Baird government to spend $12.6 million to win public support on new infrastructure 

The Baird government will spend $12.6 million spruiking the Sydney Metro to the public, signing contracts with five consultancy firms to manage community relations ahead of a wave of compulsory property acquisitions and demolitions.

The attempt to win public support for the disruption set to engulf the city and south western suburbs as it builds Australia’s biggest rail project ranges from “classroom-ready” lessons for schools to traditional “spin”.

Protests against the Baird government’s big infrastructure projects, as construction sites sweep across Sydney, have grown.

On Sunday Lucy Turnbull’s Greater Sydney Commission will separately launch an “Our Sydney/Your Home” campaign, in a belated attempt to win back community support for change.

Sydney Metro promotional material.

The commission, which has taken over coordination of major development in Sydney, will drive a “Talk Bus” to weekend markets and sporting games.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the bus would “hear directly from the local community to help shape the future of Sydney”.

Mr Stokes, commission chief executive Sarah Hill, and former Labor premier Morris Iemma, who has been appointed to the commission, will attend Canterbury Farmers Market on Sunday.

“We’re going straight to local communities across Sydney so they can share thoughts and ideas on how to better embrace opportunities in our city,” Ms Hill said.

Sydney Metro’s education program supplies classroom lessons to schools.
The bus appears to be a counter to grassroots campaigners and councils organising community protests against home demolitions for the WestConnex and tree felling for the Sydney light rail.

City of Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore told an infrastructure conference this month that governments had “lost public confidence in infrastructure projects”.

Protesters try to save Anzac Parade fig trees removed for the light rail.

A Sydney Metro spokesman said the $12.6 million in “community relationship” contracts covered managers to liaise with affected communities and large CBD property owners and companies that are directly impacted by city construction, and the public affairs teams.

One company awarded a $2 million contract, Elton Consulting, has designed a school program for primary and secondary students to “learn first-hand about how the Sydney Metro Northwest will change their communities for the better”, according to the company’s website.

The material includes 130 lessons linked to the NSW curriculum which have been used by 3800 teachers and students since 2014.

Sydney Metro will contact schools along the route of the second stage of the Metro, from the city to Sydenham, to alert them to the program and offer the teaching resources, said the Sydney Metro spokesman.

“The resource is more than 380 pages long and covers Australia’s biggest public transport project not just from an engineering and construction perspective but also from its impact on the community,” he said.

“As a teaching resource, it encourages students to use independent thought and come to their own conclusions about the project and any suggestion otherwise is incorrect.”
The Sydney Metro spokesman said community feedback during planning for the first stage of the Metro project had resulted in two extra stations being added to the Metro Northwest.

“Working face-to-face with the community has been a vital part of keeping people informed about Sydney Metro and helping them deal with construction impacts and disruption.”

At least two of the firms hired were previously employed by the Labor government to spruik Mr Iemma’s failed Metro project.

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