WILWEST: “The voting booklet is purely an advertising brochure”

16/09/2022 09:18

Erika Häusermann criticizes the information about WILWEST in the voting booklet: “Weaknesses from the federal test report are not mentioned at all,” she says. She is also supported by an ETH PhD student.

Wil Erika Häusermann, former Wiler GLP parliamentarian, has been critical of WILWEST for a long time. Therefore, she read the cantonal voting documents very carefully. She stated: “The referendum booklet is purely an advertising brochure. The federal government sees some critical points that are not mentioned at all.” What Häusermann addresses is the federal government’s test report on Agglomeration Program 3. It lists strengths and weaknesses. However, the latter is missing from the voting booklet. “It is unacceptable that weaknesses are left out at WILWEST,” says Häusermann.

Politically colored federal data?

This is nothing new for Sven Brunner*, ETH PhD student in environmental science. He wishes to remain anonymous because he fears for his career. He has dealt with spatial development in Switzerland for a long time – and with the fact that growth cannot increase forever. “Many in the academy and in politics do not want to hear this tenor,” says the doctoral student, who describes himself as politically neutral. In his own projects, he has found that while data coming from federal agencies is reliable, it is politically biased when communicated to the outside world. The same seems to be the case with WILWEST from his and Häusermann’s point of view. “It starts with the arable land,” says Häusermann. “This means that their losses will be fully compensated. It is not the case. The total agricultural area is getting smaller. Simply spreading humus on subordinate fields is no compensation » According to Häusermann, brownfield sites are also ignored. It points to page 6 of the test report. It says: “The agglomeration program shows weaknesses in handling existing building zone reserves […].» “This is an important point,” said the former parliamentarian. “Business and industry must also build close together. We have enough brownfield sites.”

Waste, traffic, costs

Peter Guler, overall project manager at WILWEST, says that the municipalities are already obliged to build densely, but that this is often associated with obstacles. “WILWEST can never replace individual brownfield sites because it offers large, connected areas that are ideally located.” It is important for him to emphasize that on 25 September only WILWEST will be voted on and only at the end of 2023 on the Nordnet supplement. Since the federal government’s test report, there have also been several project adjustments, for example to the length of the tunnel. For Häusermann, however, the problems are not off the table. For example, she also criticizes the traffic. The ballot booklet for the WILWEST area development states that there will be a shift from motorized individual to non-motorized traffic. On page 15 of the test report it says: “The road projects […] tend to lead to increased motorized private transport.” For Häusermann, it is clear: “The traffic problem will not be solved, but postponed.” Guler sees it differently: “Forecasts show that traffic will increase by between ten and twenty percent in 2040, even without WILWEST. This growth will be taken into account.” According to Häusermann, the cost-benefit ratio for several initiatives is disproportionate. She points to page 22 of the federal government’s test report on the Northern Network Supplement: “In a cross-comparison, the measure only achieves an adequate cost-benefit ratio.” Regarding the overall costs of urban area 3, page 16 reads: “These costs are classified as high for a medium-sized urban area.” Guler replies that network expansion initiatives that take landscape and buildings into account have their price. “The total costs are quite high for an urban area of ​​this size, but they are within the federal thresholds.”

Swiss problems at Wil West

Häusermann is aware that WILWEST does not only have weaknesses. But the population must be aware of it in order to get an overall picture. ETH PhD student Sven Brunner is also concerned with making political debates like these more objective. He points to several graphics on spatial development in Switzerland that he created from data from the statistics of the federal area. “Every year we grow by an entire Murtensee in settlement area,” he says. Then he points to a slide showing the road vehicles. It makes it clear that congestion and traffic jams on the roads increase the more they are widened. A similar principle also applies to the lack of skilled labour. “Despite massive population growth, the lack of skilled labor has gotten worse. With each more person, we also need more doctors, salespeople, teachers.” The school situation also worries Häusermann. “With 3,000 jobs, we also get thousands more children. We already have an unsolved classroom problem.” Peter Guler replies that the number of people who want to settle depends largely on the housing supply. According to the city of Wil, the expected growth in school children corresponds to the canton’s growth forecast.

Information must be balanced

For Häusermann and Brunner, the main problem remains: There are no counterarguments in the voting booklet. WN asked the canton why this was the case. “The canton is responsible for financing the development of the economic area. Therefore, the federal test report is not specifically addressed in the voting brochure. Häusermann and Brunner are not satisfied with this answer. So far, only important business representatives and the directors of the municipalities, who hope for an increase in tax revenues, have had an impact, says Häusermann and adds: “Citizens lack information and the means to get a balanced picture and to be heard. . It must not be.’ The canton now seems to be doing something in this regard. As Lukas Schmucki, head of parliamentary services, says, a new draft law stipulates that the voting brochure must henceforth contain a description of the most important positions in the parliamentary decision-making process – that is, explicitly with counterarguments.

*Last name the editors know

Of Darina Swiss

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