May 28 - June 3, 2023: Issue 585


Full NSW Government funding for Wakehurst Parkway  confirmed: improvements in elanora road, elanora heights + mirool street narrabeen now included - new MP for Wakehurst also brings up cancelled bus services + proposed lizard Rock development in Representative of community statements 

The brand new Independent MP for Wakehurst, Michael Regan, is having another great week doing what he does so well - speaking up and standing up.

On Thursday May 25th during Question Time, midday then, Mr. Regan directed a query to the Minister for Transport, representing the Minister for Roads 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?'

Joy 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' statement indicates the new Labor 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, including a modification of the pedestrian and cycle bridge, connecting Aquatic Drive and Fitzpatrick Avenue in October 2020 and again in January 2022Although touted at first as 'fixing Wakehurst Parkway flooding' so people north of the Wakehurst Parkway could access the Northern Beaches private Hospital, the works were not where the flooding occurs, further north towards the Narrabeen end of the parkway.

The works would also 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 of 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, now a fresh approach is clearly on the horizon that includes, rather than excludes, the people of Pittwater - and excludes, at this stage, what residents referred to as the 'tunnel funnel' project.

Michael Regan, MP for Wakehurst, said in a statement on May 25th, 

''In response to my first question as Wakehurst’s Independent MP in NSW State Parliament today, Transport Minister Jo Haylen confirmed that the Wakehurst Parkway will receive critical funding promised to help both mitigate flooding, and complete long needed safety upgrades to the road.

Minister Haylen, who spoke on behalf of Roads Minister John Graham, unequivocally affirmed that an additional $13 million, on top of what has already been committed, will be allocated to Northern Beaches Council to facilitate the timely completion of flood mitigation works.

I am also delighted to share that the previously committed sum of $75 million has also been confirmed to enhance safety and capacity along the Parkway. Minister Haylen explicitly expressed the Government’s intention to closely engage with our community ahead of the words, acknowledging that unavoidable but necessary disruptions will be created.

Following some Liberal Party misinformation around the funding, it is heartening that the new Government has officially confirmed this funding for our community. The long-overdue attention the Wakehurst Parkway will now receive comes after decades of neglect and inaction from governments of all persuasions. 

The upgrades to the Wakehurst Parkway are something I have pushed for both as Mayor of the Northern Beaches Council and during the NSW election. Now that funding has been confirmed, the works should begin as soon as is practical.

I would like to acknowledge the Minns Government for their commitment, and for not taking us for granted. I pledged to hold this government to account and to collaborate with them in good faith – and will continue to do both over the next four years. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Northern Beaches Council for their cooperation in ensuring the prompt and effective implementation of these upgrades. This remarkable triumph truly belongs to our community – what a win for the community.''

Wakehurst MP Brings up Cancelled Bus Services

However, the MP for Wakehurst hadn't finished his work for the day.

Just after 6pm on Thursday May 25th, Mr. Regan brought up the subject of the many cancelled bus services and distressed stranded commuters and students. 

Recently it was revealed that the private contractors for the former public transport service are so short of bus drivers due to poor pay and the contract imposed financial penalties on the companies for failing to meet ‘on time running’ targets, that cancelling services was better business for the company as these did not count as 'late'. 

The MP for Wakehurst made a Private Members Statement reiterating what had been a subject of contention throughout his campaign for the seat and in the months preceding the state election.

Mr. Regan stated;

''During the election campaign and in the months since, the deterioration in reliability of bus services on the northern beaches has been raised with me time and again. In my electorate of Wakehurst, buses are the only form of public transport available. Day in, day out, people plan their lives around bus routes and services to get to work—to Parliament House, in my case—to school, to shops, to play sport and to see family and friends. Particular routes, depending on where someone lives and works, are an essential part of the rhythm of everyday life for so many in Wakehurst.

We all understand the logistics of daily life and how a bad public transport experience can throw plans into disarray. When people arrive at a bus stop for a scheduled, timetabled service and it does not show up and they check the live tracking on the transport app and find out it has been cancelled at short notice, you can understand their frustration. Then, when this happens multiple times for months, you can understand their outrage. Yesterday a constituent wrote to me in relation to the 174X route into the city from Allambie Heights. She explained that this express bus service to the city has had every second bus cancelled for the last six months. Her email said:

The 174X bus route into the city from Allambie Heights is becoming a professional issue as it's preventing many people from arriving punctually to work ... I would believe there are serious contract breaches at play and if not, there's likely been poor contracting done to begin with in allowing higher than acceptable levels of cancellations.

''It is clear that the provisions in the contract between the previous Government and the private operator relating to penalties for cancelled services are inadequate. Given what has played out with the buses, we must reflect on the implications of privatising the bus service on the northern beaches—a decision by the former Government. I understand there is a national bus driver shortage and that a shortfall of drivers is the underlying factor causing the service cancellations; however, we must acknowledge that conditions and work culture are important factors in attracting and keeping workers. For example, the free Opal cards provided to drivers employed before privatisation should be provided for all ongoing drivers. These things clearly matter.'' the Wakehurst MP said

''I welcome the new Labor Government's focus on improving bus services and its announcement of the Bus Industry Taskforce chaired by John Lee. I thank Minister Haylen for joining me at Brookvale Bus Depot with the drivers and the mechanics to talk through those issues. I look forward to the interim findings being released on 10 July. I will be participating in this inquiry, closely monitoring its progress and holding the Government to account on time frames and deliverables so we can implement smart solutions as soon as possible. I will also continue my engagement with the Minister directly, as well as with Keolis Downer, Transport for NSW and CDC NSW, so that they hear the voice of the people of Wakehurst and understand the urgency around this issue.

Yesterday I met with staff from Transport for NSW to communicate with them the frustration of so many in Wakehurst about the recent rate of bus cancellations and to discuss short‑ and long‑term solutions. I told them service reliability must be the key priority. We know that, when public transport is regular and on time, people love it. The popular B-Line service is a testament to this. When people catch the bus, we help get cars off the road, save people money and time, improve quality of life and support the smooth running of the economy. It is win‑win. I thank all the residents of Wakehurst who have written or spoken to me about this for sharing their experiences. I encourage them to continue to communicate with my office about the bus service reliability. I am using this information to directly inform my advocacy on the matter.

I understand how important a high‑quality bus service is to the people of Wakehurst and, indeed, the entire northern beaches. The current situation and rate of bus cancellations is simply not good enough. Through the Bus Industry Taskforce and through direct advocacy to the Government, I will continue to fight for the best possible services for our area. That means a reliable and regular service people can rely on. I look forward to continuing to work with the Minister, the Government, Keolis Downer and CDC NSW for the people of Wakehurst, who have this shared mission. Watch this space.''

Eyes till focused on Proposed Lizard Rock and adjacent Bushlands Development

Mr. Regan's first Private Members' Statement was on the subject of the proposed Lizard Rock Development and was given on May 11th, again at half past six in the evening: 

''I am honoured to deliver my first private member's statement on the issue of protecting Lizard Rock and the surrounding bushland from inappropriate development. The electorate of Wakehurst is very fortunate to have large areas of intact native bushland. The area includes Garigal National Park, the recently heritage-listed Manly Warringah War Memorial State Park, known as Manly Dam, and extensive areas of native vegetation surrounding Narrabeen Lagoon. These natural areas support local biodiversity and are central to what makes the northern beaches that special. This spectacular natural beauty is one of the reasons people love to live in and visit the northern beaches. While many of those bushland areas are protected in perpetuity in national reserves and parks, much of the remaining bushland does not enjoy that level of protection.

Currently, over 200 hectares of bushland is under threat across Belrose, Davidson, Frenchs Forest, Oxford Falls and Allambie Heights. In early 2022 the former planning Minister approved the Northern Beaches Aboriginal Land Development Delivery Plan under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Planning Systems) 2021. This move sidelined Northern Beaches Council and cleared the way for development proposals to progress for six sites owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council on the northern beaches. The first of those six sites to progress to a planning proposal is known as Lizard Rock, along Morgan Road in Belrose, where a development of over 400 homes has been proposed. The proposal will involve the clearing of some 45 football fields of pristine native bushland. The previous planning Minister and his department were intent on bulldozing through with the proposal—pun intended—disregarding the overwhelming opposition from the Northern Beaches Council, the local community and the Government's own local Liberal MPs, including the former Speaker of the House, the environment Minister, the health Minister, and former Minister Stokes.

Northern Beaches Council has long been opposed to the Lizard Rock development and in January this year refused the offer to act as the planning proposal authority. As mayor of Northern Beaches Council, I have been a vocal opponent of the proposed Lizard Rock development since it was first mooted over a decade ago. In its submission to the Department of Planning and Environment, Northern Beaches Council outlined numerous and significant concerns regarding the Lizard Rock planning proposal. These included inconsistency with relevant strategic plans, including theGreater Sydney Region Plan,North District Plan, Northern Beaches Council'sTowards 2040—Local Strategic Planning Statement andNorthern Beaches Local Housing Strategy; inconsistency with conservation zones reform, which recommends applying a C3 Environmental Management Zone to most of the site due to its high environmental value and the hazards that impact the site; and unacceptable bushfire risks to the site and insufficient evacuation routes.

In those, and many other respects, the Northern Beaches Council found the proposal to be completely flawed. This is 400-plus homes in the middle of the bush, not connected to any services, surplus to any housing targets set by the State, which will exacerbate existing shortfalls in the provision of community floorspace for libraries and active open space for sports fields—oh, and destroy around 45 football-sized fields of bushland, not to mention the fact that it puts future inhabitants at extreme risk from bushfire. Have we learnt nothing yet? The New South Wales Government must find alternative ways to support Aboriginal self-determination instead of allowing inappropriate development on bushfire-prone land.

I totally support the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and appreciate the importance of enabling Aboriginal people to achieve economic self‑determination through developing their land. But we are required to consider all proposals on their merits, regardless of the landowner, and this proposal does not stack up. The Wakehurst community—indeed, the whole of the northern beaches—is overwhelmingly opposed to this development. At every opportunity the local community and local council have made submissions to planning processes opposing the project, but they have been ignored. Northern beaches residents have been rightly dismayed by how the former Government handled this issue. The Lizard Rock development was a high-profile issue on the northern beaches during the recent State election campaign. Under pressure from independent candidates, the former planning Minister did a last-minute backflip and committed to stopping the planning proposal to rezone the Lizard Rock site for residential development. But he has not told us how he was going to do that or what action, if any, he intended to take.

Protecting Lizard Rock was a key part of my election platform and I look forward to working with the new Minns Labor Government and the planning Minister to stop the current housing development proposal progressing. I thank the many dedicated locals for their advocacy about protecting the Lizard Rock site and surrounding bushland. In particular, I thank the Northern Beaches Bushland Guardians, Dr Conny Harris, Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon, Northern Beaches councillors and other independent candidates on the northern beaches. This issue is currently the subject of two parliamentary petitions—one paper petition and one ePetition. The paper petition has recorded over 11,000 signatures so far and is still growing—a testament to the level of community opposition. I look forward to debate on that petition in this Chamber. We must find a long-term solution to protect Lizard Rock and surrounding bushland in perpetuity. This is a top priority for me, the electorate of Wakehurst and, indeed, all of the northern beaches, and should be for all of New South Wales because this could happen to anyone.

Mr. Regan also paid tribute to newly elected Mayor Sue Heins on Thursday the 25th, congratulating her on her win and reeling off some of the many works Cr. Heins has undertaken serving the community outside of council over many years.

In anyone's estimation the new MP for Wakehurst has definitely hit the ground running and brought home some GREAT news for the whole community last week.

And now the community can ask: will the Wakehurst Parkway still be closed to all those north of Narrabeen after these works?