One of the state’s most controversial road projects looks set to go ahead despite a High Court challenge of its environmental approvals still pending.
Last week Premier Colin Barnett announced the State Government had approved a contract to build Roe 8, the $540 million five-kilometre four-lane dual carriageway extension of Roe Highway from the Kwinana Freeway intersection through to Stock Road.
The project is a part of the Perth Freight Link, which will see Roe Highway travel directly to Fremantle Port.
Since it was first proposed Roe 8 has been fraught with contention over possible impacts to the Beeliar Wetlands.
The Save Beeliar Wetlands group successfully challenged the road’s environmental approvals in the Supreme Court in December 2015 but the decision was overturned on appeal in July.
Transport Minister Bill Marmion said a contract for the construction of Roe 8 was being finalised.
Treasurer and Member for Riverton Mike Nahan welcomed the news and said the road would ease congestion on local roads.
“Roe 8 is a critically important piece of infrastructure and once complete will ease congestion on our local roads, provide an important transport link between Kewdale and the Fremantle Port as well as a future outer harbour and will provide an important southern access link to the Murdoch precinct,” he said.
Dr Nahan said an overwhelming number of Riverton residents had contacted him over the years in support of Roe 8.
“I trust that they will welcome (last week’s) announcement,” he said.
Save Beeliar Wetlands convenor Kate Kelly said the announcement was disappointing given they were still waiting to hear whether they will get to challenge the State Government’s successful Supreme Court appeal in the High Court.
“We have a High Court challenge to the environmental approvals afoot which has come about because we were successful in December 2015 with the Supreme Court challenge,” she said.
“That High Court action is underway and we’re just waiting to hear.
“If we are successful at the special leave application stage and the hearing, the environmental approvals for Roe 8 will be swept away.
“We do understand that if the contracts have been signed they will not be able to be fulfilled if we are successful in our High Court action.
“I think the WA public should be asking the State Government why they would sign contracts for such a controversial project, which is under legal contention and is only five months away from election.
“On the face of it, it does look like a very fiscally irresponsible decision.”
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said there were still aspects of Roe 8 in limbo caused by uncertainty over stage two of the Perth Freight Link.
Ms Siewert asked Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development public servants in Parliament earlier this week whether the Commonwealth would fund Roe 8 while the government was still considering stage two of the freight link which led to Fremantle Port.
“When I asked whether it was still the case that the Commonwealth won’t provide funding for a stand alone stage they said ‘that’s the case’,” she said.
“So they’ll only fund it on the basis of one and two and they’ll only provide funding on the case of the fact that there’s acceptable project proposal support for stage two and they haven’t got that.
“I think it makes a farce of the government rushing out saying we’ve signed the contract we’re ready to go on stage one when they know they can’t get funding from the commonwealth for just that stage.”
Mr Marmion was contacted for further comment.