Moonee Valley councillors divided over next steps in appeal against the East West Link

Moonee Valley Leader: Moonee Valley councillors divided over next steps in appeal against the East West Link. Linh Ly. 23 July 2014

Moonee Valley councillors rejected a bid to seek further legal advice on joining its neighbouring municipalities’ Supreme Court appeal against the East West Link.

Councillors were bitterly divided at a heated council meeting last night while determining their next steps in relation to the State Government’s controversial $8 billion road project to connect CityLink and the Eastern Freeway.

Cr Jim Cusack attempted to move a motion that included seeking legal advice on how much joining Moreland and Yarra councils’ legal challenge would cost, the likelihood of success and the potential costs associated if they succeeded or failed.

The two councils lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court before Monday’s deadline, but Moonee Valley could seek leave through the courts to join their action.

Cr Cusack said Moonee Valley copped the brunt of this project and the costs of East West to their community would be “extraordinary”.

“We cannot win this game off our own cap alone,” he said.

He said combined with Moreland and Yarra councils they would make a “big chunk of the Victorian population, and it has the capacity to change the government’s mind”.

However, councillors Paul Giuliano, Andrea Surace, Narelle Sharpe and Mayor Jan Chantry raised concerns about mounting any legal action and the costs it would inflict on ratepayers.

Eight councillors present at the meeting were split on the decision, with Cr Chantry using her mayoral casting vote to defeat the motion.

Cr Chantry said she did not believe “antagonising” the State Government would make it easier for Moonee Valley and that Yarra and Moreland councils were taking on the government for “unreasonable compensation”.

Cr Chantry said they would be better off trying to negotiate for compensation and not be “dictated to by two other councils”.

Councillors Jim Cusack, Nicole Marshall, Cam Nation and Shirley Cornish voted for the motion. Cr John Sipek was not present at the meeting.

Cr Nicole Marshall said she could not understand why her fellow councillors were against the motion.

“All this is asking is getting bloody legal advice. It’s not about joining legal action. We get the advice in and we make an informed decision,” Cr Marshall said.

Cr Andrea Surace moved an alternative motion, resolving Moonee Valley Council remain opposed to the East West Link, request the State Government not sign contracts until the final business case is made public and “supports the City of Yarra and the City of Moreland in their decision to bring the proceedings in the Supreme Court”.

Cr Surace said the impacts of the project were concerning, but she did not believe the entire municipality would support mounting a legal case.

Councillors were also divided four-four over the motion, which was carried with Cr Chantry’s mayoral casting vote.

Cr Cornish said she was flabbergasted by the views of those opposed to seeking further information given the money and resources the council had already spent opposing the project.

“I don’t understand why we’re going down this fluffy path. I think sometimes you’ve got to take the bullet. This would have been a good opportunity for our council to fight,” Cr Cornish said.

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