Moonee Valley third council to launch legal action against East West Link

The Age: Moonee Valley third council to launch legal action against East West Link. October 15, 2014, Nick Toscano, Workplace Reporter for The Age

A third lawsuit will be launched over the East West Link, with Moonee Valley Council vowing to challenge the government’s “irrational” planning process.

Councillors voted in favour of taking Supreme Court action to “protect the interests of the Moonee Valley community” at a special meeting held on Wednesday night.

The new lawsuit will be separate from concurrent proceedings brought by Yarra and Moreland councils, also in the Supreme Court, against the controversial $6.8 billion road.

Moonee Valley Council hopes to force a design rethink of the government’s signature road project, which would carve out large slices of the municipality and have serious impacts on residents of Flemington and Ascot Vale due to a series of ramps at the western end.

It will argue that Planning Minister Matthew Guy acted irrationally in his decisions and his interpretation of powers under the law, and that authorities failed to provide the council with crucial documents about the impact the road would have.

Mayor Jan Chantry said the council had been trying to work with the Napthine government and the Linking Melbourne Authority, “but it is time to face the fact that this approach is not working”.

“Council can no longer bang our heads against a brick wall in trying to negotiate a fair outcome for Moonee Valley,” she said.

“The legal action is a bit of a David and Goliath battle, but given the impacts this will have on Moonee Valley and the disregard the state government is treating our community with, it’s a battle we have to face.”

Cr Chantry said the council’s legal action would not seek to stop the project altogether, but force the state government to reconsider design elements and ensure it follows proper protocol and community consultation.

“The East West Link represents a massive injustice to the Moonee Valley community – and we cannot let this happen without a fight.”

A report tabled at the meeting, by Moonee Valley chief executive Neville Smith, urged councillors to consider how taking legal action could affect the council’s future relationship with the Napthine government if re-elected.

But a spokeswoman for Mr Guy said the council’s court action would have no impact on future cooperation.

“Any question about the possibility of ‘retribution’ from the Napthine government to the Moonee Valley Council if they launch Supreme Court action over the East West Link is somewhat juvenile and completely unfounded,” she said.

Harriet Mantell, spokeswoman for community group Residents Against the Tunnell, said the council chambers were “packed” for Wednesday night’s special meeting.

“We now have three Supreme Court cases that will be running … so what does that say about the lack of due process that the government has been following,” she said.

“Everyone was jubilant that Moonee Valley has agreed to pursue legal action.”

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