14 October 2020

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (19:55:57): Tonight I talk about an announcement that was made just this week by the New South Wales Government about a tunnel underneath the village of Blackheath. For the record, I make a few points about that announcement. The Blue Mountains is a string of small villages laid out along a highway running along a ridge line, with cliffs on either side. After crossing the river from the city, travellers begin the incline up from Lapstone, through Glenbrook and Blaxland and other lower mountains villages such as Warrimoo, Valley Heights, Springwood and Faulconbridge. Then as they keep driving up or travelling by train alongside the Great Western Highway, they will snake through Linden, Woodford, Hazelbrook, Lawson and Bullaburra. Then they are in the upper mountains, where before coming to Blackheath they will drive or travel by train through Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba and Medlow Bath. Then they arrive in Blackheath. This is the point where they will supposedly, many years from now, enter a tunnel. Lucky for Blackheath, hey? We do not want trucks, congestion, tourists or infrastructure going through the village.

But what about the rest of the mountains? What about the people who live in all those other villages, or those who live on the other side of Blackheath, past the exits of the proposed tunnel? Are they meant to just cop the addition of 30‑metre fixed‑rig trucks and 25‑metre B‑doubles? This project will impact on tens of thousands of Blue Mountains residents who do not live in Blackheath. They have not been adequately consulted and have not had their questions answered by this Government. Other questions still have not been answered. It seems that the more the Government talks, the clearer it is that it does not have the answers or does not intend to provide them. One critical question that I would like answered is: Will there be ventilation stacks, and if so where? What will be their impact on the environment? When are these roads predicted to reach capacity? What sort of scar will the entrances and exits leave on our natural environment? Where is the business case for this project? And is there truth behind the whispers that parts of our World Heritage listed national park will be revoked to make way for a duplicated highway or for this tunnel?

I use this time to focus on some of the things that members of the Blue Mountains community have raised with me over many years. The strategic business case has always been elusive. How likely is this project to proceed without Federal funding? There is no mention of the project in the recent budget. I would like to know why Minister Toole has done a backflip with his support for a project that he once opposed. There is evidence in news reports that he opposed the project once upon a time, when he was in Opposition. What are we going to do about congestion in the villages either side of Blackheath? Presumably, two lanes through Medlow will feed into four lanes through a tunnel and then back into two through Mount Victoria. What about further acquisition of property in Mount Victoria?

When the State was on fire and people in my community were feeling incredibly stressed and were living in a state of high anxiety, many of them received letters saying that their homes were going to be compulsorily acquired and demolished to make way for a tunnel or a duplicated highway. Imagine living with that while in a state of high anxiety just before Christmas. It is time for this Government to start talking to everyone in the Blue Mountains and to start answering questions. We do not want wishy‑washy responses. When we ask for a business case, we want it produced. When we ask if parts of our World Heritage listed national park will be revoked, we want a response that speaks to those fears. The Government should do my community the courtesy of being transparent, upfront and honest. We deserve nothing less.