TRANSPORT for NSW has an impressive amount of material on its website showing how it decided to establish its new intercity rail maintenance facility in a quiet little rural part of the Central Coast called Kangy Angy.
Thousands of words have been expended detailing the legislation it followed, the processes it adhered to, the reasoning behind its decision not to assess the project via an environmental impact statement, and the reason why Transport for NSW was both the project proponent, and the one making the final decision to approve the facility.
Some Kangy Angy residents can’t even bring themselves to look at the website, not so much because they’re angered by the final decision to approve, but because of the process. And they are angry.
As Kangy Angy Residents Action Group founder Michelle Nicholson has said since 2015 when residents first became aware their area had suddenly catapulted to the top of a list of possible sites, Transport for NSW had a 2019 deadline for when the intercity trains would begin operation, and it was running out of time for the maintenance facility.
There were 210 public submissions made on the project, with 208 objections citing 21 different reasons for saying the facility should not go ahead there.
The site selection itself raises serious questions about how governments do business.
A freedom of information application produced documents showing how the now defunct Wyong Shire Council acted when land it owned at Warnervale was identified as the favoured site.
Although Kangy Angy residents didn’t know it, the council told Transport for NSW it was prepared to stage “political level opposition” to use of the Warnervale site, which it had earmarked for an ill-fated university precinct and other projects that had little likelihood of ever proceeding.
The council directed Transport for NSW to look at Kangy Angy, and added insult to injury for Kangy Angy residents by selling land to facilitate the project.
It is not in dispute that there is a serious and growing disconnect between governments and the people they’re supposed to serve, and this case is an example of why. Decision-making needs to be transparent, fair, objective and evidence-based to be accepted by communities. The process, in other words, matters.