By Claire Ottaviano
ONLY six-months on from a bushfire which changed the lives of many in the rural communities of Gidgegannup and Wooroloo, residents say they are facing the next threat to their livelihoods, the progression of EastLink WA.
This month residents banded together in a show of force against the initial design and planning stages of the State Government’s EastLink project, also known as the Orange Route or Perth to Adelaide Highway.
The project includes upgrades to Reid and Roe Highways between Tonkin Highway and Clayton Street in Midland and the grade separation of Altone Road, Lord Street and West Swan Road.
The proposed new section of EastLink, from the Roe Highway/Toodyay Road intersection to Northam is the cause of most of the concern with the highway cutting through major townsites at Gidgegannup, Wooroloo and Wundowie, and through the Wooroloo Brook catchment area.
Wooroloo business owner and bushfire victim Aleg Novik started the Rethink EastLink Facebook group at the end of June.
“My business is a wellness retreat, we create an eastern European atmosphere,” he said.
“People come to us for a relaxed environment, for sauna and relaxation.
“The highway will go through the creek at the bottom of our hill, there will be no peace, there will be night pollution.
“I don’t see the purpose of having two highways, Great Eastern Highway and EastLink all going the same direction to save 10 minutes for the trucks to get somewhere.
“They will spend lots of taxpayers money on this to kill trees, wetlands and the town.”
As part of the planning and development of the project, EastLink planners have begun conducting environmental, engineering and geotechnical investigations – some needing access to private property.
Mr Novik said some residents had barely begun to process losses from the February 1 bushfire when they received notification EastLink planners would need to enter their properties to do the surveys.
“It’s all happening at once, we just had this fire and it will be years until we get back to normal,” he said.
“I have to rebuild my business and my home and now fight this highway.
“During our first meeting one lady was in tears, her home was destroyed and now she has to deal with this.
“We are not in the right state of mind, the timing is inappropriate and insensitive.”
Gidgegannup resident and EastLink objector Rosalinde Osborne moved to the area five years ago for the small-town community lifestyle.
“We are worried about the wellbeing of the community, the impacts of 24-hour noise from road trains, not to mention the environmental impact of creating a new four-lane highway,” she said.
“The highway will also completely bypass the town.
“No one wants to be a bypass town, you’ll be killing the community.”
The project’s recently released June overview said EastLink would improve road safety by removing trucks from residential areas along Great Eastern Highway, relieve congestion by separating freight, local and tourist traffic from Perth to Northam and improve traffic flow by removing six signalised intersections between Tonkin Highway and Great Eastern Highway.
This stage of planning and development is needed to establish a business case and help inform future investment decisions.
There is currently no funding for construction.
See previous: Orange goes Eastlink