It was a lovely day in Sydney’s West the sun was shining, the birds were singing, a glorious way to end a weekend.

In the historic town of Windsor on Sydney’s North Western rim however things were far from peaceful, far from it indeed.

At Windsor, around a thousand people showed up at Australia’s oldest Public Square to protest against the wanton destruction of not only this historic Square, but the utter assassination of the towns character.

The cause of all of the fuss is the proposed upgrade to Windsor Bridge which crosses to Hawkesbury River.

The bridge is historic, and in the view of the vast majority of locals should be kept in place for local traffic.

An old picture of Windsor Bridge with Thompsons Square at the top of the hill on the right

An old picture of Windsor Bridge with Thompsons Square at the top of the hill on the right

However there are issues, the current bridge is prone to flooding in extreme weather and has had to be closed down a number of times for extended periods. The bridge itself is quite narrow, and with trucks passing each other as well as buses it is an accident waiting to happen. There is also the increasing need to create a faster passage between Sydney and Singleton which will vastly speed up freight into the New England area.

The question is “what is the right way to address these issues?”

The RTA put forward 9 options and took submissions from the public, local council, and local business.

One of the never ending stream of trucks going past the site

One of the never ending stream of trucks going past the site

On the 4th August 2011 the new Coalition Roads Minister Duncan Gay, showed his respect for those in the area, and his lack of understanding of basic mathematics and declared Option 1 as the preferred option.

I mention his math skills and respect for others because it defies any form of logic how Option 1 came to be the preferred option.

Of the submissions received it was confirmed that 40% voted for Options 1 and 2, although no breakdown was given. That means less than 40% supported Option 1 and over 60% were against Option 1.

With arithmetic like that I can only assume Joe Hockey lent a hand with the adding up.

Option 1 destroys Thompson Square, the oldest Town Square in Australia, it means heavy vehicles will continue to flow through the town with all of the adverse effects from that. The RTA themselves put it like this in their report:

“ is acknowledged that there would be adverse heritage impacts associated with the preferred option, particularly on Thompson Square and the surrounding heritage buildings. The preferred option would also likely have some noise, vibration, socioeconomic and visual amenity impacts.”

Option 1 also allows for no extra traffic, as it is still only 2 lanes, talk that it will be wide enough to accommodate 4 lanes is optimistic at best. This would restrict footpaths and would only provide narrow lanes, and it does not address the number of lanes on the road either side of the bridge. Speaking of the road on either side, with no plans to address this road the new bridge will make absolutely no difference in the case of flooding despite it being higher, unless the Coalition are planning on people rowing their cars to the bridge. The road will still be prone to flood waters.

Protesters gather at Thompsons Square

Protesters gather at Thompsons Square

What the good people of the Windsor region want is a bypass, it is that simple, and it has been done many a time before, albeit under a Labor Government.

A bypass ticks all the boxes, it improves traffic flow, it can be constructed to avoid flooding, it keeps heavy traffic out of a historic town, it means that Australia does not lose its oldest Public Square, and it means the locals keep their historic bridge.

The aim of the protest was to send a message the NSW Government that the locals will not sit quietly while their towns character and the states heritage are destroyed.

As previously mentioned around 1,000 people showed up to vent their anger and hear from what was an impressive list of speakers:

Dail Miller – Community Action For Windsor Bridge

Ian Carroll – National Trust

Barbara Perry MP – Shadow Minister For Heritage

David Shoebridge – The Greens MLC

Jack Mundey – Green Bans Icon

Rebel Hanlon – CFMEU

Rod Storie – Former Liberal Member and local Solicitor

Susan Templeman – Federal Labor Candidate, seat of Macquarie

Missing in action were the Liberal Party, the same Liberal Party that claims to understand “The West”.

Missing were Premier Barry O’Farrell, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, Roads Minister Duncan Gay, and Robyn Parker Minister for Heritage.

Windsors Heritage?

Windsors Heritage?

Other notable no-shows were these Liberal members, Bart Bassett Member For Londonderry, Kevin Connolly Member For Riverstone, and last but not least Ray Williams Member For Hawkesberry and Parliamentary Secretary For Western Sydney.

Ray Williams, who during his election campaign told of the people of Windsor’s frustration at how little the Labor Party had done regarding the bridge, and how once the Coalition were in power things would begin to happen within a few short months.

I'm not gonna say Ray Williams is full of it... but check out the size of his toilet paper roll.

I’m not gonna say Ray Williams is full of it… but check out the size of his toilet paper roll.

Well Ray, under Labor $25Million was allocated to the project and submissions on 9 options put out to the public. Since your government’s involvement the $25Million has dropped to $18Million, the submissions from the public have been ignored, and two and a half years later the locals need to hold protests in a desperate bid to get your attention. Oh, and the bridge has had to be closed last year due to flooding.

Ray Williams told parliament that he sent out 12,000 letters regarding the project and Option 1 and only had one response come back against it. He has however chosen to ignore the over 10,000 signatures on petitions organised by CAWB.

As yet, nobody has been able to track down this mystery letter of Rays, so it is generally assumed he is referring to his mention of the project in his newsletter which would have a mail-out of around 12,000. This is a newsletter, and does not invite responses. It is unaddressed mail, many would consider it junk-mail particularly from Ray, and due to Rays electorate only bordering the bridge, of the 12,000 mailed out, only a small handful would be affected by the plans. It would have been more appropriate if Rays colleagues Basset and Connolly took an interest in their community and sent out addressed mail on the issue.

Windsor Bridge closed last year by flooding

Windsor Bridge closed last year by flooding

The speeches on the day were passionate and emotional and all were well received by the crowd.

In particular Barbara Perry, Shadow Minister For Heritage gave a rousing speech that guaranteed everybody was fired up. Highlighting that this protest was not a fight against progress, it was about protecting heritage and investing taxpayer dollars wisely. Highlighting the history of the Square and man it was named after, convict turned magistrate Andrew Thompson.

“If anyone knew the value of hard work, if anyone knew the meaning of a new start, of redemption. It was Andrew Thompson”

“We are standing in the birthplace of the notion of a “fair go”“.

“Destroy the historical setting and composition of one of the most significant colonial townships in Australia?

If that is progress we’re not interested”

“You cannot reduce this place to a cost benefit analysis, if we lose our heritage, we risk losing our core values”

Crowd favorite Labors Barbara Perry Shadow Minister For Heritage

Crowd favourite- Labors Barbara Perry Shadow Minister For Heritage

Susan Templeman also gave an emotional speech and showed those in the Macquarie electorate what a passionate Federal representative they would have in her.

I am the Labor candidate for the seat of Macquarie, named in honour of a visionary man. And I will not stand by in silence as the local Liberal State MPs trash his legacy.

The point for me is that this place is unique. Once gone, it’s gone for good. And Bart Basset, Kevin Connolly and Ray Williams should be condemned for failing to admit their misjudgment on this issue. Who can say why they are so determined in the face of so many reasons why it’s a bad idea?”

Macquarie Labor Candidate Susan Templeman and Prominent Labor Member Andrew Punch

Macquarie Labor Candidate Susan Templeman and Prominent Labor Member Andrew Punch at the protest


But perhaps the quote of the day came from local solicitor and former Liberal Party Member Rod Storie.

Rod is not just any old ex-Liberal party member, far from it. Rod has quite a background within the party and has been dismayed by the way that the Party views those in Sydney’s West.

“I am extremely angry and saddened by the contempt that the Liberal members show for their own area and constituents.”

Rod then continued

“These electorates have delivered three State Liberal seats and one Federal Liberal seat. All Western Sydney seats.

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell gives himself the title and mantle of Minister for Western Sydney and proclaims great interest in Western Sydney and the North West.

The actions in constructing this monstrosity of a bridge through Australia’s oldest public square shows nothing less than total contempt for these electorates and the people who live in them.”

Alas, no local Liberal members were present to hear the concerns of locals, nor were any of the Liberal Federal candidates that are supposed to be so interested in the West.

I will be watching events surrounding this historic town closely and will keep you updated as required, for those interested in learning more, you can check out the Community Action For Windsor Bridge website here, or like them on Facebook here.

With so much at stake in Sydney’s West come September’s Federal election, Julia Gillard will no doubt be hoping that the NSW voters look to the historic town of Windsor when judging which party has the region’s best interests at heart.

I will leave the final say to the Labor Party’s Susan Templeman.

“There is an opportunity here for preservation of a uniquely historic area, rather than its destruction;

There is an opportunity for the building of a better bridge, not merely a replacement;

and there is an opportunity for a special town to be revitalised by a State Government project, rather than destroyed.”

I hope that Barry O’Farrell and Co are listening Susan, I really do, but I won’t hold my breath….

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12 thoughts on “Bridge Over Troubled Waters

  1. Good work by all esp. Susan Templeman. Wixxy can i have your email address please ?

  2. Fantastic event, It really lifted my spirits to know that the fight will continue. Great organisation for the day, I commend all the people involved to make this day the success it was

  3. I suspect anyone looking closely at option one will discover a company shortlisted in the construction process owned by, or donating too, a member of the Liberals. Of course things may be different in NSW but here in Qld if you find a certain “option” has been chosen then it’s almost given donations or existing association (aka getting benefits) is involved.

  4. Interesting read. Sounds like the Barwon Heads debacle in Victoria. I’m pretty sure that after much local community action, they ended up keeping their old bridge and also got a new bridge crossing for trucks,etc further away.

  5. goldensmaug, never mind a company being shortlisted, Baulderstone Hornibrook already has a contract, even though the project is not yet approved. Apparently, there are only 2 companies in Australia capable of constructing an incrementally launched bridge and the RMS decided that Baulderstone was the best one for the job – hence, no tender process. Aside from that, there is no money allocated in any budget for this project – I’ve asked Duncan Gay, Peter Duncan, Barry O’Farrell and the local members – nobody can point me to a line in a budget document for this project. More than a company getting a contract for this, I believe it will b the corporate sector (ie think mining, or some other greedy industry) that will pay for the bridge and gather a motza from it.

  6. i live in albury my heritige is winsor district our family name is on Thompson sqr plaque i will now support labour our history must remain the libs must not be retained

  7. The fact that the Government is showing contempt for the Community by engaging such negligent actions.

    This is not only happening in Windsor it is also happening in Parramatta, Nth Richmond and even Riverstone with the proposed Garfield rd overpass.

    All of these communities have stated categorically no to the “preferred options” that the Government has tabled.

    Keep the good fight up… Allot is at stake for wider Western Sydney, which the self appointed Minister of Western Sydney and his secretary do not show any interest whatsoever.

  8. why would they be worried about an old bridge and town square, when in the liberal parties eyes the liberal party are our heritage, we dont need anything else, just ask them

  9. I am shocked that Premier Hadley has not stopped back bench Minister Barry O’Farrell from tearing up Ray’s back yard. Then again after the schoolies violence cover up that had LNP fingerprints all over it. I suppose even Premier Hadley can only do so much when his hands are tied.

  10. It is my understanding that the real push to demolish the bridge and put another in its place is so that dredging can be done to allow barges carrying sand from sand mining works to be more cheaply transported. With the current bridge, they can’t dredge to the depth they need.

    If there was a real need, other than this commercial driven one, for the bridge to be altered or replaced to improve traffic flow and prevent flood closures, then would not the bypass that the protest movement is pushing for be a better solution?

    I smell something not right here….

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