A week ago work on the devastating Roe 8 highway, part of the Perth Freight Link in Western Australia, was halted. The four-lane, five-kilometre highway, which was gobbling its way through the incomparable Beeliar Wetlands and attracting massive opposition, was stopped in its tracks by Western Australia’s new government, elected on 11 March.
I first wrote about this campaign in January as the bulldozers moved in. The opponents were pinning their hopes on ousting the Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, at the election on 11 March. They succeeded. Labor’s Mark McGowan, who had pledged his opposition to the development, was elected with a thumping majority. And, true to his word, he has stopped work on the road.
This was not before a large amount of damage was done; many of the native Noongar people have been dispossessed and brave campaigners have been arrested for obstructing the diggers. But now that work has stopped the remaining wetlands can be preserved, with their population of endangered Carnaby’s cockatoos, and the damaged areas gradually revegetated.
It is not clear how the financial position will be resolved. The contractors must be compensated and most of the funding comes from the federal government. Of course the money should be spent on public transport instead.
The Perth Freight Link was intended to provide a transport corridor between the industrial area of Perth and the port of Fremantle, but objectors have repeatedly shown that this would lead to gridlocks, bringing traffic and pollution into Perth, with no easy connection to the port. They argued that it would be far more sensible to provide a new port to the south, at Kwinana, and serve it by rail and roads in the industrial areas.
There is a chance to have the right solution at last. Let’s hope it happens. But meanwhile, we should pay tribute to the courageous and steadfast campaigners who kept up a solid protest throughout and helped to get Mr McGowan elected.