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Southern Outlet - Fifth Lane

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Tags: Roads, Traffic Congestion

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I am very glad we are having a reasonably long debate on this issue today. It is the first time we have heard anything like a measure of openness from this minister. I recall the Estimates process, which was not that long ago, where a number of members for Clark were asking this minister about the plan, about how many home owners had been approached, about how many homes were planned to be demolished, where was the business case? There was no information of any depth or substance provided. We were fobbed off. That has created a lack of trust from the community affected by this proposal.

I do not think the minister has made his case to put a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet. You only have to look at some of the big cities of the world like Los Angeles, for example. What you know is that if you build more roads or you widen the roads, you will have more cars and more congestion.

We have had eight years of the Liberals in government while congestion has only worsened. There have been no integrated traffic solutions put forward. The best that this minister and this Government can come up with repeatedly all over Tasmania is road projects. We are tired of hearing about road projects. We have not heard the minister, for example, talk about the integrated traffic solutions put forward by the RACT about two years ago, which were all about mode shift, passenger transport, active transport and putting infrastructure in that is genuine 21st century infrastructure.

Widening roads is a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem. What happens when the population of Kingborough and the Channel increases more in five years' time so that the fifth lane, should it ever be built on the Outlet, becomes useless? More roads, wider roads, more cars, more congestion.

The minister can get up and speak platitudes about the way that the residents of Dynnyrne have been dealt with, but the frustration they feel is because they have been treated with disrespect. They have been kept in the dark on key elements of this road widening proposal.

We have here a letter to the Premier signed by many people, including Mr Winter, Ms Haddad, Ms Johnston, myself, Mr Willie, Alderman Thomas, Alderman Burnett, Alderman Harvey and Huon Valley Mayor Bec Enders, along with residents, that laid out the deep concerns, frustration, the lack of information, and pointed to all the alternatives that have not been explored by this minister or this Government. I am not sure that the Premier has responded to this letter, which was sent some two and-a-half or three months ago. The letter starts:

Dear Premier,

We as a group of community representatives and leaders reach out to you as Premier. The process in relation to the fifth lane of the Southern Outlet and the failed communication that the community has attempted with minister Ferguson has been disappointing to say the least.

For a decision that was originally made in 2018, there are significant developments that have entirely changed the rationale, if there was such for a fifth lane, to disrupt the lives of the residents and detrimentally impact the purse strings of the Government.

While negotiations may be underway with affected residents, we believe that the working life patterns of Tasmania have changed to such an extent that a review is essential. What was predicated at the time, a standard resort to peak hour travel, no home office arrangements and no staggered working hours, has changed dramatically and could, with a rapid review, save both the money and the loss of productivity that construction will cause.

Bus interchanges, ferry services and targeted economic growth in Kingborough and the Huon dramatically swing the scales against this construction.

Let us not forget that this Government has, at its fingertips, one of the simplest, most critical quick fixes that they could put in place. That is to stagger the working hours for public sector workers. That would change things on the Outlet almost overnight and cost nothing. But that has not been considered because what this Government loves more than anything else is a nice bit of bitumen.

Towards the end of the letter, the residents and those of us who signed on said:

We urge you to intervene to stop this misguided project. As public comment on the project has just closed, this is an excellent opportunity to call an 18 month moratorium on implementation while other measures, such as improved bus services and Kingston park and ride being introduced, can be evaluated.

There are several valid reasons for reconsidering the plan overall, particularly that the $35 million allocated from the City Deal is manifestly inadequate to the task and would have to be found from elsewhere.

Consideration will be needed to adequately compensate the residents of Dynnyrne Road for needless trauma and the ongoing threat that will forever devalue their homes.

If, however, you actually believe the project should proceed, we request that the Government release full traffic modelling, detailed costing and the business case for the project to demonstrate how this project could be in the state's best interest.

Also, we request details on other approaches to finding solutions to traffic congestion that were considered and why they were rejected.

This letter was put forward in such good faith. It is a statement of a series of facts, concerns, questions and then, towards the end, reasonable requests to the Premier of Tasmania. No answer to the residents of Dynnyrne and those of us who stand with them in asking this Government and this minister to rethink this proposal.

It is ill thought out. COVID 19 has changed everything. There are many more people who have flexible working hours, many more people working from home. What the research tells us, nationally and overseas, is that we are seeing a shift in working patterns that has been catalysed by work from home during the pandemic. That is a good thing because it means people have a better work life balance and there will be less congestion.

We call on this minister to engage with this more openly and honestly.