Labor vows to sell houses back to residents vacated by East West project

Herald Sun: Labor vows to sell houses back to residents vacated by East West project. 2 October 2014

Labor would offer to sell properties back to residents who have vacated homes near the planned East West Link site if it won the state election and scrapped the project.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews spent another day defending his pledge to dump the $6.8 billion toll road, saying he would not honour a “sleazy” deal done by Premier Denis Napthine.

The Premier spent another day trumpeting the “jobs boon” created by the project, which has been boosted by builder East West Connect’s promise to use 98 per cent local steel.

He urged Labor-affiliated unions to back the project over the opposition leader.

“My message to the unions is this is delivering jobs for their members … we would welcome union support for stage one of the East West Link,” he said.

As fierce debate continues, the Herald Sun has learnt five homes and two businesses have already cut and run from its path, with a further 102 properties to be compulsorily acquired over the next 10 months. Eighty-eight homes near to the proposed site have also been offered voluntary acquisitions.

Mr Andrews was hesitant to answer questions about Labor’s plans for dealing with property acquisitions, if he won the November election.

“We will need to see how far into this project Denis Napthine is,” he said.

But a senior opposition source said the reservation land for the $6.8 billion project would not be required under Labor, so houses could be sold back in a fairly straight transaction, at no loss to taxpayers.

Collingwood resident Mary Fenelon recently sold her Ballarat St home of 13 years, after the Linking Melbourne Authority bought it on hardship grounds.

Ms Fenelon has struggled to find a new home since the April sale, but the LMA is due to fence off her yard in two weeks. Ms Fenelon said she did not believe Labor’s promise to dump East West Link.

“I think that tunnel’s always going to be a threat whichever party is in,” Ms Fenelon said.

LMA spokesman Matt Phelan said property owners facing acquisitions would have until August to vacate.

Aitken Partners lawyer Sebastian Greenway said that process could not be delayed.

But he said people who sold homes and remained on the property until after the election may be able to buy back if the project was cancelled.

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