ROE WAIT, this is reality
How will future WA judge Labor’s call?
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.