Council’s response to the Herald Sun in full

Yarra Council: Council’s response to the Herald Sun in full. 15 September 2014

The Herald Sun published two articles on Monday 15 September about Council’s Trains Not Toll Roads campaign.

Despite Council providing a detailed response to the Herald Sun before publication, the articles published were biased and did not reflect the position of Council or the overwhelming support from the community for Council’s advocacy on behalf of its community. In the interests of providing more balance, we publish Council’s response to the Herald Sun’s questions in full to readers now.

by Yarra Mayor Cr Jackie Fristacky

Herald Sun Question: Why did Council get involved in the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign?

Yarra Council initiated the Trains not Toll Roads campaign in June 2013 because it supports public transport solutions to Melbourne’s congestion, equity of travel and benefits to the environment.

Council strongly opposes the East West Link because of the absence of a transparent and viable business case and the devastating impact it would have on our local community, local heritage, inner city traffic and many other important aspects impacting liveability.

The project will see traumatic compulsory acquisition of homes and businesses, increased pollution including from exhaust / ventilation stacks close to our primary schools, disruption to residents, businesses and services during construction and toll avoiders cutting through local streets.

Spending $20 billion on the EWL stages will divert funds from vital and long overdue public transport projects essential to alleviating inner city traffic congestion and to providing residents in outer suburbs with more sustainable transport choices than driving.

Traffic experts know that the EWL is likely to increase, not reduce, traffic on the already congested inner Melbourne roads such as Hoddle Street, Flemington Road and Chandler Highway. Further, induced traffic will add to congestion on Hoddle Street and Flemington Roads, these being the only exits to access the city area.

Herald Sun Question: Does the council believe it is a good use of its ratepayers money to spend $70,000 in 12 months on the campaign?

The expenditure on the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign has been modest and necessary.

Funding was allocated as part of our transparent $150 million budget process which included public exhibition and an opportunity for the community to comment.

$70,000 for the TNTR campaign equates to $1.60 per ratepayer or 83 cents per capita.

Far higher costs are being imposed on Local Government by State and Federal cost shifting.

We do not take the expenditure of ratepayer’s money lightly. We know every dollar counts and that our communities expect more of Council than just roads, rates and rubbish. Our communities expect their Council to protect their interests, which is exactly what we are doing.

The largest proportion of Council expenditure for the EWL, has been participating in the Government’s formal Assessment Committee process over six months.

This process saw 1,200 written submissions, a 30 day hearing with 200 presented submissions and multiple expert reports and witnesses, only to find key recommendations of that Expert Committee rejected by the Minister.

Community support for the TNTR campaign

There has been overwhelming support for Council’s leadership of the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign.

More than 430 people packed the Fitzroy Town Hall for the launch of the campaign in June 2013, unanimously voting to oppose the East West Link and support public transport.

Since then, thousands of people have become connected, engaged and active in the campaign with more people than ever before talking about public transport. They are showing their support at public rallies, festivals, transport forums, street stalls and family events. They are writing to the media and sharing information via social media. They are displaying Trains Not Toll Roads signs on front fences and shop windows.

The community’s dedication has seen them turn up rain, hail or shine every Friday morning over 12 months for peaceful protests at the Alexandra Parade/Hoddle Street intersection holding signs “Toot for Trains” and “Every train takes 800 cars off the road”. These receive constant toots of support from drivers of cars and trucks.

The campaign has attracted 10,000+ Facebook followers and thousands of posts and Tweets. There has also been more than 20,000 signatures collected on hard-copy and online petitions. Signs in opposition to the tunnel are everywhere to be seen in Yarra.

Council has also received significant support for its advocacy from business professionals and other councils in leading the call for more sustainable public transport to tackle Melbourne’s growing congestion problems. This support extends well beyond Yarra and has included many eminent consultants in the transport sector including the proponent and builder of CityLink.

Legislative obligation

Yarra has an obligation under the Local Government Act to represent its communities on issues that affect them. Our statutory role includes advocacy on behalf of the community. All Councils across Victoria are involved in many aspects of advocacy for their communities including strong campaigns for Doncaster and Rowville rail lines by eastern and south eastern municipalities.

Herald Sun Question: One of the items includes the filming of a petition being handed over at parliament house, do you have further details about this petition – how many signatures are on it, who handed it over at parliament and who collected it from council at parliament?

On 20 August 2013, I joined a community organised rally on the steps of Parliament House in support of the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign. Hundreds of people turned out to demonstrate their opposition to the East West Link.

At the rally, Richard Wynne MLA for Richmond, presented the TNTR petition to State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews calling for abandonment of the proposed toll road. At the time, more than 12,000 people had signed the petition, either in hard copy or online.

Since then, more than 20,000 signatures have been collected in hard copy and online petitions, while the campaign has attracted 10,000+ Facebook followers and thousands of posts and Tweets.

Herald Sun Question: Does the council believe it is appropriate to spend money on equipment for protest rallies?

Rallies at Parliament House and other public meetings have involved a wide range of community groups across Melbourne and have been funded from a range of community sources.

Council unanimously resolved to provide support to its community members affected by the East West Link. Council received a request to support these members at the rally at Parliament House and considered it reasonable to support its community members so engaged.

Herald Sun Question: Is the council continuing to provide funds for the campaign?

Council has allocated $30,000 in its 2014/15 budget to support the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign. This equates to 70 cents per Yarra ratepayer or 36 cents per capita.

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