An 11th hour Federal Court injunction has temporarily halted the construction of a contentious major highway project in Western Australia.
- The Bunbury Outer Ring Road is WA’s most expensive ever road project
- Work to clear land for the road began this week, amid protests
- But an 11th hour Federal Court injunction has temporarily halted work
Clearing of bushland to make way for the $1.25 billion Bunbury Outer Ring Road began this week to a chorus of backlash from local community members who say the highway will cause irreversible environmental damage.
The injunction issued late on Friday by the Federal Court of Australia prevents Main Roads and its contractors from any more clearing work on the southern section of the road through the semi-rural community of Gelorup.
Clearing of the land, which sits on a 40-year-old road reserve, began on Monday following a visit to the site by former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Opponents had been campaigning for Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to reverse her decision to sign off on environmental approvals, paving the way for construction to begin.
The Bunbury Outer Ring Road has cleared all environmental hurdles at a state and federal level.
The court order is in place until a scheduled hearing on Monday afternoon.
The injunction does not prevent work from continuing on the northern section, which has been under construction for months.
Main Roads would not comment on the injunction, other than to confirm work at the site had stopped until the court hearing.
Sue Chapman — a local resident whose name is on the court application — said it was a big win for the community.
“We are just so relieved, it’s been the most traumatic week watching the beautiful trees, just simply bulldozed, and wood chipped immediately,” Dr Chapman said.
“To finally feel like there’s a sense of reprieve. It’s just been overwhelming.”
Premier backs road
Earlier this week, Premier Mark McGowan said his government would be building the road and the route had been planned for decades.
“The Bunbury Outer Ring Road is designed to save lives and to reduce the pressure on traffic going through Bunbury,” Mr McGowan said.
“It’s been in the plans for the South West for [more than] 30 years Whichever route you choose, there would be some clearing.
“It’s designed to make life much better for people in the South West. We’ve actually done Bussell Highway as well — which lots of people were dying on as well — in addition to that project.
“So look, that’s the plan. We actually got full environmental approval, the whole range of offsets, that’s replantings, preserving possum habitat and the like.”
WA Police said there had been very little enforcement required to maintain order at the construction site, despite several protesters being removed for trespassing.
Since Monday when land clearing began, there have been five arrests for trespass, four move-on notices issued and one court summons.
Main Roads said it understood there were a lot of emotions at play, and the community had a right to peacefully protest.
But it said it would call police when people accessed the construction site without authorisation and put workers’ safety at risk.
A WA Police spokesperson says “engagement has been very positive between protesters and police, including those who have removed themselves from machinery or trees when requested.
“We support any person who wants to protest as long as it is done lawfully and in an orderly manner.”