That sinking feeling.

Posted by & filed under City News.

BY PETER HEHIR

The banner below the Sunday Telegraph masthead screams “YOU DECIDE. SPECIAL EDITION”. Yeah right…

Shorten has been torpedoed. And News Corp and the right-wing media had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with polluting the hearts and minds of the voting public.

Given the extent of fact distortion in the media, the misrepresentation of the best of Shorten’s policies, the dirty tactics, was there ever any real hope of toppling Morrison?

The First Dog on the Moon called the result a couple of weeks ago, when all the polls were promising a Labor victory. Clearly the Dog had his ear to the ground.

The only bright spot on an otherwise bleak Saturday evening was seeing Abbott finally get his comeuppance, rolled by a barrister who clearly understands the climate crisis the world is presently facing.

I shudder to think what will transpire over the next three years.

“Free” property surveys

On the local front, the WestConnex juggernaut has shifted up a gear. Offers of free property surveys have been sent to 800 homes adjacent to the Rozelle goods yard “within 50 metres of the site” they say. These are on the basis that “construction work” is about to commence there.

No tunnelling, just construction work.

So why the early free surveys? Tunnelling isn’t due to commence until at least the end of the year in about 6 or 8 months’ time.

Could it be that this time lag gives the joint venture contractors and the RMS the wriggle room they need to justify refusing all compensation claims for structural damage?

Surely not? They couldn’t be that devious. Or could they?

A lot can happen in the months between the inspection and the tunnelling. There might be a drought, or it could rain nonstop, or gutters and downpipes could rust out, or a careless owner could have left a garden tap dripping.

Any and all of these have been used to deny damage claims caused by the tunnelling in the earlier WestConnex stages.

These property inspections are designed to take a snapshot of the condition of a home before tunnelling commences. Obviously the closer the inspection to the time the boring machines appear beneath the property, the more likely it is that the tunnelling has caused the damage.

The RMS know this. Could this be the reason for these early inspections?

They say that they are only being offered to those “within 50 metres of a construction site” – or “a tunnel portal”, depending on who you talk to. Many of these 800 homes will be directly above the shallowest tunnels, homes that past experience has shown are the most likely to suffer structural damage.

Probably just a coincidence though…

Fifty metres is also the zone within which they acknowledge damage may occur to properties either side of a tunnel. They won’t accept claims outside this zone.

Fifty-one metres and your house cracks up? Well that’s just too bad!

The work done recently by Otus shows that subsidence has occurred up to 300 metres from the M4 East Homebush to Haberfield tunnel path. In some cases the subsidence was substantial, up to 100 mm in places.

This proof of subsidence taken from satellite images overlaid on the tunnel route surely would be enough to convince, beyond a reasonable doubt, even the most sceptical of judges, that the structural damage was indeed caused by the tunnelling.

This is a worry for the multinationals who own 51 per cent of WestConnex. A big worry, because they might actually be forced to fork out millions to rectify the damage that they’ve caused.

Stage 3 of WestConnex is a fixed price contract. Have they costed potential damage to properties above the tunnels? Who knows?

We’ll never know, because the contracts are secret.

Apart from subsidence and vibration shaking lime mortared walls and cracking joints, the other issue associated with the boring machines used to create the tunnels is that they can and do intercept underground streams. In some cases, such as with NorthConnex, the tunnel route has had to be altered.

Severe cracking inevitable

Clay-based soils absorb and release moisture. If the water table is intercepted or diverted then these soils will shrink or expand. If both occur at the same time beneath walls built on such soil, then severe cracking is inevitable.

This has happened to a number of properties. Their owners have of course been denied compensation.

Test cases are also being mounted to challenge the compulsory substratum acquisitions of the land above a tunnel without compensating the owners, who are arguing that this acquisition reduces the market value of affected properties.

I and many others above the imminent shallow subterranean tollways do wish them well.

Peter Hehir is the convenor of RAW (Rozelle Against WestConnex)