Cr Eva Campbell and Cr Ashleigh Cagney were absent from this meeting and, because of pecuniary interests around the Orbital, Cr Rob Mills had to leave during this discussion.
The admin of the Outer Sydney Orbital Macarthur Action Group Facebook page, Andrew Simpson, made a heartfelt public address, which he kindly provided. You can read his full address here (pdf).
In the final result, the majority of remaining councillors supported the Council's submission, which also included an additional amendment by the Mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak, to carve out a separate section that related to the importance of rural land for Camden.
Cr Cindy Cagney and Cr Paul Farrow did not support the submission for different reasons. Cr Cagney was completely opposed to the Orbital going ahead while Cr Farrow asked for an amendment to call on the NSW Government to restart the process again, only this time with greater community involvement.
Along the way we found out that not one State Government Minister had bothered to reply to the Council's request for them to come and talk to the community. I have included a full run down of the discussion, including the answer to the question that provided that information, below based on my notes.
Cr Symkowiak immediately asked for an amendment to the Council's submission, calling for an additional heading in relation to the loss of agricultural land. She also asked for direct quotes from the Council's rural land strategy to be included in this section.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves, as the seconder, agreed to the amendment.
Cr Lara Symkowiak noted that in the Council's submission under the Land Uses heading there was mention made of the conflict with the Council's land-use strategy and how a number of agricultural properties would be affected. She noted this destruction of agricultural land would lead to additional food miles to get goods to market and the division of remaining Camden agricultural land by the Orbital. She called for these points to be drawn out in more detail and for it to have its own heading using direct quotes from the rural land strategy. Cr Symkowiak wanted the type of agricultural production in the local government area specifically outlined in the submission. This included grapes for wine, cauliflower, cultivated turf, sheep and lambs, dairy cattle, beef cattle, hay pastures and tourism. She noted tourism was particularly important for Camden and had potential for further growth.
Cr Symkowiak said agricultural land accounted for around 50% of land-use in Camden at the moment. However, as part of the Southwest growth area this would be reduced to just one third. Cr Symkowiak said the Orbital would reduce this even further.
Her amendment aimed to highlight this loss of agricultural land and she asked Council officers to capture the essence of her concerns in this specific section. She said she would appreciate the support of other councillors given the high agricultural production in the local government area. Cr Symkowiak noted that the Council would be sending an attachment of the rural land strategy with the submission but wanted the points she made highlighted in the submission itself.
She then thanked Andrew Simpson for the work of the Orbital group. She felt they had been very successful in rallying community support in opposition to the unsupportable M9. Cr Symkowiak said the Council's submission clearly showed they did not support the road along its current route.
She said there were so many issues with the Orbital that she expected to run out of time describing them. Cr Symkowiak opened by mentioning heritage concerns, saying she had the pleasure of going out to see Denbigh, where she was shown the impact the Orbital would have. She acknowledged there would obviously be huge noise and visual impacts to the property. She noted the road would cut through Teen Ranch and Cobbitty Anglican Church as well. She noted there were further areas impacted as well not only with the loss of agricultural land but as a result of pollution, noise and air quality. She said the Macarthur region received a lot of its poor air quality from the rest of the Sydney basin and this would further add to the impacts of inequality. She said it was no coincidence that Macarthur has one of the highest rates of asthma in Australia.
Cr Symkowiak said there were also mental health impacts. She highlighted the uncertainty and loss of homes and then went on to say it was not just the people within the blue lines but those outside who were impacted. The people left behind next to the corridor would certainly feel the impacts and this was mentioned consistently throughout the Council's submission. She noted there were 400 properties within 500 m of the corridor and over 1000 within 1 km. She said there was also huge uncertainty over the land use in the land around the proposed corridor. She said this was an emotional and stressful time for residents during the entire process.
She said there were obviously significant flooding impacts that the government needed to be aware of. Studies need to be done to the probable maximum floodline. This could lead to significant tracts of very high viaduct to be built at a significant cost across the proposed route.
The Mayor said flora and fauna would be impacted and the Council had a detailed map in its submission of the significant flora and fauna areas in the Camden LGA. These were overlaid where the orbital would be placed and it became apparent that it would go directly through some highly sensitive environmental areas.
She noted the South Creek spine would be impacted. This was a key point in the Western Sydney city deal that there would be an environmental spine for protection. The councillors have asked the question how the spine would be impacted by the proposed Orbital. She asked councillors to endorse the submission and the additional amendment and thanked everybody for helping put the submission together.
Cr Cindy Cagney spoke against accepting the report and amendment. Cr Cagney said that she felt that she was between a rock and a hard place. She thanked the staff, saying they had uncovered so many more things in this excellent report than Transport NSW. She said she could vote for and endorse 95% of the report but her issue, based on conversations she had with the community, was that no one she had spoken to wanted the Orbital to go ahead. She noted that while the report said it did not like the currently proposed route it failed to say that a lot of affected people were totally opposed to the Orbital. Cr Cagney said that she was also personally opposed to it. This was the reason that she was voting against the report.
She then focused on a submission sent to her by a development company that she felt had to be addressed. The company was looking to put in a development application once the Orbital was gazetted. She noted the area was slightly outside the Camden local government area but that it "still had bearing on our future with the Orbital". Cr Cagney noted that the developers were dealing with the State government continually and that they were waiting with bated breath for the Orbital to be approved. The submission by the developers talked about agricultural land in the area. The developers were clearly aware of all the plans for the South West region, she said. With this in mind they wrote: "given the limited employment opportunities that are available in the agricultural sector, retention of vast areas of land for the preservation of agriculture does not appear to be in line with the progressive nature of the district plan, which acknowledges that growth and development must occur in the south-west".
She acknowledged that this submission was not fault of the Council or the State government but it indicated that developers were already circling the gazetting of the Orbital. In doing this, they were quoting other government documents to say there was limited opportunity for jobs and that there was no need for agricultural land in our region. She said that no matter what happens with the gazetting process, "we are going to be in a fight for our agricultural land".
Cr Cagney reiterated that everyone she had spoken to opposed to the Orbital and did not like it even being pushed westwards where it was "out of sight and out of mind".
Cr Cagney then acknowledged the poor air quality in our area and then further noted that the year-long development plan for rural land use in the area would be worthless if the Orbital went ahead. She said she was convinced that this process was all about opening up local rural land to development. She said the gazetting of the corridor would bring in tens of thousands of homes before any roads were built. "One of the pushbacks we have always had and slowing development has been the lack of infrastructure but when there is a gazetted line on the map it is like, build it and they will come," she said.
Cr Cagney said this gave the state government the opportunity to rezone land in the area before a road has even been built. She noted people have been delighted that Narellan Road was flowing more smoothly but that if unfettered development was allowed to go ahead it would return again to the days of massive congestion.
She said she also believed that the Orbital and associated rail line would be of no benefit to the local residents. She said she doubted the residents would even use it there were only two entrances and the egresses planned for the area unless they needed to skirt the airport or go to the airport to work a part-time job in a fast food outlet.
Cr Cagney returned to the air quality issue, saying that air quality reports in the 1990s originally stopped Badgerys Creek airport from going ahead because it failed on every environmental factor. Since then, she noted, the Camden local government area had grown substantially. These reports, she said, were ignored for years back when Badgerys Creek was given the go-ahead. She said the reports they had now did not even touch on the length and breadth of the air quality issues. Compounding this with the freight line and eight lane highway made for a dreadful outcome, she said.
Finally, Cr Cagney said she did not have a problem with the report by Council but the areas that had been touched on — flooding, flood retention, the location of the pipeline for air fuel and plans showing the Orbital will go through dams and sections of the Nepean River - had her very concerned. In conclusion, she said she would have to take the hard road and vote against the recommendation because she oppose the Outer Sydney Orbital in any shape or form.
(This was greeted by applause from the audience)
Cr Peter Sidgreaves spoke in support of the report and amendment. He started by acknowledging the "anguish" of affected residents. He said he felt for them as he went through a similar issue with the south-west rail link that was going to be within 400 m of his home.
He said that similar to the south-west rail link he believed the Orbital was infrastructure that the region needed. He supported the report and amended recommendation because they clearly indicate that the Council does not support the current route. He felt that if key sections of the Orbital that currently passed through heritage areas, certain businesses, environmentally significant areas and properties could be moved underground then this would be the best option. He noted this had been pointed out in the report.
He noted that if the Orbital route could not go underground then he would give serious consideration to the realignment of the Orbital, so that it has minimal impact on residents and commercial properties.
Cr Sidgreaves agreed with the Mayor's amendment to use the rural land strategy to highlight how the land was being used, regardless of what the developers believed was important to Camden Council. The aim he said was to ensure rural lands were retained.
He then turned his attention to local roads saying they were mentioned in the report but had not been touched on in the meeting. He also noted the heritage items in Grasmere, Cawdor and Cobbitty that will be directly or indirectly impacted.
In regards to the south-west rail link and the North-South line, Cr Sidgreaves said he would like to thank the State government for listening to residents after the Southwest rail link exhibition and then shifting the section from Oran Park to Macarthur underground. He noted this was not spoken about in the original exhibition. "They have listened to community expectations there." He said he was putting in his own submission and supporting the Council submission to ensure the same consideration was given to the Orbital.
He noted that the State government had omitted to include the extension of the south-west rail link to Macarthur with the north-south rail line. He asked for this to be included to avoid residents having to make a 10-minute detour by creating a direct route to Macarthur.
Cr Sidgreaves said the state government needed to give consideration to residents informing them about timelines. He said it was important for residents to have certainty about what was going on.
He said he was happy to see the community submissions received by the Council would be added to the Council's submission. He said it meant that when Transport NSW received the submissions they would get residents' submissions more than once as a result.
Cr Paul Farrow spoke against the Council's submission and amendment. He also said that he was happy for a further amendment and he would explain his reasons why.
He started by saying that from 2015 the proposed Orbital was almost certain to have ended up where they find it today. He noted in a Council submission from that time, it was stated that the Council supported the concept of a motorway and the positive things it would deliver in regards to connectivity to the area. "As soon as those blue lines were announced, we gave our open support to that to an extent,” he said. He noted that Council did file some issues of concern but primarily the principle of the motorway was supported.
He also noted the report was very clear about the engagement process and that the Government should engage with the affected community on an ongoing basis to identify "structured consultation processes" and to develop strong community support for the link. That clearly hasn’t happened, he said. "We are in a different space than where we intended to be," he said.
He noted the report stated issues of concern around land-use; property impacts; social impacts; heritage; biodiversity; air quality; surface water; flooding landscapes; visual amenity; soil and geology; and noise and vibration. He noted the council had received 96 submissions and said he believed this was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of community concern. Looking at the submissions, he said key reasons for residents concerns were an insufficient need for the Orbital, it was in the wrong location, insufficient information, the exhibition period being too short, a lack of alternative routes and more.
He noted the year the council took to prepare and properly adopt a rural land strategy and that the Orbital was in complete contradiction to this strategy. He was surprised that with this in mind the council would support the road even if parts of it were underground.
Cr Farrow said the real issue was the blue lines and the opportunity to make some noise about it should have occurred in 2015. He wanted to know who decided where the blue lines were placed and as such called for a further amendment to the Council report. He wished to include a point that said the council calls on Transport NSW and the New South Wales government to scrap the current blue lines and go back to the drawing board. Then start again by consulting properly with the community regarding a suitable location for this proposal.
(This was greeted with applause)
As Cr Lara Symkowiak moved the initial motion, she had to agree to Cr Farrow's amendment for it to be included. However, she disagreed and explained her reasons.
Cr Symkowiak said the Council's submission doesn't support the current route and grade and that if the route wasn't changed then it needed to be moved underground. She noted that if any changes were made the Council had asked that these be re-exhibited. She said she believed the Council submission already stated in different words what Cr Farrow was seeking.
She said the Council had made it very clear that they did not support the current route. For this reason she couldn't support completely scrapping the proposed route because using "similar words" the Council submission effectively said the same thing. She noted that if any changes were made and the route did not go underground then these changes must be re-exhibited to the community and the process started again. She said she felt the essence of what Cr Farrow requested was already captured in the essence of the submission.
Cr Paul Farrow responded by saying that he didn't believe the Council went far enough in highlighting that people were talking about alternatives to the route. He said there was a lot of conversation about alternative routes outside of the blue lines that had not been captured. He said if the Council was not highlighting these concerns with the blue lines, it means while the Council was not supportive of the current route it still suggested they were supportive of the corridor.
Cr Symkowiak said that it had been mentioned in Council workshops that the Council had not put forward an alternative route because any alternative put forward by the council would push it on to other residents, whether in the Camden area or other areas. "It is pushing the problem onto other people and we are not experts — we do not have all the technical experts or resources that Transport NSW has." She said the council's role was to comment on the proposed route and it had clearly said it did not support that proposed route. She said the Council's role was not put forward an alternative but to capture all the residents submissions. She noted some of those submissions may have proposed alternative routes and that Transport NSW should listen to those but the Council’s role was to comment on the proposed routes that had been exhibited. She said the Council had clearly said it did not support the currently proposed route. Cr Symkowiak then reiterated that the council does not have the expertise of Transport NSW. She felt that it would put huge stress and uncertainty on other parts of the community if Council were to propose an alternative route.
Cr Farrow responded by saying it was never the intention to suggest an alternative route. He instead noted the report identified shortfalls in consultation, including with residents outside the proposed corridor. He said he was not saying that the Council had the answers but noted that from 2015, when this was first mooted, there was supposed to be a proper engagement process to explain why the Orbital was needed and needed in the current location. He said none of this had been done. Cr Farrow said the intention of this amendment was not to shift the problem to anyone else but to say, "go back, start again, start the debate, start the conversation with the community and let's have a rethink about where the blue line should be and where the corridor should be".
(Greeted with applause)
Cr Cindy Cagney then had a question for the General manager. She noted that at the last council meeting the council had unanimously endorsed inviting ministers and shadow ministers to a community meeting. She asked the General Manager what the results of those invitations had been.
The General Manager replied, saying the invitations had been issued the day after the council meeting. These were followed up a week later. All government ministers acknowledged they had received the email but nothing more than that.
Cr Cindy Cagney then asked were the acknowledgements of people actually coming to the meeting.
The General manager replied that all invitations issued had been acknowledged. The three opposition spokespeople who acknowledged they had a role have asked to be advised when the meeting was going to be held.
Cr Cindy Cagney asked if anything had been received from the government ministers who would be making decisions.
The General manager replied said nothing had been received beyond the acknowledgement.
The mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak then began her right of reply. She started by responding to Cr Paul Farrow and thanked him for his suggested amendment. She said she understood the essence of what he put forward. However, she reiterated that the council's current submission indicated it did not support the current route and did ask for re-exhibition if the route was to change. Therefore she felt his amendment had been captured in the Council's submission.
In regards to the 2015 submission, she said the Council was given a "broadbrush" 10 to 15 km wide corridor to comment on. It simply asked the Council whether they supported infrastructure in the area along this corridor including a motorway. She said that given Camden was the fastest growing local government area in New South Wales and upwards of 300,000 people were expected to live here within 20 years the Council was obviously supportive of any future investment into infrastructure for the area. She noted the Council did not specifically comment on the road at the time. This was because it was impossible to comment sensibly on a location that was 15 km wide. She said at that stage it was just a conceptual design proposal. By contrast, she said this was the specific development they had to comment on.
Cr Symkowiak said she understood why the State government was proposing the route because of local growth. She said she wished this had been done with the South-West Growth Area was first announced and endorsed by the State Labor government 10 to 15 years ago. She said corridor preservation was a huge challenge. She said if they waited another 20 or 30 years they would not see the infrastructure and connections needed for our children and grandchildren allowing them to access jobs, education and employment opportunities in Greater Sydney. In addition, it would lead to further congestion around Camden.
She reiterated that the Council had not put forward an alternative route because that was not its role. However, they have tried to capture what residents put forward and had mentioned the community feedback in regard to the Sydney University lands and government lands. So, while the council had not put forward an alternative route it had highlighted the points made by residents.
She referred to Cr Sidgreaves comments around moving the south-west rail link underground. She said this was probably why they did not get many submissions in regard to this particular extension between Oran Park and Macarthur. She noted that the section of the Orbital that would go underground was of a similar length and as such the proposal to move it underground was within the realms of possibility.
Cr Symkowiak reiterated she understood why the government was trying to create the Orbital and that it was the State Government's role to select the route. However, the Council had highlighted all the problems with the currently selected route and clearly stated that it was not supported. The Council had said the consultation had not been adequate and that any further changes must be exhibited. She felt Cr Sidgreaves had made important points about the timing and the uncertainty that residents face during this process and that there needed to be clear timeframes and clear advice on those points.
She felt the Council had done its best to capture all the points raised by the residents. She noted from a technical point of view there were some really good points in regards to flooding, noise and air quality in the Council submission.
Cr Symkowiak encouraged any residents who had not put in a submission to do so urgently. "There is still time even though we are considering this this evening," she said. She said the Council would compile and attach anything received between now and June 1. Currently, there were 148 submissions. This time last week, she noted, there were 96 to 98.
Cr Symkowiak referred to Cr Sidgreaves comments on the need for a direct rail link just as her time ended. She concluded by saying she hoped councillors would support the recommendation.
The motion was passed with Cr Cindy Cagney and Cr Paul Farrow voting against it.
All other items from tonight's meeting were passed unanimously.