Canning council will not build the long-planned Jandakot eastern link road — a decision that will force the council to hand back millions in Government grants but help preserve Bush Forever land.
A block of determined Canning councillors turned their back on a recommendation from city officers and a plea from their own mayor to instead put the kibosh on the road plan.
The $8 million intention was to construct a link from Jandakot Airport to Ranford Road as part of the Ranford Station Metronet project.
The 1.23km link was also expected to serve as the primary access to the proposed Canning Vale sports complex and would unlock parcels of land for future development, Canning mayor Patrick Hall had claimed.
But deputy mayor Ben Kunze — backed by a majority of councillors, said the council was under pressure to look after the little bushland in the district that remains, including Bush Forever land contained within the 10.2 hectares under threat from the road plan.
“The community wants council to invest in our environment,” he said.
“The fact that this is one of the few locations left in the City of Canning that has bushland largely removed from human activity is important.
“The environment needs undisturbed areas otherwise flora and fauna go extinct.
“Just because there’s potential financial returns doesn’t make it right to clear it.”
More than $5m had already been provided from Main Roads WA to build the road, money the council will now return.
Mr Hall accepted building the road would have affected a “relatively small” area of bushland but explained environmental offsets were already committed, including the complete restoration of 65ha nearby.
“I recognise the environmental concerns but this City is really not bulldozing through a road without real consideration to the environment,” he said.
“However we are a large urban council and the Jandakot eastern link road has been long identified as an important transport link of regional significance. We have a regional responsibility.
“It will unlock a significant amount of freehold commercial land, the last really of that size owned by the City.”
Cr Amanda Spencer Teo said building the road would have been a “gross misuse” of ratepayers funds and mounted a spirited defence — based on economics — to explain why it should cease being the council’s priority.
“We’re being told that our circa $2 million investment in a road to link the airport to Ranford Road would have an economic uplift of our landholdings of about $2 million, or 20 per cent,” she said.
“Approximately $2 million to build, maintain and make good on a road for a $2 million benefit is break-even.”
The airport, she said, had $225m worth of ready-to-develop land, for which a 20 per cent economic uplift would equate to a $90m benefit.
The City of Cockburn also stood to gain once the airport estate was fully unlocked for development given the airport’s commitment to increase its annual payment, in lieu of rates, to $19.2m per year.
“(Yet) the City of Canning would lose three hectares of Banksia Woodlands, home to endangered and threatened species, and pay $2 million for a road that no council or members of the community for that matter have ever endorsed or ever asked for.
“We are not in the business of funding roads for privately owned entities or for the financial gain of neighbouring local governments.
“If we agree to build this road it would be a gross misuse of our ratepayer funds.”
Cr Spencer Teo said the efforts to link Jandakot Airport to Ranford Road dated back to when the airport was privatised in 1998, and the local community had often been against the idea for environmental and traffic reasons.
When the City of Canning endorsed the airport’s master plan, it was independently appointed commissioners who made the decision, she said, not elected councillors.
“Throughout this whole 12-year process the main driver and beneficiary of this road has, and always was, been the airport,” Cr Spencer Teo said.
“And indirectly the City of Cockburn. Not the City of Canning, we just happen to be the landowner that they want to build a road through, and that just happens to be Bush Forever.”
Cr Sara Saberi said that it made no sense to build a road now to a sporting complex that doesn’t yet exist.
Mr Hall unsuccessfully attempted to hold off the “no” vote with a suggestion they get more information about the environment and any further ramifications and delay their decision until at least December.
Fighting a losing battle in the chamber, the mayor found an ally in one he often doesn’t, Cr Jesse Jacobs.
“We are a city, not a town, not a paddock and not a bushland,” Cr Jacobs said.
“This road needs to go through, it has a direct economic benefit.
“If you look at the map, this is the end of the runway of the busiest airport in all of Australia. It is no place for a bird sanctuary; air safety is a priority. I don’t think we are looking at it with a holistic approach.”