politics, in political culture, in which facts are considered irrelevant, erases those actual facts to at least 50% of residents, Pittwater voters have stated.

Readers queries sent in to Mr Amon's Office were:

  1. Where has and when was it stated by the Labor Government that they have cancelled the MVR West upgrade?
  2. Are those who sign this petition, or any other petition broadcast via letter or social media from the Office of Rory Amon, then added into a list and agreeing to receiving emails thereafter?
  3. Where has the funding for sending this letter come from?
  4. How much did it cost to send this letter to residents?

The reply to residents queries was sent as 'Background only':

  • In their 2022-23 Budget, the former Liberal Government allocated $340 million over the next four years to the delivery of the Mona Vale Road West upgrade. More than $24 million was spent in 2022-23 and previous years on planning and preparatory works.
  • Despite significant investment in previous years, and the Mona Vale Road East project nearing completion, in their first Budget in office the Labor Government cut the $340 million that was previously locked in for the project. Nowhere in the 2023-24 budget papers, including over the next four years, is any funding allocated to deliver the Mona Vale Road West project.
  • The petition demonstrates the strength of community support for the upgrade of Mona Vale Road West when Mr Amon advocates for the project on behalf of his constituents. Mr Amon promotes the petition through his social media, local print media and via email.
  • All elected representatives communicate with their constituents through a variety of avenues. State members of parliament are provided with a budget from the parliament to communicate with their constituents. Information regarding budgets and administrative requirements is publicly available.

So no reply as to whether signing the petition adds you into a data base. If you are getting emails thereafter that you didn't sign up for, simply unsubscribe - all forms of email mass communication are required to have a functioning unsubscribe element as part of what is sent and those sent from the Pittwater MP's Office certainly have these at their base. In Australia the law protects you from commercial emails and SMSs you did not agree to receive. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) takes action where breaches have occurred.

Overseas, in the U.K. for example, political parties state there should always be a Fair Processing Notice (FPN) about the intent to collect your data on all literature, including online or paper petitions, publications and websites. 

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner also provides information on consent to the handling of personal information others may gather about you.

Online petitions are not new and are a great way of amassing support quickly and with a minimum of effort. However, anyone who has read assessment reports of where these have been used to campaign against something occurring, such as a coal mine or a development on pristine bushland, will read these are counted as 'form letters' - even signed paper petitions backed by thousands do not carry the same weight in politics they once did - the recent petition to save bushland at Belrose and across the peninsula was summarily dismissed and even received a reply that was the opposite of what it hoped to achieve. 

However, ultimately, aside from the obvious increase in development at Ingleside, Warriewood, Mona Vale, Bayview and Narrabeen the finished upgrade would facilitate, the aim of residents is to make this passageway safer for commuters. The Mona Vale road has been claiming lives and the scene of injuries since it was a dirt waggon track. The dust pile sculpting exercise, with its concrete barriers that have not only narrowed the passageway but eliminated any place to pull off out the way of an accident, and significantly reduced the safety of the stretch from Addison road to Kimbriki road.

Options to increase safety until the 2 year delay have elapsed and planning finalised, given the upcoming Summer season will see thousands more heading down Mona Vale road, are at the base of Mr. Amon's November letter calling for a safety audit. Even with the 'cancellation' statement still thrown in, action on safety measures being improved could decrease the potential for accidents leading to permanent injury or death.

Residents are also concerned about the MVR West dust piles impact on the creeks of Pittwater, especially during rain events, along with how they have now blocked a previous wildlife corridor. 

Further runoff that may impact Ingleside and Warriewood creeks has been identified in a March 2023 an Addendum review of environmental factors (PDF, 3.74 MB). Transport for NSW (Transport) proposes to modify the Mona Vale Road East Upgrade project by adjusting the approved project boundary to construct a vegetated mound which is proposed to replace an approved 1.5-metre high vertical concrete traffic barrier at Ingleside. 

The modified project involves:

  • Adjustment to the approved project boundary to accommodate the larger footprint required for the modified design, resulting in the need for property acquisition of existing road reserves owned by local government and NSW Government departments (Transport, Northern Beaches Council and Department of Planning and Environment). No additional private property would be purchased as a result of the proposed modification.
  • Clearing of existing vegetation to the south of Mona Vale Road (near the western end of the project limit) to allow for construction of the mound.
  • Use of existing materials excavated from the Mona Vale Road Upgrade site (along with additional materials to be brought in) to construct landscaped batter.
  • Planting along the roadside and rear faces with native shrubs and grasses.
  • Extension of three newly installed drainage lines to outlet at the new toe of batter. The alignment of two pipes would remain the same and they would outlet to the same area (bushland) and catchment. The third pipe would outlet further east of its original alignment into government owned land (bushland).

For the purposes of these works, Transport for NSW is the proponent and the determining authority under Division 5.1 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) - which is becoming a familiar announcement in NSW Departments - the proponent and the determining authority being the same. Alsao, Section 2.109 of SEPP (Transport and Infrastructure) permits development on any land for the purpose of a road or road infrastructure facilities to be carried out by or on behalf of a public authority without consent.

Location of the proposed modification

The proposed modification seeks to avoid disposal of excess excavated materials from within the site by recycling material for the construction of a mound. In proceeding with the proposed modification, approximately 6,200m3 of material would be reused on-site, with approximately 6,400m3 of additional fill required to complete the mound. 

Transport has obtained permission from Northern Beaches Council. The DPE owned land will be leased by Transport initially to conduct the works associated with the proposed modification and would seek to formerly acquire the relevant lots in due course.

Residents consulted was restricted to those living nearby via a Notification letter. Residents and landowners on Waratah, King and Manor Roads in Ingleside were notified as the road will now be closer to them.

The addendum REF was not to be placed on public exhibition, it was decided. No Aboriginal community consultation has been specifically undertaken for the proposed modification. 

Of the 190 plant species recorded during previous Ecosure field surveys, only one species of threatened flora was recorded within the survey area being the Angus's Onion Orchid (Microtis angusii). Due to its vegetative character, it was difficult at the time of the survey to determine how many individuals are present. Notwithstanding, seven stems were recorded within the survey area at two locations (one stem in on location and six stems in the other). Microtis angusii is listed as endangered on both the BC Act and EPBC Act. The Microtis  angusii individuals were flagged as being close in proximity to the site of the proposed modification. Existing safeguards surrounding the protection of Microtis angusii were considered sufficient to address potential impacts.

The area is characterised by an abundance of rock outcrops, providing habitat for invertebrates, reptiles, and mammals. Open woodland and sandstone heath are the main fauna habitat types, both of these were defined as being 'in moderate condition with edge effects from the existing road and surrounding houses and rural properties'.

No threatened fauna, or fauna habitat features were recorded within the modified proposal area. The Ecosure assessment identified the presence of a bush rat (Rattus fuscipes) near the modified proposal area, as well as numerous swamp wallabies within the BAR study area. The bush rat and swamp wallaby are locally significant species.

The EMM assessment found the area near the western outlet to be dominated by dense heath vegetation. No mature trees were identified although there was widespread fallen timber as part of the site. One stag was identified with a 15-20 cm diameter hollow, which provides potential roosting habitat for small mammals or birds.

The dense vegetation would provide shelter for birds, although no nests were observed during the survey, small mammals, and reptiles. There were numerous flowering species such as Banksias and Tea-tree that would provide foraging opportunities for birds and mammals. The small drainage line currently present near the western outlet would provide potential habitat for the Red-crowned Toadlet, although none were recorded during the field survey.

 While numerous migratory species were identified as having a low to moderate potential to occur in the local area, the nature, scale and location of the proposed modification is such that impacts on these species, or their habitats are not expected. Indirect impacts are also not expected.

The mound would be revegetated with native shrubs and grasses following construction. The proposed modification would have negligible incremental impacts on native flora and fauna. Compared to the previously proposed concrete barrier, the proposed modification would not represent an additional barrier to the movement of wildlife.

The REF states 'the design change as part of the proposed modification includes extending the approved drainage lines further south into the adjacent bushland. The design changes would have no material impact on the previously assessed project-related impacts on flood behaviour as the same rate and volume of runoff would discharge to the adjacent bushland.' 

''Just further into that bush, destroying that ... and into the creeks... destroying them.' one resident has stated to Pittwater Online

Although this is known to be Eastern Pygmy possum habitat, Transport approved its plan.

The Mona Vale Road West upgrade webpage states; 

'We are continuing to prepare the detailed design for Mona Vale Road West, between McCarrs Creek Road, Terrey Hills, and Powder Works Road, Ingleside.

Construction will commence when funding becomes available.

The key features of the Mona Vale Road West upgrade include:

  • Widening Mona Vale Road between McCarrs Creek Road and Powder Works Road from two lanes to four lanes with a central concrete safety barrier
  • Providing a new traffic signal intersection at Kimbriki Road and Mona Vale Road, including additional dedicated turning lanes and a truck climbing lane
  • Relocating the intersection of Mona Vale Road and Tumburra Street to the west by about 40 metres and changing access to left turn in and left turn out only
  • Closing the existing intersection at Mona Vale Road and Addison Road to general traffic and restricting access to emergency vehicles only
  • Constructing a new local road connection between Bungendore Street and Powder Works Road, using the existing Harvey Road corridor, and extending the new local road east of Addison Road to meet the intersection of Mona Vale Road and Powder Works Road
  • Removing bus stops near the intersection of Tumburra Street and re-directing bus services along the new local road connection and Tumburra Street to serve existing and future land uses
  • Providing new and improved fauna connections including a 40 metre wide fauna bridge over Mona Vale Road and two fauna underpasses
  • Constructing a shared use path on the northern side of Mona Vale Road between McCarrs Creek Road and Addison Road
  • Upgrading street lighting for the full length of the project
  • Constructing retaining walls and/or sandstone cuttings at various locations along the alignment
  • Landscaping over the length of the proposal.

*As of 2018, political commentators and academic researchers have identified post-truth politics as ascendant in many nations, notably Australia, Brazil, India, Ghana, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others. 

The 2023 Referendum has been cited as one such case in Australia where the AEC published a Disinformation register - Referendum process webpage which listed prominent pieces of disinformation the AEC discovered regarding the announced referendum on the Voice to Parliament. It also provided details of actions the AEC had taken in response.

In the US it has become known as 'Trumpism'.

In Ghana, Coker and Afriyie delved into the prevalence of post-truth politics in the Ghanaian context, with a specific focus on publications in print newspapers affiliated with the country's major political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The authors highlighted that post-truth practices have become ingrained in the fabric of election campaigns and political discourse in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana. 

Their research aimed to dissect the post-truth strategies employed by Ghanaian politicians affiliated with these two prominent parties, as manifested in their respective politically aligned newspapers, namely, The Daily Statesman and The Enquirer. Coker and Afriyie identified three distinct strategies within this context, which they labelled as 'kairos, disinformation/misinformation', and 'the deliberate transmission of strategic falsehoods'. 

These strategies were found to be actively shaping political narratives and public perceptions.