Sunday, February 25, 2024

Penrith Mayor renews call for flood evacuation action

Penrith City Council has renewed its urgent call for an evacuation route in Western Sydney amid news that $50 million has been confirmed for planning for the Castlereagh Connection in the Federal Budget.

“Council has called on successive governments, over many years, to deliver the Castlereagh Connection to ensure the safety of our residents in a crisis and to unlock economic opportunities for not only Penrith but the wider region, stretching out to the Central West,” the Council said in a statement today.

The Connection is an untapped 22km corridor that was identified in 1951 and has yet to be actioned, despite being seen as a nationally significant infrastructure project, Council said. Almost 90% of the land is government-owned.

Penrith Mayor Tricia Hitchen has welcomed the funding boost after seeing first-hand the devastation caused by floods in 2021 and 2022.

“This year alone, the Hawkesbury-Nepean valley, has been hit by a number of flood events, two of which were emergency situations that closed road networks and wiped out parts of the community leaving residents stranded, only to watch on as flood waters encroached on their homes,” Mayor Hitchen said.

“It has been devastating and frustrating to see the impact of these crisis situations, knowing that a critical project we as a Council have long advocated for, has been unfunded – until now,” she said.  

“Council is relieved to hear that the Castlereagh Connection is a step closer to being realised and thanks the Federal Government for its commitment to planning for this project to help protect our community members and futureproof our City.”

It was confirmed in Tuesday’s Federal budget that NSW infrastructure will receive a $1 billion boost, with $300 million to fund road improvements in Western Sydney.

The Castlereagh Connection is an important response to the immediate flood risks in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley and will form a multi-pronged approach to flood management in the region, the Mayor said.

Once complete, it will intersect with four of the current evacuation routes to deliver up to 24,000 vehicles – particularly many of the 37,000 residents of the highly flood-prone Richmond-Windsor SA3- onto the M7.  

Importantly, it will create necessary transport links for any emergency situation, not just a flood, the Mayor said.

It will also build greater development opportunities between the City and the new airport and aerotropolis, and connect Sydney to the Central West, she said.

“Connecting our current and future transport network to facilitate greater access across Sydney will stimulate business growth across strategic centres.”

“The delivery of more jobs closer to home, better connected transport links and access to work and educational opportunities for disadvantaged communities are just some of the benefits of delivering the Castlereagh Connection,” said Mayor Hitchen.

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