Wednesday 5 November 2014

WestConnex disaster hits St Peters - 80 homes to go

Yesterday the Prime Minister and Premier announced in my electorate in the suburb of St Peters yet another version of the Westconnex - a road interchange to be constructed at St Peters just south of Sydney Park. Simultaneously, 80 home owners in St Peters were approached and advised that their property will be acquired.

I responded in parliament today. The video of my speech is here:

It is just lunacy to build a vast road interchange at that location and it is not the first time the stupidity of St Peters as a major road interchange has been raised. More than 2 decades ago the M5 East was to be constructed with a major road interchange at St Peters, exiting at Canal Road. It exits where it currently exits at General Holmes Drive because I as President of the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils campaigned vigorously to ensure common sense prevailed.

The roads around St Peters, Tempe, Sydenham, Canal Road, the Princes Highway, Unwins Bridge Road, Mary Street and adjoining streets are in absolute gridlock, carrying significant volumes of traffic, large trucks and dangerous goods. This is a return to the stupidity that existed more than two decades ago.

Quite frankly, my constituents in St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham are sick to death of this incompetent Liberal Government careering around, coming up with a variety of locations for the Wetconnex for their own political agenda with no concern for the uncertainty and fear that is created in the community.

Initially, the Wetconnex through the Tempe and St Peters area was going to be an above ground road going through Tempe Reserve and Tempe Wetlands, but the NSW Government didn’t actually know the route that was abandoned recently. Remember the massive culvert that they were going to build a boulevard like Paris and Barcelona which is now a tunnel?

2 weeks ago people started drilling in the streets of Sydenham without any consultation with the community, which in itself created consternation. Residents thought that might be the location of a tunnel, right underneath their homes with the adjoining exhaust stacks. 

Now, there is an announcement by political leaders from Manly. The closest they come to St Peters is when they get in their wide bodied jets for their overseas jaunts. For the Premier to tell the residents of St Peters that this, and I quote, is “short term pain for long term gain” is just insulting.

The fact is, the Government has no idea where the precise route of the Wetconnex is going to be. It has no idea about the environmental impact; in fact no environmental impact statement is to be published until next year, well after an election. This government devoid of intellect is asking private tenderer's to tell them where the route should be. The way the NSW Government is supposed to build a road is to plan the route, examine details, conduct a traffic analysis and offer up a solution to address those problems.

It is one thing for the Government to get cheap headlines in the media to be seen to be doing something. It is another thing to cause fear and consternation to residents of my electorate because of their own inability, failure and incompetence.

Every time an announcement is made by this Government regarding the Westconnex, my entire community is left with not only more questions but also uncertainty and fear.

The Government is playing with the lives of the residents at St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham. Many cannot sell their homes for fear of losing money. Many cannot finish or start renovations for fear of wasting money. Many do not want to be forced to leave the area that they’ve built their entire lives in.

The St Peters, Tempe and Sydenham community will not accept these displays of contempt from the NSW Government who continually leave their livelihoods hanging in the balance. Enough is enough. The Premier should immediately announce to my constituents that their properties are not going to be acquired.

Monday 3 November 2014

Shalom College University of NSW - Shalom Gamrada Scholarship Program

Ron Hoenig MP with students, Scholarship Co-founder Ilona Lee and Shalom College Master Dr Hilton Immerman OAM
It was an honour to visit Shalom College at the University of NSW to meet with some inspiring Indigenous Scholarship students.

This remarkable University residential college located on the grounds of the University of NSW offers scholarships to Indigenous Australians to enable the college to make a contribution to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The program's name comes from the term Gamarada ngiyani yana in the Eora language (the coastal Aboriginal people of Sydney) and is translated as "We walk together as friends."

As the College points out; many Indigenous students find it difficult to succeed at university as they commonly come from disadvantaged educational communities, live far from campus, have to have part time work to support themselves and are seldom part of a 'learning community'.

"The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program helps to alleviate these problems by providing financial support, eliminating travelling time and creating an environment conducive to learning with tutoring and counselling support," the college says.

This year there are 25 students studying at the University of NSW living at Shalom College on scholarships.The students I met with all have a fascinating story to tell and are excelling in their chosen course, ranging from law to medicine to exercise physiology. All of the students have strong ties with their home towns and want to use their degree to better their communities. I found those students wonderful role models.

I was so impressed with the work of College Master Dr Hilton Immerman and his committment and obvious relationship with the students. And as always inspired by Shalom Gamarada Co-founder Ilona Lee who has always contributed so much to the community.