12 May 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (16:35): My electorate of Blue Mountains is a beautiful place. The landscape is breathtaking and the wilderness awe inspiring. When you stand atop the ridge lines and gaze out across the valleys, it provides a humbling opportunity to connect with this ancient land. We are a collection of unique towns and villages scattered along a ridge line that the World Heritage institute saw fit to take into its fold. We are much more than a mere conduit or motorway between Sydney and the Central West. Last week the Coalition Government announced that explorations were underway into the possibility of an 11‑kilometre tunnel that would span the length of Blackheath and Mount Victoria. I am torn by the news that Blackheath and Mount Victoria will not be dug up and ripped apart to make way for the increase in freight by road but that the rest of my community will be asked to endure it.

In December 2019, not long before the Black Summer fires took hold of the Blue Mountains and much of the State, residents living in Station Street, Blackheath, received a letter telling them that their homes were to be compulsorily acquired by the Government in order to make way for its road, a duplicated highway, to link Sydney with the Central West. The contents of this letter were later withdrawn, with Transport for NSW apologising, saying it had been sent in error. You can imagine the collective sigh of relief and the tears from those residents, who had been shocked, horrified and saddened to think that they would be forced from their homes.

In mid‑2020 the Blackheath Co‑Design Committee was appointed, a small group of community members mostly hand‑picked by the Government. Meetings were conducted behind closed doors and confidentiality agreements were signed and it was made extremely clear to those on this committee that they were very much beholden to this agreement. Transport for NSW stated that "relevant elected officials" were to be separately consulted on this project throughout its development. This has not happened. If the local member for Blue Mountains, the Mayor of Blue Mountains and the Federal member for Macquarie are not deemed "relevant elected officials", then it leads us to the conclusion that there is a very deliberate strategy at play here—and that strategy is not about taking care of the welfare of the people or the landscape of the Blue Mountains.

It is our job as elected representatives to fight for what we truly believe is the best outcome for our community. From what has been presented to us so far, we do not believe this is the best outcome for our entire community. I get that should this project go ahead there will be some benefits for the Central West, there will be some benefits for the trucking industry and for Sydney. I get that there will even be some benefits for sections of the upper mountains community. What I am not convinced of is that this Great Western Highway duplication and tunnel project in its current form is the best or only feasible outcome for the Blue Mountains, and I would not be doing my job if I did not speak up.

The Minister for Regional Transport and Roads has made proclamations of "saving" my community for me. I say to the Minister, I remain unfalteringly committed to members of my community and I have not stopped listening to them—all of them. I ask the Minister to drop the political spin and to speak truthfully about his real motivations for this project. To my community I say: Do not be fooled. The Minister does not care about the welfare of the Blue Mountains and he does not care about our precious environment. He has offered Blackheath and Mount Victoria an option on the surface to allay their fears. Those fears were strategically instilled with the express motivation of furthering the Minister's own agenda, which is to increase freight by road to certify the movement of B-doubles, 30-plus metres long, barrelling down through our villages. What a clever way to go about it: creating fear and division within a community by putting forward an option that would devastate Blackheath and Mount Victoria and then sweeping in months later like a Toole in shining armour with the perfect remedy—a tunnel. It could be Australia's longest tunnel.

There are still so many unanswered questions about this project, so when it is requested of me to support the tunnel there is not enough information for me to do so. In addition, Minister Toole recently announced to a local advocacy group that approximately 20 hectares of national park will need to be revoked in order to complete this project. I invite my community and others across this State to join me in my outrage at this prospect. And let's not start on the tolls that will be whacked on at some point in the future. Where is the elusive business case for this project? We have been promised it but have seen nothing. Where are the facts and figures that stack up to justify the disruption that will inevitably befall our community for years, all in the name of shaving 10 minutes off the drive out to the Central West? Ten minutes for $10 billion. It is not on.