If you’ve been in Perth at all this summer, there’s been no escaping the controversy over the Roe 8 extension and the Perth Freight Link (PFL).
The Barnett Government has stood firm on its plan to begin construction of Roe 8, despite fierce opposition from local residents, environmental protestors and the wider community, as well as serious questions about the future of the PFL with ambiguous future stages still yet to be finalised.
Despite the vocal opposition to the project and WA Labor pledging to scrap the project if elected in March, the government has insisted on beginning construction before the state election, denying the public a chance to have their say at the ballot box.
The situation calls to mind the disastrous East West Link project in Victoria, with Liberal Premier Dennis Napthine pushing ahead with signing contracts and beginning construction work just months ahead of an election, despite the opposition clearly stating it would not go ahead with the project. The subsequent change of government and project cancellation cost the state $1.2 billion.
This morning, the project received another body blow with a review of the project modelling revealing critical flaws in the traffic projections. It’s suggested that the modelling underestimates the number of trucks that will use the road by up to 16,500 and invalidates the noise management plan and road design.
It’s just one more strike against a project riddled with faults. The Port of Fremantle is projected to be at capacity within the next ten years, placing a significant strain on investment in import and export related industries. Despite the fact that there is no concrete plan for how Roe 8 will actually link up to Fremantle harbour, the government have insisted on pushing forward with spending taxpayer money building a road to nowhere.
We need to put an end to this short term thinking and find a government that will take a longer term approach to our economic development. Instead of the narrow focus on projects built around the limited future growth capacity of Fremantle port, we should be focusing on fast tracking the development of the expanded port facilities at the Kwinana outer habour. With proper planning, the new outer harbor can be serviced with rail and road connections properly considered to avoid the pitfalls of the current project, making our roads safer and our communities better places to live.
New world class transport infrastructure close to the Australian Marine Complex and the Kwinana Industrial Precinct would open up new opportunities, particularly for heavy industry and manufacturing. And by avoiding issues of local capacity, these industries would have room to expand and grow for decades into the future, creating thousands of ongoing jobs for the next generation.
We’re encouraged to see WA Labor has pledged $20 million to complete the planning and get the Kwinana outer harbor off the ground, as well as redistributed the funds planned for the flawed Roe 8 project to various road infrastructure projects to reduce congestion and make our roads run more efficiently and safer. The plans to maintain Fremantle Port as a public asset and redevelop South Quay as a cruise ship terminus is also a sensible plan that takes advantage of Fremantle’s potential as a tourist destination.
What we really need to see from the next State Government is a commitment not just to short term jobs from construction projects but to long term, sustainable jobs for the future. It’s vital that whoever wins in March has a vision for the WA economy built on smart planning and projects that will provide jobs for our communities for many years to come.