Demonstrating the strength of strategic advocacy, Newtown Precinct Business Association (NPBA) worked with the local community to halt clearways along King Street - an anticipated impact of the Westconnex Road Project that could have devastated businesses in the iconic commercial strip.
In December 2014, owing to NPBA and local concerns, a small team began accumulating information on how the Westconnex project might impact the area as public information was not readily available.
Realising 24-hour clearways along King St was a potential impact of the motorway development, a combined effort by the NPBA and local direct action groups saw a major protest march on the issue in August 2015.
The protest engaged 1,500 concerned locals, 200 local businesses posted ‘Save Newtown Stop Westconnex’ stickers in their shop fronts and public awareness increased - resulting in 7,000 campaign signatures and forcing a parliamentary debate regarding Westconnex in the area.
NPBA’s Simon Shaw says the precinct benefited greatly from organising the protest and the general campaign against Westconnex, even if many of the local businesses weren’t initially across the campaign.
“Many locals were oblivious to Westconnex and it’s potential impact. It was our duty as the local chamber to protect their interests whether they were aware of the project or not,” he says.
“The campaign was a testament to the resilience of the Newtown precinct to work together in a community led advocacy campaign. This is evident in many local campaigns such as the recent voluntary adoption of local out restrictions.”
Although increasing NPBA membership was not an objective, by rallying the community against Westconnex the profile of the NPBA increased and the business association’s engagement rates rose.
“One of the key services we provide is advocacy for the local business community. Our remit is to promote and protect our constituents and ‘saving king st’ from 24 hour clearways is one of the several different examples of how we have, and will continue to, protect the broader interests of the precinct,” Simon says.
Another major outcome of the NPBA’s campaign was the inclusion of the ‘King St Gateway’ as a requirement for Westconnex’s planning approval of Stage two of the motorway project - which includes the St Peters Interchange. This gateway is a project that will steer traffic away from the southern end of King St and make it more difficult for traffic to use King St as a thoroughfare - a key outcome to protect King St from increases in traffic volume which would lead to potential 24/7 clearways.
At present geotesting is taking place in and around Sydney Park Road, Euston Road and Mcevoy Street and the NPBA anticipate this is for the purpose of easing the ‘post-interchange’ swelling of traffic onto local roads. Despite the business association's initial win, the campaign to limit Westconnex’s impact on the Newtown business and local community is far from over.
“We are now back preparing for the design announcements and imminent Environmental Impact Statement for Stage 3. This stage is the construction of the tunnel connecting the M4 and M5 and will more than likely follow parts of King St underground. We have met with all three levels of government to express our concerns over limited information regarding the impact the construction period will have on our precinct. We have also met with Sydney Motorway Corporation to request their cooperation for information exchange and community engagement,” Simon says.
“The real campaigning will commence when the designs are announced and we have real information on how it will impact our local business community.”
For more on the issue www.newtownbusinessprecinct.com.au