ROE WAIT, this is re­al­ity

How will fu­ture WA judge La­bor’s call?

The Sunday Times - - NEWS -

AND so his­tory re­peats. Hav­ing crip­pled a long-planned north-south road link in Perth’s south­ern sub­urbs when they were last in of­fice, La­bor in­tends to re­peat the dose east-west.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Rita Saf­fi­oti said she was de­liv­er­ing on an elec­tion prom­ise when she in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion this week to re­zone part of the Roe 8 road reser­va­tion to parks and recre­ation.

“The pub­lic gave us a man­date when they elected the McGowan Govern­ment that the Perth Freight Link had to go,” she said. “It was a deeply flawed, con­tro­ver­sial project that I am pleased has been laid to rest.”

It’s un­likely com­muters across the south­ern sub­urbs — truck­ies, but or­di­nary mo­torists too —are quite as de­lighted.

Saf­fi­oti bor­rowed from for­mer trans­port min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan’s play­book when in the early 2000s she deleted the Fre­man­tle Eastern By­pass. To­gether, Roe 8 and the FEB would have con­nected Roe High­way to Stir­ling High­way, a crit­i­cal miss­ing link in the long-planned high­way sys­tem.

At least MacTier­nan went through a full pub­lic WA Plan­ning Com­mis­sion process, whereas Saf­fi­oti in­tends to short-cir­cuit that and just try her luck with the Up­per House. Watch to see what La­bor is pre­pared to of­fer to shake loose a cross­bencher to side with the Greens.

The 2003 WAPC re­port on the FEB dele­tion is well worth re­vis­it­ing 15 years on. There were more than 9700 sub­mis­sions on the scheme amend­ment, and 85 per cent were op­posed.

WA Po­lice, the Depart­ment of In­dus­try and Re­sources and Transperth wanted FEB re­tained.

Po­lice be­lieved there were real safety and traf­fic man­age­ment prob­lems, while DOIR said it was im­por­tant “for the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the ex­port in­dus­try and the State’s econ­omy more gen­er­ally”.

In lo­cal govern­ment land, Melville and Can­ning were op­posed while Cock­burn and Fre­man­tle were in favour, a divi­sion that per­sists to­day. As per the plan­ning process, a hear­ing com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished, com­prised of plan­ners, an econ­o­mist and an engi­neer.

Af­ter 238 hear­ings from 639 in­di­vid­u­als or or­gan­i­sa­tions, the hear­ing com­mit­tee did not sup­port FEB’s dele­tion ei­ther.

It con­cluded that trucks on Leach High­way and High Street “al­ready cause ma­jor safety and pol­lu­tion con­cerns in the com­mu­nity” and “the FEB-Roe High­way route would of­fer a bet­ter so­lu­tion to ex­ist­ing de­fi­cien­cies of the road net­work than (La­bor’s) pre­ferred al­ter­na­tive”.

That al­ter­na­tive was a so-called six point plan which, it is now ap­par­ent, was only ever par­tially im­ple­mented. Of those six points, only three — the com­ple­tion of Roe 6 and 7 to the east of the Kwinana Free­way, de­vel­op­ing in­land con­tainer ter­mi­nals, and bet­ter lo­gis­tics — were fully im­ple­mented.

The other three points were putting 30 per cent of freight on rail by 2012 (in 2018 the fig­ure is 17 per cent), im­prov­ing ex­ist­ing roads (the main freight route on High Street/Leach High­way/Stock Road is barely changed), and “plan now” (ie. 2003) for the Kwinana Outer Har­bour.

The time­line was for Outer Har­bour plan­ning ap­provals to be fin­ished by 2008, money in the bud­get by 2009 and the har­bour play­ing a role as a work­ing port by 2012. Of course, none of that hap­pened.

Back in the present day, La­bor has launched a fresh plan­ning ex­er­cise, the West­port task­force, re­put­edly to con­sider the fu­ture of Fre­man­tle, Cock­burn Sound and Bun­bury ports in an in­te­grated way.

That work is un­der way but if it is al­lowed to be led by ev­i­dence and truly in­de­pen­dently, it is un­likely to rec­om­mend La­bor’s pre­vi­ously stated pref­er­ence for a short-to-medium-term de­vel­op­ment of a new con­tainer port at Cock­burn Sound.

It’s one thing not to want to build Roe 8 and di­vert the pledged Com­mon­wealth cash to your own po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties. It is quite an­other to re­move the cor­ri­dor as an op­tion for fu­ture gov­ern­ments for­ever. La­bor will own its record.

Re-read­ing the 2003 doc­u­ments, there is a cer­tain ar­bi­trari­ness that runs through the WAPC’s com­men­tary.

“The pri­mary road sys­tem of the (Perth met­ro­pol­i­tan) re­gion — ex­cept for the FEB/Roe link and the Fre­man­tle-Rock­ing­ham High­way — has been mainly built or sub­stan­tially com­menced. The sys­tem has ca­pac­ity un­der in­creas­ingly lev­els of con­ges­tion to ac­com­mo­date growth un­til the me­trop­o­lis ap­proaches a pop­u­la­tion of two mil­lion.”

The WAPC as­sumed that would be some time around 2031, but of course the mo­ment has al­ready ar­rived. It was not the only faulty premise.

There was much weight placed on the de­vel­op­ment of the Outer Har­bour and of the Hope Val­ley-Wat­tleup in­dus­trial area as in­duc­ing traf­fic fur­ther south. Now, 15 years on, nei­ther de­vel­op­ment has ma­te­ri­alised.

“At some time, the WAPC has to sig­nal that it is no longer ap­pro­pri­ate to plan for the con­tin­ual high uses of the au­to­mo­bile,” in jus­ti­fy­ing its de­ci­sion.

Since then, the big­gest road pro­jects in WA his­tory — the $1 bil­lion Gate­way project around Perth Air­port and the $1 bil­lion North­link ex­ten­sion of road high­way — have been un­der­taken. Who would not do them again?

A word about the Bar­nett govern­ment: it is im­por­tant not to over­look its in­de­ci­sion, in­ac­tion and in­com­pe­tence. While its first term was spent de­sign­ing and con­sult­ing Roe 8 so that it could be made en­vi­ron­men­tally ac­cept­able, it to­tally botched the im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The sales job was in­ept and the Perth Freight Link name was a shocker.

That fail­ure is as much on the Lib­er­als’ record as the plan­ning van­dal­ism is on La­bor’s.

Grid­lock: Traf­fic banked up on Roe High­way head­ing to­wards the Kwinana Free­way.

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