RTA Juggernaut to destroy Bullaburra amenity

[The following article was initially published as a letter in the local Blue Mountains Gazette (BMG) newspaper on page 4 by this Editor 20081008 under the title ‘RTA Juggernaut‘.  It was sparked by reading two separate letters in the paper from Bullaburra residents angry with the RTA and the highway widening process.  Copies of those letters are at the end of this article – one by long time Bullaburra resident Viki Wright Rivett; the other by lifetime Bullaburra resident and local historian Una King.]
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Note:   RTA = New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority;     GWH = Great Western Highway
 
Bullaburra’s rural amenity
Looking east along Great Western Highway towards Railway Station (left)
(Photo by Editor 20110115, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge)

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Decades of complacency and naivety, or do residents of bucolic Bullaburra simply deserve rights to quiet enjoyment and their buena vista?  The RTA highway juggernaut is at the door.  It won’t just ‘bisect’ the community [‘Anger at RTA‘ BMG 1-10-08]; it will permanently segregate it, raze its rural amenity and degrade it into a noisy truck side stop.  Bullaburra is set to receive the same utility vision imposed on Blaxland and so many other Mountains communities.

Bullaburra looking east along Great Western Highway towards Noble Street (far centre)
(Photo by Editor 20110115, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge)

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I too attended the August township meeting at Bullaburra’s Progress Association hall, not as a Bullaburra resident, nonetheless as a Mountains resident.   At the packed meeting, Bullaburrans unanimously endorsed an alternative plan asking the RTA to accommodate local linkages across what will become another four-lane barrier dividing a local community.  Personal experience in dealing with the RTA at Leura, Medlow Bath and Katoomba affirms it doesn’t listen or care.  It has just plundered the rare 1820s convict road at Leura, hardly pausing its schedule.

Bullaburra:  “Blue Skies” Village – reads the sign (Aboriginal translation)
Western approach to Bullaburra along the Great Western Highway
(Photo by Editor 20110115, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge)

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The RTA’s massive budget is only limited by political will. It stands to be key recipient of the new Building Australia Fund of $22,000,000,000 then claims it can’t afford community bridges.  Be clear, the RTA’s mandate for ‘progress’ is to build more expressways.  Driven by road lobbyists, the RTA is extending greater Sydney’s swelling suburbia like Roman legions extended empire.

Few understand how much transport influences land use patterns.  Transport leads land use.  Once an expressway or railway is built, it is easy to change the zoning and development laws to increase the population along the corridor.’  [Then NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, SMH 29-9-08, p11].

RTA performance is measured by it maximising road ‘ride quality’ and minimising ‘travel times.’  The RTA juggernaut will remain unstoppable so long as local townships rely upon single-handed last ditch battles.  Our freshly elected Mountains councillors should stand up for the people of Bullaburra.

This is what awaits Bullaburra – destruction of rural amenity
Clearfelled mature native trees at Katoomba to make way for a wider faster trucking expressway
Same project, different section.
(Photo by Editor 20090501, free in public domain)

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More of what awaits Bullaburra  –  a trucking expressway amenity!
Eastern approach to Wentworth Falls near Rest Easy Motel (off photo to right).
(Photo by Editor 20110115, free in public domain, click photo to enlarge).

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Following this letter in the weekly local paper, the next week  (20081015) the Chairman of the Bullaburra Township Committee, Mr Will Silk, responded as follows:

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‘Missed Target’

letter by Will Silk in BMG 20081015
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‘I really don’t know where the author (BMG 08.Oct.2008) is coming from, but he seems to have parachuted into a campaign in the dark and has missed the landing zone.

Steven, a word, to you and other latecomers who are just now arriving from above to hitch themselves to the Bullaburra bandwagon – take the time to find out more about us partisans and the grounds on which we have to work.

At the recent Bullaburra Town Meeting, if you weren’t so blinkered by your condescending stereotyping of a “bucolic Bullaburra”, with its residents slumbering in selfish “complacency and naivety”, you might have seen, heard and, possibly, learned some things of interest to residents’ right activists, environmentalists and radical democrats.

You correctly observed a packed meeting of Bullaburra residents as they unanimously (re-)endorsed the Bullaburra Township Committee’s (BTC) plan to manage the way in  which the GWH goes through Bullaburra, and condemned the RTA’s plan.

But, hey, Steven! Where did the BTC Plan come from?  It came from 18 years’ proactive work by Bullaburra residents and their organisations.  We saw the RTA “juggernaut” coming a long time ago, and instead of just whingeing, we developed our own plan before the RTA did, and we united behind it!

You failed to see that at the meeting, the BTC Plan (with its three integral foundations of pedestrian trian bridge), service road and North-South Bullaburra road-rail bridge) has the unanimous  support of all the community organisations in Bullaburra.  You also failed to hear all of the now elected ward councillors give our plan their support.  And moreover, you didn’t see the now mayor, Adam Searle, and from the Liberal side, Chris van der Kley both, literally “stand up”, together and not for the first time, to show their support.

Far from being naive and complacent, Bullaburra, and the BTC have already put in the hard yards of “politically correct” struggle; delegations, submissions, lobbying.  What you failed to see at the meeting was a community gearing up, giving its representatives a very clear mandate, for the next stage in its struggle for a renewed, people and environmentally-friendly village.

We are not “at a last ditch”.   But we are about to go to the barricades.  We encourage you and all Blue Mountaineers who care about creating such townships to join us if you wish.  But leave the mocking paternalism behind.  Seeing the RTA as an “instoppable Juggernaut” is defeatist.  It is a sort of jaded fatalism that is itself an impotent form of complacency.’

~ Will Silk, President of the Bullaburra Township Committee.

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Harsh defensive words from Mr Silk.

I chose not to reply to Will Silk’s above letter in the local paper, because to have done so would have only detracted Bullaburra residents from their united focus behind Will Silk to deal with the RTA.  The aim of my letter had merely been to awaken fence sitting residents to the realisation of the force and power they were dealing with at the RTA.  I  had witnessed similar David v Goliath community campaigns along the highway, most notably at adjacent Lawson, each village/town community singularly convinced that their case was special and naively campaigning in isolation against the legal might and finances of the RTA.

So I was happy to withdraw my involvement at the time to avoid potential conflict, yet my protest campaign in the local paper broadly against the Trucking Expressway continued through into 2010.

What Mr Silk didn’t realise was that I had been actively involved in previous community campaigns concerning the RTA highway widening stretching back to 2001 when I first arrived in the Blue Mountains.  Previous highway campaigns have included Shell Corner (2001-02), Soldiers Pinch (2001-02), Lawson (2003-09), Leura section 1 (2004-05), Medlow Bath (2005 ),  Leura section 2 (2006-08), Katoomba (2006-09), Mount Victoria bypass (2006-08) and Bells Line of Road (2005-07).

What Mr Silk also didn’t realise was that  at the time I was contracting as a management accountant with the RTA, with some insight into the mechanisations, agendas and management culture of this very much political organisation.  What Mr Silk also didn’t realise was that I had researched the history of Bullburra and learnt about the RTA plans for the highway widening through the town.

The RTA plans are set to divide Bullaburra by a faster four-laned expressway, greatly restricting local access and offering very few design concessions to local residents.

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I didn’t have to wait long for the optimistic Bullaburra community sentiments to sour about the likely success of the BTC’s alternative highway design.

The above letter in the local paper by Mr Silk a Chairman of the Bullaburra Township Committee, saw the following week a media release by the Bullaburra Township Committee, headed up with a photo including Will Silk.

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‘Bullaburra joins highway battle

by Michael Cleggett (journalist), BMG 20081022, p3.

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‘The RTA’s highway-widening roadshow continues to attract jeers wherever it arrives, and this time it’s Bullaburra residents voicing anger at plans for their stretch of tarmac.
Members of the Bullaburra Township Committee (BTC) are furious their own designs for the upgrade have seemingly been ignored.

BTC president Will Silk is concerned the RTA has not fully accounted for the effect of any works on the village and its people.
After years of campaigning to different levels of government and departments, residents were dismayed by the RTA proposal when it was made public earlier this year.

“We went in to see them in the first week of June this year and not to our surprise, but to our disgust, we found that they didn’t even know about our plan, they hadn’t taken it into consideration,” Mr Silk said.

In anticipation of the highway upgrade the community has been looking into the issue for more than 20 years. The three pillars of the BTC designs are a road bridge connecting north and south Bullaburra, a comprehensive service road on the southern side running parallel to the highway and a pedestrian bridge. None of these form part of the RTA’s proposal.
Mr Silk said the BTC’s vision presents a much better opportunity to create “a modern 21st century village with the unavoidable highway through the middle of it”.

The service road is intended to allow residents to traverse the town without having to make a difficult turn onto the highway while the bridges would avoid permanently dividing the town as well as providing easier emergency vehicle access.  This stage of work will expand the highway to two lanes in each direction from Noble Street to 600 metres west of Genevieve Road.

Outside of the widening, the main features of the RTA plans involve relocating the commuter car park to the southern side of the highway, moving the pedestrian crossing lights, an access road for some properties between Genevieve Road and Noble Street and a number of other changes to street access and bus stops.

Member for Blue Mountains Phil Koperberg has expressed a willingness to further examine the issue.

“(The BTC) proposal for a link bridge between north and south of the Great Western Highway obviously has merit,” he said. “However, whether or not it is practical, feasible or constructable I’ll take advice from the RTA.”

An RTA pamphlet delivered to residents suggests that advice will be bad news. It describes a comprehensive access road and a pedestrian overbridge as unfeasible.
A spokesperson for the RTA said an information session earlier this month was well attended with “some worthwhile suggestions . . . put forward, which will be investigated”.
A second information session will be held by the RTA from 10am-1pm at Lawson Bowling Club this Saturday, October 25.’

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This article by the Bullaburra Township Committee was then followed up by Bullaburra resident Patrick Tatam, who clearly had a stronger interpretation of how discussions between locals and the Roads and Traffic Association were proceeding.

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RTA Bullaburra fiasco’

by Patrick Tatam, Bullaburra (letter in BMG 20081029, p4)
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‘Regarding the obstructionist, bullying attitude of the RTA towards the Bullaburra Township Committee (BTC), attacking the BTC’s proposed alternativeplan for the GWH rod widening through Bullaburra, here’s my take on what locals are saying:

  1. The major political parties are basically inept, unable to listen to constituents and consumed with retaining/grasping power
  2. Phil Koperberg (then local Labor MP) has no effectively influential power, says anything to avoid an issue, is “a bit of a show pony”, and has furthered his career utilising the ‘who you know, not what you know’ approach
  3. The RTA is seen as a mob of bureaucratic bullies, are even more incompetent than their political masters (the Hazelbrook railway bridge fiasco is common knowledge), and are responsible/answerable solely to the faceless bosses located deeply within the termite mound of RTA headquarters.
  4. RTA representatives at community meetings are aggressive, non-consultative, driven only by their own preferred agendas, ill-prepared, and are the antithesis of ‘public servants’
  5. Exiting either Boronia or Genevieve Road is currently dangerous, and will become definitely more so with the planned RTA ‘seagull’ intersection, increased speed restrictions (from 70kph to 80kph) and higher traffic volumes (particularly those larger faster trucks).
  6. The BTC’s plan is a far better solution for the Bullaburra area than the ‘crash through or crash anyway’ RTA proposal; it’s a plan that addresses the needs of  the people who live here, not the needs of a termite from a city office, and incorporates beneficial infrastructurec, not just ‘bloody minded’ bitumen.

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Elected government members, and RTA personnel, should realise that they are our representatives, and that locals are becoming more politically astute, voting more for independents, if only to make our representatives more representative.  Those bullies that remain, hiding behind the skirts of party machinery, should recall the destiny of the dinosaur.  Or just move to the last bastions of ‘Bullyville’: Zimbabwe, Myanmar, etc.

~Patrick Tatam, Bullaburra.

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Editor’s Campaign to Save Bullaburra’s 300+ year old Angophora tree from the RTA

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Bullaburra’s Angophora – on RTA’s death row
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Listed on Blue Mountains Council’s  Significant Tree Register

Registered Significant Tree #:   29
Botanical Name:   Angophora costata
Common Name:   Smooth Barked Apple, Red Gum
Date Registered:  17th July 1985, adopted 21st June 1988
Location:   Great Western Highway, Bullaburra, Opp. Lot 173, DP13407.

[Read Significant Tree Register]

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Campaign article in Blue Mountains Gazette 20081203, p19.
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This followed a quarter page campaign article published in this newpaper on 20081105 costing this Editor $460.
 (Click image to enlarge)

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 Letters by Bullaburra residents 20081001

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(Click image to enlarge)

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