The Hartley Valley Progress Association has been very vocal about their opinions that the Great Western Highway (GWH) duplication proposal is wrong and that the government should look at workable alternatives.
TfNSW is pressing ahead with a project to duplicate the GWH between Katoomba and Lithgow with the major components tunnels beneath Blackheath and Mt Victoria and into the Hartley Valley.
The progress association has written to multiple government bodies, as well as Lithgow City councillors.
Councillor Stephen Lesslie is the first to respond to the group in detail about his opinion on the matter and has given the Lithgow Mercury permission to post his letter in full.
You can see what he had to say below.
"To the Residents of the Hartley Valley who have contacted me over the 'upgrade' of the Great Western Highway.
Although this 'upgrade' has been on the books for many years I was only contacted about the severe impact this would have on the residents of the Hartley Valley in an email sent to all Councillors on 17 June 2021 by Mr Renzo Benedet, the President of the Hartley District Progress Association (HDPA)
Let me say outright that the campaign strategy as outlined in the letter from Renzo Benedet is flawed and will fail.
The HDPA fails to understand that the problem is the 'upgrade' itself and not the highway's design or where it is built.
As Councillors we are asked to -
Pass a motion requesting the proposed design for the upgrade of the highway through Hartley Valley be amended to provide safer access for residents and business owners and to better protect the historic, social, economic and environmental amenity of Hartley Valley.
Pass a motion opposing the proposed location of two heavy vehicle truck rest areas in Hartley Valley due to their proximity to residents and the Historic Village site and request TfNSW to identify more suitable locations west of Lithgow.
Formally convey to both the Hon Paul Toole MP, Member for Bathurst and Minister for Regional Transport and the Hon Andrew Gee MP, Member for Calare, Council's opposition to truck stops and need for significantly improved outcomes for the Hartley Valley community.
Let me deal with these requests.
The Council is probably going to have an engineer's report on the design of the highway through Hartley Valley at its meeting on Monday 23 August [I hope the Mayor has asked for that] and the Council is likely to support minor changes to the proposed design. It is an easy thing to do and gives the appearance of being concerned. Even if accepted by Transport for NSW (TfNSW), this is just tinkering with the issues and will make little or no difference.
Editor's Note: Lithgow Council does not have any report concerning the upgrade of the Great Western Highway through the Hartley Valley.
The Council will also most likely oppose the proposed location of two heavy vehicle truck rest areas. Again, easy and, again no guarantee that TfNSW will agree. If Mt Boyce is closed there will be truck stops.
Asking the Councillors to convey concerns to Paul Toole and Andrew Gee. Seriously how weak is that and does anyone think that, even if carried by Council, either would care?
What should be done?
The Great Western Highway upgrade must be opposed in its entirety.
The argument is simple. It is not wanted and even if built will not work. You know the arguments, so use them. The eight billion dollar price tag should be put back into the NSW Treasury and used to repair the economic cost to this state caused by the covid pandemic.
The request by Mr Benedet to -
Work with the HDPA to support the Newnes Plateau Road route and to establish an intermodal road and rail transport hub west of Lithgow to support long-term employment for Lithgow residents
- is foolish and not even supported by over a third of the residents of the Hartley Valley surveyed. I certainly won't support such a proposal and I suspect I am one of the more sympathetic councillors.
The key to stopping this 'upgrade' is the saving of eight billion dollars. The Government will not stop the 'upgrade' through the Hartley Valley by spending the money on a bypass to Tunnel Hill.
How to stop this proposal?
The decision makers have to be approached to justify this 'upgrade'.
Paul Toole is the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads. He is also your local State Member and received 54 per cent first preferences at the Old Hartley Public School polling booth at the 2019 State election.
Mr Benedet advised the Councillors in his letter that -
The HDPA has written to TfNSW and to both State and Federal elected representatives expressing the concerns on behalf of the local Hartley Valley community and seeking urgent meetings.
Has Paul Toole ever appeared at a public meeting in the Hartley Valley? I see him on social media, out and about in his monogrammed high viz vest, all the time. Why is he being protected like an endangered species? I can only wish that the wild flowers in the Newnes Plateau swamps were as protected.
Perhaps those in the Hartley Valley who handed his how-to-vote cards out might like to ask him to come?
Andrew Constance, Paul Toole's boss, the Liberal Minister for Transport and the Minister in charge of Transport for NSW, should be contacted and told that the 'upgrade' is not wanted, will fail anyway and the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Dominic Perrottet, the NSW Treasurer, should be contacted with the same message.
The bottom line is that Hartley Valley is being sacrificed because Paul Toole knows that any loss of electoral support in the Hartley Valley will be more than compensated for by the gain from Bathurst voters and the prospect of a decade's worth of photos showing him inspecting work on the Great Western Highway.
Talking to the bureaucrats on the TfNSW (or Lithgow Council for that matter) is a waste of time. They will listen, they will tinker, but they don't have the authority to do anything substantial.
The money is the key and the Liberal Party runs this State."