LYNN McLAREN is the Greens upper house MP for the South Metro district. She’s been keeping a close eye on the Roe 8 debate for years and in this week’s THINKING ALLOWED says she hasn’t forgotten a promise made almost 20 years ago.
NORTH LAKE and Bibra Lake will be permanently protected,” declared Graham Kierath, in a statement issued to mark the launch of the Liberal government’s Bush Forever initiative on Boxing Day, 2000.
The then-planning minister claimed Bush Forever was “one of the most significant conservation initiatives ever undertaken in Western Australia and places Perth at the forefront of world cities conserving their biodiversity”.
He went on to list the bird species, including the Australian shoveler, blue-billed musk and pink-eared ducks, who inhabit the “key piece of Perth’s natural heritage” that is Bibra Lake Reserve and Beeliar Regional Park. Jump forward to December 2016.
Mid-morning at Molvolio Road in Coolbellup.
Residents who note it’s usually hard to get a police officer out to report a crime look on as a fleet of police vehicles — a mini-bus, four paddy wagons, two cars and two horses carrying officers clad in high-vis vests — line the bushland behind them.
The police seem out of place against the backdrop of yellow and green eucalyptus trees which create a corridor to Beeliar Regional Park to the south.
They are here to quash any objection from would-be protesters to the fencing being erected on the order of today’s Barnett government, which plans to smash a highway through the same place Kierath had promised to protect “permanently”.
It looks as if Kierath made promises he could not keep. Behind the bushland corridor flanked by police, a sign hangs from trees at North Lake Road: “Sacred Land – No Roe 8.”
It is a message that traditional owners of this land have delivered over and over again to deaf ears.
The Barnett government falsely suggests it had always been the plan to destroy this precious place and replace it with a $450 million, 5km road to nowhere.
Costing $100,000 a metre with no business case, cost benefit analysis or the usual Department of Finance review, Roe 8 would be one of WA’s most expensive and least-justified road projects.
The premier has a fight on his hands and he knows it.
A group of peaceful protesters gather in a backyard at Molvolio Road.
Two were arrested but released without charge earlier as they attempted to obstruct workers.
This is day two. They’re just getting started. Plan ‘A’ of their strategy is to resist the desecration of this place at least until March, when they hope the ALP will take the reins from the gung-ho Liberals and put a stop to this nonsense.
And yet, even the ALP has refused to bow to Greens’ pressure to commit to tearing up the contract, provoking questions among some weary wetlands protectors about the Opposition’s intentions.
October’s tabling in Parliament of the Roe 8 contract confirmed any future government that reneges on Roe 8 contracts will only have to pay for works already completed; which by March will not be extensive.
It’s a point we Greens will make forcefully next year. Holding whoever is in government to account and providing a genuine alternative to ‘politics as usual’ is our strength.
These protesters know, as I do, that Roe 8 makes no sense: there is no business case, no agreed plan to connect it to the port, it’s subject to various legal actions and corners are being cut in order to rush it forward.
Just because an election looms.
We must and will do everything in our power to save the wetlands’ rich natural and cultural heritage – and save WA taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.