East-west link: Moonee Valley Council challenges state government

The Weekly Review Moonee Valley:East-west link: Moonee Valley Council challenges state government Sue Hewitt. 21 October 2014

Moonee Valley mayor Jan Chantry has denied the council’s decision to legally challenge Planning Minister Matthew Guy over the east-west link project, was political.

The Napthine government came out swinging after the council decided to dispute Mr Guy’s approval of the significantly changed road-toll project.

Mr Guy said on 3AW, the government was not surprised at the action because the council had strong ties to the Labor party.

Cr Chantry denied any political motivation saying: “I may well be a member of the Labor Party … but as mayor of this city, when I take a decision in the [council] chamber, it is about how it will affect my community.

“The whole community of Moonee Valley will be impacted upon by this project.”

Cr Chantry told TWR the council’s decision to launch Supreme Court action would seek to prove that Mr Guy acted “irrationally in his decisions and his interpretation of his powers” over the project.

Mr Guy attacked the decision on ABC radio saying the council should be concentrating on “serving its ratepayers first”.

Councillors at a special meeting last week rejected the chief executive Neville Smith’s recommendation not to antagonise the government and instead voted to take immediate legal action with only one councillor dissenting.

The council becomes the third to launch legal action against the project, with Yarra and Moreland also fighting the toll road.

Cr Jim Cusack said hiring legal experts, including a Queen’s Counsel, to immediately issue a challenge to Mr Guy was imperative, given recent changes to the almost $7 billion road-toll project and its crushing impact on Moonee Valley.

Of the eight out of nine councillors present (Cr John Sipek was absent) only Cr Narelle Sharpe voted against the motion, which sets the council on a collision course with the state government in the Supreme Court.

Cr Sharpe said she could not support the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayer funds, although she was disappointed with the government’s decision.

Various legal costs were mentioned, the most being $500,000, but councillors, to the applause of a packed gallery of about 100 residents, agreed with Cr Cam Nation that the cost was “miniscule”.

Councillors also described the $70 million compensation offer by Linking Melbourne Authority as “inadequate”.

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