Councils spend thousands to fight state election issues

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The Age: Councils spend thousands to fight state election issues. September 24, 2014. Jason Dowling

Councillors at Moreland and Yarra have been labelled, “chardonnay-swilling, yoghurt-eating, bike-riding socialists”, for opposing the East West Link by a Casey City councillor.

Casey Council last week voted to join a growing list of local councils spending ratepayer funds to advocate on state election issues.

Casey Council spans marginal electorate territory in Melbourne’s south-east and will spend about $15,000 backing the East West Link road project and Port of Hastings expansion.

Three councillors excused themselves from the vote because two are Liberal Party candidates at the state election and another is a candidate for the Rise Up Australia Party.

A fourth councillor not present at the meeting is also a Liberal Party candidate at the election.

Casey Councillor Gary Rowe voted in favour of the spending campaign and attacked the Moreland and Yarra Councillors as socialists preventing transport opportunities in Casey.

Cr Rowe, who is a former Liberal Party member of parliament, told The Age the East West Link road project would reduce congestion on the Monash Freeway and be of great benefit to the residents of Casey.

Before last week’s vote, the council’s advocacy campaign had concentrated on local road upgrades, bus improvements, local jobs and increased youth mental health services.

The East West Link project and Port of Hastings expansion have now been added to the list.

Casey Council chief executive Mike Tyler said the $15,000 for the East West Link/ Port of Hastings advocacy campaign was “quite a modest amount when you consider the expenditure of some other councils on their advocacy campaigns”.

Moreland and Yarra councils have invested much more in state election issues.

Moreland Council has estimated if the joint legal action it is taking with Yarra City Council against the East West Link project is not successful, and costs are awarded against them, the combined cost will be “in the vicinity of $350,000”.

If they are successful, the anticipated costs range from $90,000 to $120,000 could be shared by the two councils.

Moreland has also allocated $40,000 for a public advocacy campaign against the toll road and has spent $30,000 to date.

Moreland Mayor Lambros Tapinos said the East West Link would affect local residents in a major way, “such as increased ‘rat running’; road noise; loss of recreation facilities and parkland; impacts upon the public transport network; and disruption to the cycling network”.

Yarra Council said it was committed to advocating on issues important to the Yarra community.

The council has allocated $30,000 to fund advocacy activities including supporting public transport and opposing the proposed East West Link.

Yarra Council Mayor Jackie Fristacky said the council had also contributed $6500 towards election-focused advocacy on transport projects identified as priorities by the Inner South Metropolitan Mayors Forum, which includes Bayside, Boroondara, Glen Eira, Kingston, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra.

“Yarra Council is active in advocacy for sustainable transport solutions,” Cr Fristacky said.

She said the council strongly supported a Doncaster rail project and other public transport solutions to congestion in preference to the East West Link project.

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