• BAG

Alliance rep sacked from highway design committee

Jennie Curtin, Blue Mountains Gazette, 6 August 2020

A resident who is representing more than a dozen Blackheath community organisations has been sacked from the highway co-design committee for breaching the code of conduct.

Eva Johnstone, who had been representing the Blackheath Area Community Alliance, was told this week that she had breached the code by sharing some excerpts from a confidential briefing paper.

Ms Johnstone had used the excerpts in a letter she wrote to KJA, the communication consultants for TfNSW, objecting strongly to their assessment methods and criteria weightings.

Each committee member had been asked to give a score of one to five for each of the four highway options and its impacts on safety, environment, liveability, resilience and travel times.

Ms Johnstone wrote: "I have been pondering all day as to how to assess the options that have been presented to us and the likely impact on the village of Blackheath, its residents, businesses and visitors.

"How to put a numerical value on construction processes that would likely lead to the destruction of a cohesive community with a thriving economy and social life?"

In the letter, she included words from the briefing paper that "these weightings will be collated and averaged by KJA to provide a final collective weighting for each criterion".

She also queried the deadline, quoting again from the paper that "weightings not received by close of business Monday 3rd August will not be considered".

She concluded by asking for an opportunity to discuss weightings and rankings at the next meeting (which was held last night, August 5).

She shared the letter with the Blackheath Highway Action Group, a member of the alliance, which posted it - with Ms Johnstone's permission - on its Facebook page.

The next day she was told she had breached the code and was no longer allowed on the co-design committee.

The alliance has now written to Alistair Lunn, from TfNSW, seeking to have the sacking overturned.

The letter notes that Ms Johnstone's absence would leave 17 alliance groups without a voice on the highway design.

"[Ms Johnstone's] removal from the committee for what would appear to be a minor breach of an insubstantial nature is not justified, especially given the importance of this project and the ramifications for members of the Blackheath Alliance.

"We therefore request that Ms Johnstone be immediately reinstated."

Mr Lunn told the Gazette that all members of the committee had signed a code of conduct to keep confidential certain discussions at meetings and materials distributed to them.

"Unfortunately, despite a number of reminds, a committee member chose to public on social media excerpts of a document that was clearly marked as 'confidential'.

"Transport for NSW is confident the committee will continue to represent a wide range of community views."

This article is copied from the Blue Mountains Gazette website edition (click for original).

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