The North Connex Tunnel that is a direct link between the Sydney Newcastle Expressway (now called the M1) and the M2 was finally opened in December 2020. The occasion has caused several STEP members to reflect on the prolonged and passionate campaign that was undertaken to prevent the horrifying alternative proposals of freeway/s through the Lane Cove Valley bushland. The stories sent to us by Elaine Malicki, Pat Stewart and Caron Morrison are copied below, but firstly some background.
A corridor had been marked on maps by the DMR since the 1940s for roads through the Lane Cove Valley between Pearces Corner and Fig Tree Bridge. Government attitudes at the time were that urban bushland was just vacant space available for utilitarian purposes. In the 1980s the word was out that plans were under active consideration for a freeway. The STEP committee was immediately on the case.
The August 1984 meeting minutes record a plan to alert residents, prepare a position paper and write to the Premier Nick Greiner. A sub-committee was formed that joined with other local groups. Walks were undertaken with photographers to illustrate what could be lost.
In early 1987 the NSW government’s intentions became clearer with the publication of a report called Roads 2000. A freeway along the valley seemed to have been abandoned but a link from Pearces Corner to North Ryde was still a possibility. This road may have been at least 10 years away but serious action began to try to nip this in the bud.
John Burke wrote a position paper that refuted the arguments for more freeways as well as highlighting the damage to bushland and neighbourhoods. On receipt of the paper Nick Greiner wrote a statement that that there was no intention of building a freeway.
But a change of government can change previous undertakings! Late in 1988 the prospects of a freeway became more serious when possible routes for a link were published by the RTA in a North West Sector Road Needs Study. The map shows the possible routes, dubbed the B2 and B3, that would have destroyed the tranquillity and environment of Wahroonga and South Turramurra.
Community groups were established such as the Coalition against Lane Cove Freeway (CALCVF) chaired by Elaine Malicki. The 1989 president’s report lists the massive amount of work carried out: public meetings, meetings with politicians, information papers, letters sent to media and politicians, members asked to write
Finally, in July 1995, the freeway corridor was abandoned.
That was not the end of the story as a further study by Sinclair Knight Merz on linking the F3 and M2 was made in the early 2000s. STEP employed a project officer, Kate Read, who wrote a paper that was submitted to SKM by STEP. It demonstrated that a link road would be a short-term fix unlikely to solve the transport problems in the longer term. This was followed up with lots of lobbying. The outcome was the recommendation for the tunnel that was built.
The South Turramurra land that was in the B2/B3 corridor (Chisholm St) is now a residential area and other parts remain as bushland. The land between Eastbourne Ave and Fox Valley Road parallel to Lucinda Ave is still in government hands. Most is zoned as E2 and can’t become residential. Some near Fox Valley Road is zoned as E4 but has Blue Gum High Forest vegetation so we hope it can be maintained as green space.
My documentation has been passed on to historical groups but would like to share what I see as the reasons for the strength and success of this campaign.
The initial meeting was called by the oldest community group in the area, the Kissing Point Progress Association. The meeting was held at the Kissing Point Sports Club and was very well attended, with representatives of the Kissing Point Progress Association, Ku-ring-gai Ratepayers Association, STEP (as it was then), a range of sporting groups, scouts and guides, local P&Cs, churches, kindergartens and environmental and bushcare groups. The Fox Valley area was involved as well as parts of Wahroonga, South Turramurra and West Pymble.
As locals we were very committed to opposing the plans for every freeway option.
At CALCVF’s initial meeting I was elected president and Tony Morrison was to be secretary, with a bevy of committee members from many different groups and this network became an essential part of our communication strategy and provided an army of helpers. My role as secretary of the Ku-ring-gai Ratepayers’ Association meant I had strong links with Ku-ring-gai Council (which opposed the freeway options) and the media.
Meetings were frequent and well attended. We resolved to provide regular newsletters to inform the community, and to seek and encourage media attention at all levels to both inform and pressure politicians. Community appeals for donations kept us in stationery and paid postage. We kept strong records and researched as much as possible. Every available document was scrutinised and contacts cultivated within the various departments involved with the decision-making as well as National Parks and Ku-ring-gai Council who were the custodians of most of the land involved.
Politicians were approached both en masse using Greg Bloomfield’s Votergrams, and through frequent letters to every MP. Every response was followed up and as many politicians and media as possible were asked to join us for a bushwalk to view the valley or to receive a briefing.
Public meetings were held at critical times to muster support and were open to all. It became our practice to invite any other freeway action groups who quickly became part of our network, e.g. LEN (Less Expressway Noise) from the vicinity of the newly opened F3 Freeway commencing at Wahroonga.
We shared information, supported and demonstrated for other groups and ultimately were similarly supported. I think it is fair to say
that CALCVF initiated this intense networking concept and it was highly successful.
Committee members worked to their strengths and the energy was extraordinary. Availability varied and people stepped up to fill gaps or to provide expertise or information or help. I resigned in 1991 to become a council alderman and my role was taken over wonderfully by Pat Stewart with Tony Morrison’s wife, Caron, becoming a linchpin of the group. The research and networking were second to none and persistence, knowledge and accuracy were central.
Bob Carr announced in 1995 that the B1, B2 and B3 freeway corridors were to be abandoned. It had been a long, intense and successful community campaign with a core of inexperienced mums and dads whose dedication saved the Lane Cove Valley for the future.
We worked together so well, with such a strong common objective, and we had fun too! This was the greatest achievement of my life (family excluded!) and I am sure many of the others felt the same. To have been part of saving our special valley for future generations was a marvel to me. It mattered ...
Elaine Malicki and Pat Stewart
I was president of CALCVF from 1991 until 1995 when the plans for the freeway were abandoned. Many people had worked hard and played an important part in the establishment of CALCVF before I joined the group and it was, indeed, a vital energetic group.
My most vivid memory of the long journey was the amazing committee that I worked with. The dedication of the people involved and the knowledge and skills that they possessed as well as their willingness to be called upon (often at short notice) to walk with, and talk to, politicians and other officials about what would be lost if the freeway went ahead. It was a privilege to know them.
I lived in Leuna Ave at the end of The Broadway Wahroonga, a historic roadway. This fascinated me. I began to clear sections using hand tools and I researched the style of road building and realised it was a Telford road. There are very few Telford roads remaining in Sydney. Further research revealed that it was part of a roadway planned by John Bradfield to join the northern roadway area to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I also found that John Bradfield had been president of the Lane Cove River Trust and he wanted to retain the natural beauty of the area so I felt that should he be alive – he would find an alternative solution to the freeway.
When I became president I decided to focus on making all members of the NSW parliament aware of what would be lost if the freeway went ahead. I was lucky that Caron Morrison agreed with me and was prepared to work with me. Caron was familiar with the ins and outs of politics – she knew who we should focus on and she was prepared to keep them up-to-date with matters pertaining to our cause. Caron would regularly go into Parliament House to talk to parliamentarians personally.
I wrote letters to all parliamentarians addressing each individual letter and signing them personally. I invited them to come and see the area for themselves and members of our committee would meet them and talk to them and take them for a walk along part of the proposed route of the freeway. Quite a few parliamentarians and bureaucrats accepted the invitation.
Neroli and Harry Lock who lived in Leuna Ave would take us on a short walk to a large rock that gave a view over the valley and from there it was possible to see how much bushland would be lost.
We also kept the local people informed about the situation with letterbox drops and information tables at the local shopping centres.
We needed money from time to time to cover expenses. Our fundraising activities were kept to a minimum but one that still brings a smile to my face was one initiated by Neroli Lock. Neroli used her creative ability to print ‘money’. The ‘money’ was a larger size than the legal tender but it was an ‘investment in protecting the bushland of the Lane Cove Valley’. There were $2, $5 and $10 notes. These notes were different colours. When the idea was suggested to me, I went to her house to see what she was actually meaning and there – hanging on the clothesline were all these ‘notes’. ‘Laundering money’ certainly took on a new meaning.
All ‘investments’ (donations) were given with a chuckle. (I kept mine for many years.)
When it was announced that the freeway was not going to be built, we were elated. All the efforts of all the people involved had been worthwhile!
Although the announcement had been made, we knew that we had to continue our efforts to ensure that subsequent governments could not reverse the decision. It was not until the official
notice was published in the Government Gazette that we relaxed and felt that the group had really achieved an amazing result.
In summary, it looks like it was a simple easy thing to do – in reality it took a lot of effort by many people. It consumed years of my life.
Personally, I only fully relaxed when the tunnel was officially opened. It had been a long journey for many. John Burke, Elaine Malicki, Bruno Krockenburger, John Martyn, Neroli and Harry Lock all played a major role in this quest.
Stopping the building of the Lane Cove Valley Freeway was absolutely a magnificent accomplishment. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Psychologists say that the promises you make to yourself, especially when you are a child, are the most important commitments of all.
In 1964 my family moved from the centre of Sydney to the wilds of South Turramurra. After a life of traffic and bustle it was a strange and exotic land, full of the promise of adventure and mystery. Almost simultaneous with my arrival I witnessed the earth scarring destruction of the valley for the construction of the Comenarra Parkway. Whilst watching the intruders going about their business I made a silent vow that if I was ever in a position to prevent another road being built, I would do whatever I could.
Making this decision settled my mind but I can honestly say that I never really thought I would be in the position of having to act upon it. By several twists of fate however, I found myself as a young parent of four boisterous sons living once again on the edge of the valley and in 1989 the unthinkable happened. The NSW government decided, after decades of inertia, to build another massive road to connect Ryde Road with Pennant Hills Road and I was driven to almost manic levels of activity.
Since then, I have often wondered whether that level of activity was necessary, or whether I was just acting out following my childhood experiences but I genuinely believe that nothing short of a super human effort is required when you are up against the full might of government.
It would be easy to say that the period between the government announcement to build in 1989 and the decision not to build in 1996 was completely awful, but I value the opportunities to meet and work with some fascinating people in ways that I think led to great outcomes, even if I was ridiculously tired and stressed most of the time. I am incredibly proud to have been able to contribute in some way to the preservation of this unique treasure.