No tunnel vision

In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, Beaconsfield’s JIM MECKELBURG says we must adopt a non-NIMBY approach to the Roe-outer harbour debate.

INTERESTING reads in last week’s Chook regarding the proposed outer harbour versus Roe 8/9.

The front-page story “Port brawl gets ugly for Labor” has the Maritime Union of Australia up in arms because “90 per cent of the future growth in traffic will be cars, not trucks” and therefore, by implication, Roe 8/9 will still need to be built to move that traffic.

Not sure whether residents between Roe 7 and a very distant Roe 9 will be relieved or mortified that they are hemmed in by passenger vehicles instead of trucks.

Presumably the MUA is concerned about potential loss of jobs, but it seems difficult to believe that with the projected growth in containers, even with more mechanised equipment, that current workforce levels would not be maintained, even grow, as a new port is built.

De-affiliating itself from UnionsWA and walking out on the Labor conference, when only representing about two per cent of union membership, seems like self isolation. Michael Beaver’s letter “Sinking Feeling” is critical of Prof Peter Newman, apparently because he “has long advocated building an outer harbour” but Beaver supports “the extension of Roe Highway [that] was planned many years ago”.

To imply that Newman’s position is old, and therefore not worthy of consideration, suggests even less consideration of plans developed decades earlier without the understanding of how transport has changed.

Beaver is right that all the evidence suggests that Freo port “will not reach capacity for [several] decades”.

He continues by asking “why proceed with an outer harbour given the enormous cost and environmental hurdles?”

Surely that is the same question that can be applied to Roe 8/9 when there are not even any concrete plans for Roe 9, let alone how to cross the river.

Rat-racing

Without Roe9, traffic will be rat-racing down North Lake and Stock Roads to Leach highway, recreating the same concerns that currently exist.

Surely the better plan would be to look to the future.

Surely building Roe 8/9 and then Roe 10, to cross the river, and at the same time build the infrastructure for the outer harbour before capacity is reached at Freo port is simply duplicating costs and ensuring greater environmental damage.

Terry Gibson’s letter “Roe Faster” questions the argument that Roe 8/9 would end up in a bottleneck at the intersection of Roe 9, Stirling and Canning Highways in East Fremantle.

The WestPort Taskforce does indicate significant growth in harbour activity and outlines why rail would not resolve the issue.

Therefore road traffic, in trucks, will increase, and get to East Fremantle “cruising at an uninterrupted speed of around 100km/h” much faster, only to meet up with the increased slower volume of passenger traffic from the two highways–all of this over a distance of approximately 1-1.5 kms.

Mr Gibson goes on to suggest that Roe 8’s intrusion of the Bibra Lakes wetlands would be minimal by arguing that “other states and countries have successfully managed … large thoroughfares through much larger and more sensitive areas, with little adverse impact.”

Surely the relevance is lost given the large thoroughfare through a much ‘smaller’ sensitive area?

Many of the arguments for an extension of Roe highway and building an outer harbour are valid.

In both cases there are environmental issues and community amenity.

In each case the timeframe is extensive, but surely Roe Highway extensions, in whatever form, will only shift traffic from one built up community to another and its uncertain completion will overlap with the inevitable construction of the outer harbour.

An outer harbour will enable the growth of new industries and exports, each of which will benefit WA’s economy.

The outer harbour will also divert trucks away from our built-up communities, thus ensuring and improving the amenity sought by residents in Melville, Cockburn and greater Fremantle.

The issue of environment is apparent in both cases, but inevitably the outer harbour will have to be built, sooner or later. On that basis why damage the wetlands as well?

Surely it would make more sense to work on minimising the impact on Cockburn sound– is it possible that other places have already addressed such issues and can we learn from their experience?

Let us all look at ways to achieve the greater good, rather than simply taking the NIMBY stance.

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