Queanbeyan City Council wants to build the Ellerton Drive Extension, at a cost of at least $90 million or more. This road would change Queanbeyan forever without providing a real solution to our community’s transport needs
Whatever happened to public transport?
Ever get the feeling something important is missing from the debate about new roads to accommodate more vehicles in Queanbeyan? You’re right – it’s public transport.
Most of the EDE route is on land zoned for Environmental Protection (E2). The study of environmental impacts prepared for the road project identified 87 fauna species including 63 bird, nine mammal and 10 microbat species. They include numerous species listed as threatened and vulnerable under NSW and/or Australian government laws.
The road would require clearing 19ha of native vegetation including 4ha of Box-Gum Woodland in moderate to good condition. This Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) is listed under NSW and Australian government laws. Around 4ha was cleared for the Edwin Land Parkway extension. There is just five per cent of this vegetation community remaining compared with the coverage in this area at the time of European occupation of the land. This is well below the national target to conserve at least 15 per cent of the original extent for each forest type, which is why the loss of a relatively small area is significant.
Dozens (44) of hollow-bearing trees would be destroyed to build the EDE. These trees are important for shelter and as breeding habitat for a range of species. Of the trees affected 12 had at least one large hollow and 30 had at least one medium-sized hollow.
Among the habitat that would be lost if the EDE is built is: 13ha of habitat for Rosenberg’s Goanna (including termite mounds used for egg laying); 11ha of habitat for the Speckled Warbler and Gang-gang Cockatoo; and 8ha of habitat for the Eastern False Pipistrelle (bat). All of these are protected species.
The road would also cause the degradation of biodiversity corridors or links, fragmenting habitat for numerous other species.
Queanbeyan Escarpment and Queanbeyan River are special and highly valued by our community. No amount of ‘biodiversity offsets’ can compensate for the destruction of bushland and damage to the Escarpment, the Queanbeyan River and river corridor.
Council recognised these values by placing a ‘scenic protection’ classification on the Escarpment as part of the city’s Comprehensive Local Environmental Plan in 2012. Building the EDE would make a mockery of this action.
A high-speed road through the escarpment and across the river is also a major threat to wildlife. Fencing and fauna underpasses are proposed, as well as an 80 kph speed limit but are likely to be ineffective in preventing injury and death, while creating obstacles to wildlife movement.
The EDE would likely encourage more people to drive and is being designed to accommodate four lanes of traffic in the medium term. This undermines everyone’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for accelerated climate change.
The EDE would cause a great deal of noise and air pollution to many residents along its route as well as people living along the Edwin Land Parkway in Jerrabomberra. The escarpment and river corridor would be changed forever. People would no longer be able to enjoy these areas as they do today. The potential to promote tourism based on protecting our natural areas would be lost.
There are plenty of studies that show the risks to people’s health, wellbeing and even life expectancy from being exposed to increased air emissions from vehicles.
The main beneficiaries of the EDE are proponents of new residential development. Residents will not get a bypass because traffic will be funnelled through Jerrabomberra along the Edwin Land Parkway and close to houses in Barracks Flat, Fairlane, Karabar, Greenleigh and East Queanbeyan.
Building the EDE could also pave the way for more areas residential development on ecologically sensitive land on the escarpment.
Vehicles will continue to travel through the Queanbeyan CBD and people will continue to drive their cars unless they have genuine alternatives. The best way to discourage heavy traffic through the city centre is for the NSW Government to place a load limit on the Queen’s Bridge on Monaro St but the government has never done this.
Building the Ellerton Drive Extension will take us further away from investing in the kind of sustainable transport system that a growing city needs. Experience elsewhere in Australia and overseas is that you don’t solve road congestion by building more roads. The answer is to divert demand at peak travel times by providing alternatives such as public transport and diversifying the location of jobs.
Council proposed developing a transport strategy for the city in its Residential and Economic Strategy 2031 (adopted in 2006), and again in a resolution in August 2009. Most recently, Council included the development of a transport strategy in the Queanbeyan Community Climate Change Action Plan 2013-17. Council needs to develop a transport strategy for the entire city including its rural areas before it decides to build any more roads, including the Ellerton Drive Extension.