Two councils use more than $100K of ratepayers’ cash to fund Link battle

Herald Sun: Two councils use more than $100K of ratepayers’ cash to fund Link battle. 15 September 2014

Yarra mayor Jackie Fristacky and Moreland mayor Lambros Tapinos are leading their councils in a legal fight against the East West Link. Picture: Carmelo Bazzano

Two militant councils have splurged more than $100,000 of ratepayers’ cash on a marketing campaign opposing the State Government’s East West Link.

Button badges, stickers and a video of a petition being handed to Labor politicians are some of the anti-East West Link propaganda ratepayers have funded over the past year.

Yarra and Moreland councils spent a combined $104,384 on the Trains Not Toll Roads campaign in the 12 months from May 2013 to May 2014.

Documents released to the Herald Sun under Freedom of Information showed the councils had also used ratepayers’ money to pay for audio equipment at East West Link protests and bought thousands of flyers, signs and banners.

The public relations bill comes on top of up to $350,000 the councils are using to fund a Supreme Court challenge against the project. Yarra Mayor Jackie Fristacky said the council’s expenditure on the campaign was “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,” she said. “$70,000 for the TNTR campaign equates to $1.60 per ratepayer or 83c per capita.”

Yarra Council forked out $71,616 on the campaign.

Yarra Council has allocated another $30,000 in its 2014/15 budget for the TNTR campaign, taking its total contribution to more than $100,000.

“We do not take the expenditure of ratepayers’ money lightly,” Ms Fristacky said.

“Our communities expect their council to protect their interests, which is exactly what we are doing.”

The council’s “trains not toll roads” campaign bills are on top of their legal challenge to the $18 billion tunnel.

Yarra Council spent $405,000 on legal representation at the Government’s 30-day East West assess­ment committee hearings.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the bills were an example of councils not focusing on their core business. “It’s a clear example of these two councils putting their own personal politics ahead of ratepayers’ priorities,” Mr Guy said.

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