11 Jan – Protesters have clashed with police in Sydney Park, in the city’s inner-west, as workers begin lopping trees to make way for the construction of the WestConnex interchange.
Some protesters are climbing trees in a bid to disrupt the work at St Peters and several have been forcibly removed by police.
The protesters, who have set up a camp four months ago in Sydney Park, are angry at what they estimate will be the removal of more than 800 trees to make way for the interchange.
Among the protesters was Jennifer Killen who has lived in St Peters for more than 30 years.
“I’ve lived here since before this park was built and it’s made an enormous difference to local people,” she said.
“It’s very distressing to see it destroyed like this.”
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the trees in Sydney Park were not actually in Sydney Park park at all.
“Those trees are on a road reserve,” he said.
“A reserve dedicated in the 1950s for the widening of Euston Road.”
The extent of the tree removal was revealed for the first time in a report released by WestConnex on Friday afternoon.
The assessment earmarked 827 trees for removal.
But the WestConnex Action Group says a further 200 trees are “at risk from the project unless there are redesigned or careful protection measures taken”.
Action Group Spokeswoman Reah Liebmann said she was not reassured by a Government promise that more trees will be planted to replace those being lopped.
“It’ll take decades to re-establish the canopy that’s there now and all of the undergrowth which will allow animals and wildlife and birds to come back,” she said.
Protester Chris Nash said today’s action was not just about the loss of the trees.
“The reason they’ve [the trees] been scheduled for destruction is they want to put seven lanes along two sides of the park and that’s going to pump an extra 60,000 vehicles a day into these suburbs,” he said.
The Minister questioned the motives of some of the protesters.
“We don’t listen to people that are just against things for the sake of being against it,” Mr Gay said.
“Where people have genuine concerns and genuine suggestions we certainly take them on board — that’s why our plan has changed as we’ve gone forward.”
The 33km motorway is the biggest infrastructure project in Sydney since the Harbour Bridge and is estimated to cost nearly $17 billion.