Insult to injury

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A Wahroonga family whose backyard is now around 15 metres from the NorthConnex freeway, has been given a pair of movie tickets as a brief respite from the building noise.

Jaime and Katherine Garrick say the freeway’s noise wall, which they were originally told would only be moved only five metres closer to their back fence, were in a succession of visits and emails from NorthConnex staff, drip fed the bad news that it was to be much closer to theirs and their neighbours’ gardens in Coonanbarra Road.

Before works started, the Garrick’s fence was around 30 metres from the existing M2 motorway, separated by bushland owned in part by RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) and part privately owned, as well as a creek.

“A team of NorthConnex, Lend Lease and Transurban representatives who came here in 2014 after I requested they visit, told me that day that the NorthConnex noise wall would be moved five metres closer when work started,” said resident Katherine Garrick, “and that we would get a newer and better sound wall than the one already there.

“At the time we were deciding whether to move or stay and we thought we could put up with that, so we decided to stay.

“Then last September in an email we were told in writing it would be 12.5 metres closer, then a few days later this was changed again to 15.2 metres. This is obviously unacceptable and when we complained, they just said ‘tough’ in so many words.”

Jackhammering just a metre from their back fence line made the house vibrate and after notifying NorthConnex of the effect on the house and the noise, a NorthConnex employee dropped a pair of movie tickets into the Garricks’ letterbox, saying “it would get them out of the house for a few hours while all the noise was going on.”

The Garricks were appalled. “For us it’s the contempt they are treating us with – and people all over Sydney in similar circumstances whose houses stand in the way of NorthConnex and WestConnex. They label it Critical State Significant Infrastructure but it’s a license to do whatever they want.”

In a further blow the Garricks have repeatedly asked North Connex to guarantee a price difference between what their house was worth prior to building works and its value at today’s prices, if they decided to sell – and have again been flatly refused.

Meanwhile workers have cleared the land behind the house, and the plan is to replace thick tree-studded bushland with grasses and native plants.

“Everyone backing onto the freeway wants to see them reinstate the bushland back to what it was after the freeway is complete,” said Katherine. “Grasses and natives won’t absorb noise and pollution.”

Katherine’s husband Jaime added: “It’s important infrastructure for a growing city which needs to be done. It’s just NorthConnex say one thing and do another. And without the property price guarantee, they have effectively stolen money from us.”

In a written statement to the Monthly Chronicle, RMS contradicted its previous figure of 15.2 metres, saying: “After expect technical advice by acoustic specialists, a noise wall is being relocated by around 10 metres to accommodate new lanes for the M1 Motorway connection to NorthConnex. This change will not materially increase the impact of noise from the road on the property.”

It says the noise wall will be around 40 metres from the Garrick’s property fence and remain within Roads and Maritime land, and that its location and height “was determined by acoustic experts to ensure the best outcome in noise reduction for families along the corridor.”

The statement said that the Garrick’s were not offered movie tickets as compensation for the issues they raised regarding the noise wall. “NorthConnex regularly offers residents that are temporarily affected by the project gestures of goodwill, such as movie tickets, for the inconvenience caused.”

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