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the threat to your canal reserve

Since opening in 2004 the bicycle/walking track that extends the length of the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve has offered a SAFE environment for cyclists and walkers for its complete 7.7 kilometre length as it passes under all roads along its path. This has been a blessing for children and the aged, as they do not need to cross major roads such as Cumberland Highway.

Work HAS commenced to extend the Prospect Highway (Reconciliation Drive) and the Blacktown-Wetherill Park Transitway through the Boral Quarry. The Canal has been bulldozed (with indecent haste) where it intersects with the Prospect Highway with only a circuitous and dangerous alternate route being offered. Mind you, this route has not been signposted as promised in the plans.

In fact, the plans do not even guarantee the existing SAFE cycleway will EVER be restored. This action has transformed a SAFE cycleway into an UNSAFE cycleway for your children and the elderly, courtesy of the Minister for Roads, Boral and the Minister for Planning.

It is incomprehensible that the planners would have thought that this fiasco could be considered, even momentarily, acceptable to the community.

Apart from the safety aspect, the historical significance of the heritage canal has been ignored, with the blessing of, no less than, the Heritage Branch of the NSW Department of Planning. Do they really have heritage as a priority?

The wishes of the community have also been ignored as they have not even been seriously consulted. Boral claims that a newsletter was despatched to around 600 nearby residents and no responses were received. The newsletter hardly provided adequate detail to assess the magnitude of the works or their implications. But maybe it wasn't supposed to. Residents may have objected!

It is interesting that we haven't found anyone who remembers receiving the newsletter, but our experience as members of the official Boral Community Advisory Group (CAG) involved with the residential portion of the Boral Greystanes Estate tells us that Boral's ability to deliver newsletters isn't exactly stellar. Feedback at meeting after meeting showed that even though Boral claimed newsletters had been delivered to residents, that at best, receipt was patchy and at times just didn't happen. This has been acknowledged and minuted by Boral in CAG meetings such as Meeting 14 on Monday 11 September 2000 on page 6 of the minutes and Meeting 33 on Monday 22 July 2002 again on page 6. Nearly two years apart but the problem continued.

The Ministers and the bean counters at Boral responsible for this disaster should hang their heads in shame.

Unfortunately, the new state government planning rules mean that local council, the trustees of the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve, are no longer approvers for major project such as this. So why does the NSW State Government bother appointing a Trustee for the Reserve? Could it just be to shift maintenance costs to local ratepayers. This just isn't good enough! The NSW State Government's planning approval process is obviously broken and is far from transparent

Now that this precedent has been set, how safe is the rest of the Canal Reserve from commercial interests? Remember that another project, that Boral is involved with, has already received approval from Council to rip up about 4 kilometres of regrowth to lay a pipeline beside the cycleway from the Boral property to Cumberland Golf Club. It includes approval to bore through the heritage listed canal walls and digging has commenced on 20 May 2008. Precedents such as these jeopardise the future of a reserve that was hard won by the community. We obviously need stronger protections.

The Prospect Highway offers benefits to the community that can't be ignored. However, the benefits that the SAFE access to Prospect Reservoir offers should not be ignored either.

Now that our SAFE cycleway has been destroyed, the only acceptable solution to the community is the construction of a bridge to traverse the highway as shown on various plans. Boral and the RTA must be compelled to revert to the plan that maintained community access to a SAFE cycleway.

And the cycleway bridge MUST be built BEFORE traffic is allowed to use the Prospect Highway or Transitway. None of the usual far off promises with no budget allocations are acceptable.

This is the sensible solution. We just need the planners, approvers and bean counters to understand this.

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