Out of pocket $600,000

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - Jenny Bar­lass

A Wahroonga woman who has lost around $600,000 af­ter her home plum­meted in value through NorthCon­nex build­ing works at her back door, is seek­ing gov­ern­ment com­pen­sa­tion for the sub­stan­tial loss.

She also wants to over­haul the laws gov­ern­ing peo­ple’s rights to com­pen­sa­tion when their homes are com­pul­so­rily pur­chased or drop in value through in­fras­truc­ture work around their prop­erty.

In 2011 Linda Smith and her hus­band moved into Ba­reena Av­enue Wahroonga, then a quiet, leafy cul-de-sac.

“When we moved in there was a house be­tween us and the M1, and there was bush­land and wildlife, so it was a nat­u­ral noise bar­rier,” said Linda Smith. “It was a calm, tran­quil place to live.”

Be­tween 2014 and 2016 Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices com­pul­so­rily pur­chased four homes around her, for a va­ri­ety of prices up to $3mil­lion, to en­able work on the nine kilo­me­tre NorthCon­nex tun­nel to get un­der­way. Her house was not needed.

“Last year my house was in­de­pen­dently val­ued at $1.8m by an es­tate agent. Then the bush was cleared away, the houses around me were bought for the mo­tor­way build and sud­denly our quiet haven was smashed.

“One of the com­pul­so­rily-pur­chased houses be­came a NorthCon­nex site of­fice, while the prop­erty next door was knocked down to re­di­rect the lo­cal creek away from the tun­nel route, los­ing the bar­rier be­tween the new mo­tor­way con­struc­tion site and my house,” said Linda.

Suf­fer­ing “in­tru­sive” build­ing work night and day just me­tres from the three bed­room home which vi­brates with the drilling, Linda’s hus­band was un­able to cope and the mar­riage split up. Linda has suf­fered a string of se­vere health is­sues in­clud­ing de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

“There are bright lights shin­ing right into the bed­room and chain­saws start­ing at 1.30am,” she said. Dur­ing one in­ci­dent she recorded a 90 deci­bel ex­ca­va­tion noise blast, right out­side the main bed­room win­dow, with loud tree clear­ing oc­cur­ring at night too.

“North Con­nex has been ap­proached many times on this is­sue by us and we have not yet had any sig­nif­i­cant changes in sup­port of our con­cerns - just $25 worth of movie tick­ets. It’s in­sult­ing.

“The con­tin­u­ous emo­tional and phys­i­cal stress has been enor­mous and I’m now on med­i­ca­tion to help.”

Be­ing in the cen­tre of all this build­ing work has ef­fec­tively de­val­ued the house by over $600,000, af­ter more than 60 prospec­tive buy­ers turned away due to the NorthCon­nex build­ing work, and the home re­cently sold for $1.2m.

Linda now plans to fight the NSW Gov­ern­ment to claw back some of the

dif­fer­ence in value, and is cur­rently gath­er­ing ev­i­dence to is­sue the le­gal chal­lenge to the gov­ern­ment.

“With this le­gal chal­lenge I’m launch­ing, I want to over­turn the ex­ist­ing laws that seem to ride roughshod over peo­ple’s rights for ad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion.

“Ap­par­ently we are a shadow in the law as there are no le­gal prece­dents or statutes that pro­tect in­di­vid­u­als from psy­cho­log­i­cal, phys­i­cal and fi­nan­cial hard­ship caused in cases like this. This is a real case of David and Go­liath.

“The laws of this land need to change so that oth­ers aren't af­fected when forced into sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.”

Linda Smith with part­ner Pete Cooper, NorthCon­nex dig­ger in the back­ground

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