Artist Wendy Sharpe: Westconnex, a whole of Sydney problem, not just for Inner West

One of Australia’s best known and celebrated female artists Wendy Sharpe lives in Erskineville in inner Sydney not far from her studio in St Peters, the suburb that will be most devastated by WestCONnex’s giant interchange at the end of Sydney Park.

Wendy bought her warehouse studio in 2002 because the old industrial area is one of the last places where there are small warehouses. It’s also not far from her home in Erskineville. If the New M5 goes ahead, Erskineville, which provides a through route between Alexandria to King St Newtown,  will be hit by even more traffic and pollution.

Wendy is currently overseas but before she left, the People’s New M5 EIS asked her how she was affected by Westconnex’s proposals. She told us that initially she was told her St Peters studio could be forcibly acquired. This was a blow not just to her but the whole neighbourhood where small affordable warehouses enabled an “enormous  concentration  of artists, musicians,designers and other creative businesses and is a short walk from vibrant King Street.”

Artist Wendy Sharpe in her inner west studio.
Artist Wendy Sharpe in her inner west studio.

After a long period of anxious uncertainty, she found that Westconnex’s latest New M5 tunnel design will leave her studio standing near the boundary of massive construction works rather than actually demolished. The impact is still severe because the three-year building period would generate thousands of extra trucks a week, dust and noise followed by even more traffic, pollution and noise after the tunnel opened.

She described her own experience with WestCONnex as one of “confusion and misinformation and a  total lack of transparency.”


20160107_165041 (1)But her opposition to the entire project is not based around her own interests but rather her longer term experiences of Sydney which is “getting more and more congested.”. Like many others, she believes that these costly traffic problems “will not be solved by building more roads but by building a decent  train metro system with more stations and more frequency.” She is appalled that billions of public funds would be spent on tollways that she considers would be much “better spent to build the metro that Sydney needs.”

Wendy has travelled widely and has noticed that other cities are realising we need to have less cars and roads, not more. “It is an outdated solution that doesn’t  work.”
She is  distressed about the impact that more traffic will have on King street Newtown that is already congested at many time. But she also says that Westconnex is not just an inner city problem or one mostly affecting people who will lose their houses.
Wendy knows from her personal experience of living in the western suburbs and from several friends who live near Campbelltown in the far south-west that “they  don’t want another road. They want better trains.”
“Why wasn’t the idea of a serious metro linked different parts of Sydney never looked at?” she asks.
If you want to make a submissions to the M5 EIS you can do your own or use the Westconnex Action Group page  or Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong’s page
You can make more than one submission on different aspects of the project.

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