By Shaun Knott
The Coalition State Government is intent on getting contracts signed for the controversial $18 billion East West Toll Road project in central Melbourne prior to the commencement of ‘caretaker mode’ ahead of the 29 November state election this year.
The fight to stop the proposed Toll Road has been strengthened with two local councils joining forces to appeal in the Victorian Supreme Court against State Government Planning Minister Guys’ approval of the project.
According to City of Yarra Mayor Cr Jackie Fristacky, Moreland and Yarra Councils, where the East West Toll Road project will have a significant impact, were obliged to act in accordance with the Local Government Act.
Residents have received acquisition letters from Linking Melbourne laying out their preemptive plans to bulldoze their way through inner heritage suburbs, businesses and vital open space such as Melbourne’s largest inner city open space, Royal Park.”
Fierce community opposition to the controversial project is believed to have influenced the two councils’ decisions to represent the interests of their local residents and the broader community of Melbourne.
Despite the two court cases brought by local councils and Brunswick resident Tony Murphy, residents have received acquisition letters from Linking Melbourne laying out their preemptive plans to bulldoze their way through inner heritage suburbs, businesses and vital open space such as Melbourne’s largest inner city open space, Royal Park.
The state government has overruled the recommendations of the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS) and formal planning processes to address 87 questions about the severe impacts, lack of design and the claimed travel time benefits a driver might receive against more than 100 reasons why the project will be a disaster for Melbourne and the state of Victoria if it goes ahead.
It is of real concern that the government has failed to take into consideration the 1477 CIS submissions made by residents, local councils and community groups and businesses. Not to mention the expert witnesses panel and 260 community residents who addressed the formal public hearing process that took place in November 2013 and March this year.
The state government successfully amended the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 in parliament during October 2013 and has subsequently been able to fast track the public consultation process and give the current Planning Minister Matthew Guy discretion to approve any project without scrutiny.
This means the planning minister no longer is obliged to consider 30 years of due process in planning and environmental laws and only needs to mention them for ‘tick the box. reasons but is not bound by them.
If it is wasn’t for the countless volunteer hours put in by individuals and community groups across Melbourne and Victoria to stop the East West Toll Road going ahead before the state election, contracts may have already have been signed.”
According to Brad Jessup, lawyer and lecturer at the Melbourne Law School, the state government has demonstrated it has no intention of even working in accordance with the law and refuses to release the business case to the public for scrutiny, starving voters of the facts.
Since the Coalition government announced the East West link project in early 2012. on the promise to voters it would invest in public transport. it has put the urgent case for funding the estimated $10 billion backlog of decades long mass transport improvements on hold indefinitely.
Despite voter surveys. with 75% of respondents calling for investment in public transport instead of roads, the government has chosen to be directed by road lobby groups such as RACV and Committee for Melbourne at the expense of listening to the real needs of the broader public.
If it is wasn’t for the countless volunteer hours put in by individuals and community groups across Melbourne and Victoria to stop the East West Toll Road going ahead before the state election, contracts may have already have been signed.
The millions of dollars of public funds spent by thestate government on planning and advertising for the East West Toll could be avoided if the state government respected the law andits own formal public consultation process. The release of the East West business case would pave the way for:
- An open and transparent debate about the proposed project and the real costs to Victorians and benefits, including the government been responsive to public input to determine what kind of future we want to see for Melbourne;
- The economic, social and environmental interests of the Victorian population to be matched with the election cycle;
- Creating a world class city that respects its residents and the right of future generations to live and access healthy ways of living, including having viable choices in how we get around and do business.
If you believe in democracy and Melbourne’s future, show your support by signing the petition today and join 1000’s of individuals across Melbourne and Victoria that are joining the growing movement to halt work on the East West Toll Road and give Victorian’s a chance to vote as to whether we want the project, in this year’s state election.
Shaun Knott is a born and bred Melbournian, loves it when the Dees have a win, daily cyclist, and a willing writer. He also cares about his local community, his city and his fellow Victorian’s very much. His handle is @knottshaun