what are you working on at the moment? Joadja asked, when she
brought me some lunch from the Brushtail café.
Well, Ive been looking into a group called METAG thats
involved in the M4 East business. You know, where the Carr Government
want to whack in a huge extension of the M4 motorway from Homebush to
join up with the City West Link, I replied, eagerly eying my vegetarian
Me-tag? Sounds like a bunch of graffiti artists.
No light-of-my-life, its an acronym. The M4 East Tunnel
Action Group. Anyway, its a Haberfield-based lobby group that
sometimes sounds like its fighting the RTA but it actually seems
to have a remarkable co-incidence of views with the RTA.
So whats really going on here, do you reckon?
Well, it looks to me like a political shadow-play. Remember, there
were three options under consideration: a short tunnel, a long tunnel
and a slot. The RTA originally stated a preference for the short tunnel,
but right from the start, people familiar with the ways of the RTA said
that the short tunnel was just there to scare residents in Haberfield,
where all the traffic would come out what the RTA really wanted
was the long tunnel.
Of course the RTA didnt want to plug for the long tunnel
because its the most expensive, but they set up a little performance
to get their way.
So its worked out well for the RTA that a community group
is pushing for the long tunnel. Its helped them sell that option
to the politicians on the grounds that, well, theyre responding
to the community.
But hang on, arent there a an awful lot of locals opposed
to any motorway option at all? Jo asked.
The majority, probably, and theyre pretty vocal about it.
But, at the very least, the existence of METAG has the effect of cancelling
out the local anti-road groups. And its not just the locals
public transport is overcrowded and underfunded and public opposition
to spending megabucks on motorways is growing.
And I discovered that the two METAG convenors are interesting
people. First, theres Brian Welsh. He was the RTAs General
Manager, Community Relations, in the 1990s. Effectively, he was their
head spin-doctor, managing stuff like public perceptions and advertising.
Then theres Rosanna Martinello. Shes an accountant
and a senior finance executive with the sugar giant, Colonial Sugar
Are these people locals?
Welsh lives in Five Dock. Martinello lives in Haberfield, just
near where the short tunnel would come out, so shed have a compelling
reason to push for a longer tunnel, not that I think its a solution.
Anyway, back to METAG. On 15 March this year the group provided
a motion on their letterhead to hundreds of people at a public meeting
at Ashfield calling on the community to reject all three options on
the table (the long and short tunnels and the slot option), and lobby
(I scratched among the junk on my desk for the document)
a comprehensive, thorough and independent review
of the M4 East Options study to present more ecologically sustainable
Sounds alright. Warm and green.
Yeah, and the motion was unanimously supported and METAG gained
a lot of credibility as an anti-motorway group. But a couple of weeks
later, in their submission to the RTA, METAG reversed their position
and abandoned their demand for an independent review. Instead, they
recommended a more functional adaptation of the Long Tunnel Option
for consideration by an Environmental Impact Study.
And then, on 8 June, Rosanna emailed members of the community
asking them to persuade Ashfield Council to agree to RTA requests to
drill in Haberfield as part of preparations for the motorway proposal.
She reckoned this was a promising sign, because it suggested
a quasi-medium tunnel may be under consideration. Despite
her efforts, Ashfield Councillors rejected the RTA request to drill
and theyre continuing to fight the proposals every step of the
But guess what? On 26 June the RTA announced its preferred option
was now a medium tunnel going past Haberfield, and roads minister Carl
Scully said he was doing this because it was what the Haberfield community
Id never have guessed. A simple submission, a few placards
at a demo, and the mighty RTA rolls meekly over. What a ripping yarn?
How does this Rosanna justify METAGs position?
She says that the community unanimously supported the long tunnel
at the March 15th meeting - but that isnt what the meeting voted
for. Regardless of what METAG wants, most residents in Haberfield do
not want any tunnel, or any emission stacks or additional traffic in
their suburb which this motorway would bring. Ashfield and Leichhardt
councils are both fighting the tunnel in any form.
Sounds like the community have been handled by experts.