Motion on WestConnex satellite imagery

I've submitted the following motion to our next Inner West Council meeting on Tuesday 26 March in regards to the satellite images that were released last week by Otus Intelligence and Leichhardt Against WestConnex.

Animation of satellite images taken around the WestConnex M4 East routeAbove: Animation of satellite images taken around the WestConnex M4 East route by Otus Intelligence.

These images revealed that the scale and depth of ground movements around the WestConnex route has been far greater than that approved for and disclosed by the government. I'll be asking Council to formally note these findings and add our voice to calls to the NSW government to make these reports freely available to residents within at least 300m of the route and ensure residents are properly compensated for any property damage caused by WestConnex.

If you'd like to speak to the motion, you'll need to register on Council's website by 2pm Tuesday 26 March. It's Item 11 on the agenda.



THAT Council:

1. Notes the recent media reports in relation to satellite imagery taken along the WestConnex M4 East and New M5 routes, which reveals:

a. Ground movements along the routes that significantly exceed the settlement criteria for buildings as contained in the WestConnex Environmental Impact Statements and Approvals;

b. That the satellite images indicate that the ground movement is linked to the timing of tunneling;

c. That the area impacted by ground movement (known as the ‘zone of influence’) is not restricted to the 50m zone currently used in the WestConnex project to determine eligibility for free pre-and post-construction property dilapidation reports, noting the zone of influence appears to be up to 300 metres in some areas.

2. Notes that under the WestConnex Approvals, the Roads and Maritime Authority (RMS) as the proponent of WestConnex is ultimately responsible for the protection of existing structures or rectifying any damage resulting from WestConnex;

3. Notes that RMS has publicly stated that satellite technology could be "a valuable tool" in assessing damage claims, and is considering working with data providers to help review property owners' compensation claims;

4. Calls on the NSW Government to:

a. Make satellite imagery reports to detect ground movement available free of charge and in full to all property owners located within at least 300m of the built and planned WestConnex route to assist with determining cause for property damage;

b. Given the multiple reports of residents whose claims have been denied, ensure property owners who experience damage linked to WestConnex construction works are fairly compensated for the cost of repair.


On 13 March 2019, a number of media outlets - including Financial Review, Inner West Courier, and 9 News Sydney - reported that satellite imagery taken and analysed by Otus Intelligence Group has revealed ground movements (subsidence) linked to the tunnelling has been significantly greater, and has affected a far wider area, than indicated by the NSW Government or WestConnex contractors.

These images, which were taken every 11 days from January 2016 to January 2019 (i.e. up to 18 months before tunnelling began on the WestConnex projects), show ground movements of up to 100mm or more along the WestConnex route since tunnelling began. The images also reveal that, in some places, this movement has been observed up to 300m away from the route.

The findings stand in complete contrast to the NSW Government and WestConnex contractors’ approved thresholds in regards to WestConnex tunnelling impacts.

The environmental impact statements (EISs) for WestConnex state that ground movements of 1-20mm are usual and within the settlement criteria, but the satellite images show movements far in excess of that. Examples of observed movement along the New M5 route alone include:

•            Hotels along Marsh St (between M5 and Airport) – 50-60mm
•            IKEA Tempe parking lot – More than 80mm
•            Northern Lands Car Park (near Sydney Airport) – More than 100mm
•            Gas tanks near airport – More than 45mm

Additionally, only properties located within 50m of a WestConnex surface construction site or tunnelling are considered by the NSW Government and project contractors to be within the ‘zone of influence’ for potential damage, and eligible for free property dilapidation reports.

If an owner outside this 50m zone suffers property damage they believe is linked to WestConnex construction, they are generally denied a meeting with the contractor. Even within this zone, there have been numerous reports of residents along the WestConnex route being denied compensation of their claims for property damage potentially caused by construction, and I have personally been contacted by other residents across the inner west in this situation.

I am not aware of anyone who has had their claim for property damage accepted by the WestConnex project. Instead, the damage has been attributed to other factors such as dry weather or a dripping garden tap.  

Reports based on these satellite images could offer reliable and powerful proof of ground movements occurring to properties in line with WestConnex construction, which is why I am asking Council to act for our residents by calling on the NSW Government to make these reports available to property owners free of charge.

UPDATE: The motion passed at our meeting on 9 April 2019, with all councillors except Julie Passas voting in favour. The following amendments were also added to the motion:

5. Writes to the Premier of NSW calling on the NSW Government to ensure the area impacted by ground movement (known as the “zone of influence”) is extended from the current 50 metres to 300 metres across the built and planned WestConnex route and all property owners within this catchment are made eligible for free pre- and post-construction property dilapidation reports. 

6. Write to the Premier of NSW calling on the NSW Government to undertake 4a) and 4b) above. 

7. a) Request the Mayor on behalf of Council writes to the Minister for Planning seeking a response regarding the numerous breaches of the environmental impact statements (EISs) for WestConnex where the EISs state that ground movements of 1-20mm are usual and within the settlement criteria, but the satellite images are clearly documenting movements far in excess of that with some movements between 50 – 60 mm and even up to 100mm or greater. Noting therefore that the premises on which these EISs have been developed is wrong and that SMC and RMT may well be in breach of the conditions of consent for these projects and that the EIS for the Stage 3B may well be invalid; and

b) Seek a meeting with the Minister for Planning to pursue this matter further and the Mayor and interested Councillors be invited to attend.

8. Also encourage State Government to use satellite imagery across all agencies undertaking infrastructure and other environmental works.

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