Councils Condemn East West Link Planning Decision

Councils Condemn East West Link Planning Decision.  Andrew Herington

Both Yarra and Melbourne City Council have come out strongly to condemn the Planning Minister, Matthew Guy’s decision to reject major recommendations from the independent Assessment Committee established to consider the East West Link.

There are clear signs that local Council resistance to the project has been strengthened by the Minister thumbing his nose at his own process. Both Councils have called on the Government not to enter into contracts prior to the State election in November.

At Yarra, Councillor Colanzi moved a detailed motion which noted various aspects of the decision and condemned the lack of transparency surrounding the viability of the project. It noted that despite this being the largest infrastructure project currently proposed in Australia, a full business case has not been released despite numerous requests from Yarra Council, Federal Parliamentarians and others.

The Yarra Council took aim in particular at four elements of the Assessment Committee’s recommendations that the Minister rejected:

  • The finding that the Hoddle St flyover is unacceptable;
  • The recommended relocation of the vent stack to east of the rail bridge;
  • The adoption of more stringent noise controls at night; and
  • Avoiding the need for a temporary “side track” north of Alexandra Pde.

At Melbourne City Council, the motion by Councillor Rohan Leppert passed 6 votes to 5. Amongst other things, the Melbourne motion:

  • strongly criticized the decision of the State Government to proceed with the East West Link in a way which denies the scientific and legal assessment processes and the professional recommendations of the Assessment Committee, and which ignores the clear will of the community;
  • reaffirmed the strong opposition of the City of Melbourne to the destruction of Moonee Ponds Creek by Stage 1B of the East West Link;
  • objected to the “serious lack of clarity brought about by the Minister’s decision to approve two East West Link interchanges ‘subject to further planning’”;
  • requested that the City of Melbourne be consulted by the Linking Melbourne Authority in the drafting of the Development Plans; and
  • requested a public meeting of this Committee as soon as reasonably manageable to report on:
  1. details of the extent to which the City of Melbourne’s submission on the CIS was taken up by the Assessment Panel and the Minister, and the impact of the Minister’s decision on the City of Melbourne, and
  2. an explanation of the opportunities by which the City of Melbourne can participate in and influence the project as per the conditions of the Minister’s approval.

• insisted that any contracts to build the East West Link not be let until the people have had the opportunity to pass judgment at the general election in four months’ time.

The Minister’s requirement for “Development Plans” for Hoddle St, Flemington Rd, the Western portal and Part B as well as a Property Impact Statement has thrown the whole process into confusion.

The LMA are refusing to say when these new reports will be prepared. There is no process for their release and comment by the public. There is no obligation on the LMA to consult – although also there is nothing to stop them if they wanted to follow normal professional planning practice.

It is likely the Councils will be insistent on being heard in the process but given the heavy veil of secrecy that the Government has thrown over the project – it is likely they will just be frozen out.