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Yes vote on EDE while panel gives cold shoulder to dissenters

For readers of the print issue of the Bulletin, comments from presenters are at the end of this story.

Regional ratepayers now also responsible

The vote on whether to go ahead with the Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) organised by Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council two days before the federal election, was an extraordinary council meeting in a wider sense.

Joining the new Queanbeyan Administrator Tim Overall on a determination panel watched by bureaucrats from the state Office of Premier and Cabinet and two works departments but not environment, were two senior Sydney general managers ( Viv May previously of Mosman Council and Richard Colley from Canterbury) also appointed as new amalgamation administrators by the Baird government.

More than 100 ratepayers showed up for the meeting. A majority appeared to be there in opposition to a road that affects some of Queanbeyan’s rural residential and newer suburbs, river corridor and bushland. The EDE has been the subject of controversy and opposition since 2009, but the route has been a largely ignored road corridor since the 1970s.

Forty people addressed the panel over almost four hours. Only half a dozen spoke in favour, including a representative of CIC Australia Ltd which stands to benefit from EDE access to a proposed large subdivision at Jumping Creek behind Greenleigh.

Three former Queanbeyan councillors on then Mayor Overall’s ‘team’ (Peter Bray, Trudy Taylor and Toni McLennan) spoke up for the road and dismissed the rest of the gallery as biased, while one former Palerang councillor (Richard Graham) and two from Queanbeyan (Kenrick Winchester and Judith Burfoot) spoke against, emphasizing the undemocratic nature of the proceedings.

Most of the speakers said an elected council – not an unelected administrator or three should decide the matter. Noise, traffic and loss of amenity were major themes, as were environmental and native species destruction. The 4.6km route runs from the end of Yass Road to the Edwin Land Parkway at Jerrabomberra behind Greenleigh, across the river and through Karabar.

People spoke of the ultimate responsibility borne by ratepayers for multi-million dollar loans, nominally paid back by developers over 20 years, needed to top up state and federal promised grants of $50 million. Palerang ratepayer consultation since amalgamation also came up.

QPRC responded to an earlier Bulletin question about Palerang consultation, saying all studies relating to the EDE were on its website for lengthy periods inviting comment.

After 40 speakers, the three administrators proceeded as if nothing had just taken place. Watching them from the audience it was like: “Did you hear anything?  Nope. Did you?  Nope. Ok let’s get on with what we came here for”. And with minor amendments about noise shields, they voted for a motion to approve the EDE.

Was the timing just before the federal election strategic?  A switch in Eden- Monaro to Labor’s Mike Kelly was a good possibility and indeed happened. He is on the record as opposing the road for reasons spoken of on the night (backed also by Googong commuter surveys). That it’s the wrong solution for Googong and Tralee traffic aiming for Canberra, that it will do little to mitigate trucks and traffic as a Monaro Street bypass (undoubtedly a popular proposition) and that there are  alternatives.

Still, Administrator Overall concluded the proceedings saying what he has been saying for years as a steadfast advocate for the road: If the EDE is not built Queanbeyan will descend into traffic network failure.

“The Ellerton Drive Extension has been subject to extensive consultation, studies, modelling, reviews and discussion and forms the key part of the overall road network strategy for Queanbeyan,” he said later. “The environmental impacts of the extension have been fully addressed and the amenity impacts on residents adjoining or living in the immediate proximity of the corridor, whether they be visual or noise related, will be addressed.”

After the meeting a Greenleigh Residents’ Group spokesperson disputed the panel’s dismissal of unresolved environmental issues. He noted the Commonwealth still needs to consent under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act before work can commence. A significant under-estimation of the amount of endangered Box Gum Woodland habitat (and related animals) that will be destroyed may be an issue.  Also, the NSW Scientific Committee’s investigation into an endangered squirrel glider population remains ongoing.

By Maria Taylor

Comments from some of 40 presenters to 30 June panel of three administrators deciding on the Queanbeyan Ellerton Drive Extension road proposal, reported in the main article above. An overwhelming majority of the presenters spoke against the road. The following comments highlight issues that have been raised over the past several years and have divided the Queanbeyan community. They are now also the responsibility of Palerang residents.

Peter Bray, former Queanbeyan councillor, former deputy Mayor and now deputy of the Local Representative Committee, speaking for: “We’re a growing city and we need mobility.  I don’t hear one group talking about population growth abatement.”

Spencer Powell Queanbeyan resident speaking against: “This determination report (a glowing book review to force the EDE into existence to benefit land developers) plans to deliver toxic air from the commercial centre to the residential centres. It’s a risky $100 million investment being paid for by people as far away as Braidwood.

“We may also be facing a housing glut with Googong and Jumping Creek at the cost of lost housing value for existing residents and lost bushland. This decision has angered and outraged large numbers of the community which the former council was understanding before it was dissolved.  We ask for a comprehensive transport study.”

Sylvia Tulloch, Queanbeyan resident and businessperson speaking against: “We all agreed it was a great idea to have a bypass for Queanbeyan 25 years ago [along the EDE corridor] [Now] it’s not a good idea.  Biodiversity is important and I don’t want to see my children and theirs burdened with the cost.”

Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan resident, Animal Justice Party candidate and representative of Regional Friends of Wildlife, speaking against:  “The EDE is opposed not only by elected councillors and many Queanbeyan and Palerang residents, but also by environmentalists, wildlife experts and animal protection organisations who argue that building this road will virtually destroy around 50 hectares of precious river corridor land, while doing little or nothing to ease Queanbeyan’s projected future traffic problems.

Threatened squirrel gliders, sugar gliders, bentwing bats and koalas, among other threatened species of birds, reptiles and invertebrates, have been observed or could be present.

“Numerous hollow bearing trees, so vital to so many animals, will be destroyed to make way for the road itself. Other animals will lose dens, burrows, nests and sets, and will die of exposure to predators or the elements, or through separation from social groups essential to their survival.  Offsets if they are even available do not address this immediate destruction.”

Malcolm Lesley, CIC, Googong and Jumping Creek developer representative speaking for: “We fear that not building this road will restrict development.  [The alternative]  Dunns Creek Road is not viable.  [We have] committed $60 million to Queanbeyan Road network with $25 million for the EDE [developer contributions that council loans will cover in the first place].

Julie Worboys neighbouring EDE route resident (later seconded by her husband) speaking against: “The alternatives [eg Northern Bypass and Dunns Creek Road] have not been presented to the community. This road will ruin the lives of residents along the way to present Jumping Creek developers with an opportunity.

“We moved here two years ago and your own staff told us the road would not go ahead when we asked about it. Husband Harvey says road will go four meters from their “lounge room”. He also says “noise wall cuts light and generally changes the environment.”

[Both say as previous Liberal voters] “Now Liberal candidate for Eden Monaro Peter Hendy states he has delivered the EDE, for whom? Is this then a foregone conclusion and is this panel a front and a façade?  This road is creating division and disregard for residents.  Please consider the normal people who actually live here.  Consider the reasons why we moved to Queanbeyan.”

John Wilshire, Queanbeyan resident speaking for ratepayers: “Decision is premature. Without amalgamation the proposal would have been voted down 6 out of 10. Since merged with Palerang there has been no consultation.  Now as a regional council we need a comprehensive transport study. Don’t believe it’s ethical or moral to expect Sydney administrators to make this decision in short order.  The residential development along the corridor was based on the belief the road was not going ahead.”

Judith Burfoot, former Queanbeyan councillor, speaking against: Notes she was dismissed. ”It’s not appropriate to decide until democratically-elected councillors are in place.  It’s inappropriate to have non-local administrators on the deciding panel. Also Palerang was not consulted.”

Claire Cooper, Greenleigh resident speaking against: “Jumping Creek can only be accessed if the road is built so it’s a developer road. Presents a serious conflict of interest to council.  The public is being treated with disrespect with political appointees making decisions. Dunn’s Creek Road and the Northern bypass are alternatives and real bypasses for Monaro Street.”

Cydde Miller Queanbeyan resident speaking against: “We pick up the bill if the developer goes bust. Making such a decision under administration is undemocratic.”

Peter Lindbeck, Greenleigh resident and business person speaking against: “There will be only fresh air between my house and the bridge. Greenleigh has 1.5 to 2 acre blocks and there are many restrictions on what you can do because of the environment.

“At an information night, CIC advised me I shouldn’t be involved with this information thing, I should bow out and mind my own business.  Then I got the same message from a realtor. [But] the council’s own figures show the EDE would lessen traffic on ‘mainstreet’ Monaro Street by only 5%.

Richard Graham, former Palerang councillor, speaking against: “Speaking for 15,000 residents of Palerang I am certain the vast majority of that community has no material understanding of the project, or their financial underwriting of it through their rates.

“We have seen in the past 12 weeks this Administrative Council rely on the proposition that no further or proper advice or consultation is required on this matter with the residents and ratepayers of the former Palerang.  They point to the facile argument that EDE is nothing more than the continuing business of Queanbeyan City Council, and as such, sufficient community consultation has been performed.

“This Administrative Council has asserted there is no financial exposure to the QPRC ratepayers, claiming that the full cost is covered by grants and future developer contributions.

“No large scale government development project should be presumed as capable of coming in on budget.  Just consider the blowout of the NBN, or perhaps closer to home the blowout of the Macs Reef Road Waste Transfer Station.  No reasonable person would expect the ratepayer to not be carrying unreimbursed debt and repayment for this project.

Jenny Warren, Wamboin resident, and member Wamboin Community Association speaking against:  “I/we support the Qbn groups on their concern for the environment.  Now am facing the prospect that my rates will be poured into this social and environmental disaster. Will it be at the detriment of Palerang roads?

“Is it a done deal?  CIC Googong website says construction will start in 2016.  We need a regional transport study first.”

Andrew Grant Queanbeyan resident speaking against: “This will be a gross waste of public money and doesn’t solve the problems, just dumps all the traffic on the Yass Road bottleneck.  All it is, it’s an access road to Jumping Creek [proposed] subdivision.”

Michael Ziebel, Jerrabomberra Residents Association, speaking against: “This plan shifts all the traffic problems through the centre of Jerrabomberra. From Googong [eventually] estimated 28,000 vehicles per hour expected in peak periods.” Speaks for Dunns Creek Road alternative.

“The Northern Bypass was eliminated due to advice by RTA it would be too expensive. That was one man’s guestimate.  No evidence in RMS files that a report exists on this. The EDE is just a cheap option for developers.”

Roger Clement, Queanbeyan resident speaking against: “The remnant bushland at stake is part of the [wildlife and flora] connectivity between the Eastern escarpment, the river corridor, Mt Jerrabomberra, Gale Precinct. They are all interconnected – 10,000 hectares vital to the long-term survival of ecological communities in this area that are at risk. Climate change will make matters worse.”

Kenrick Winchester, former Queanbeyan councillor, Googong resident, speaking against: “I live in Googong and 80% of residents there who answered the council survey would not use EDE.  If constructed it would be a local road (ie local residents responsible). Loans mean $10 million in interest on loan instead of using the money for other community needs/assets.

“No offense, but two people will be making decisions on this road who know less about it than everyone else in this room.”

Toni McLennan, former Queanbeyan councillor (Overall team), speaking for: “EDE is current best solution. Dunns Creek road (longer) will have a greater impact on the environment.

“The people speaking against this project bought their house on a road corridor and now have to take the consequences of their actions. The people here tonight are an unrepresentative, well-organised minority.”

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