We have a duty to fight this project

Herald Sun: We have a duty to fight this project. Lambros Tapinos. 3 August 2014

Local government is where politics is closest to the people and the people of Moreland have always voted for a council that takes action on important issues.

Advocating on behalf of the community is a key council function. This is why we are taking action against the East West Link approval process.

Last weekend’s Sunday Herald Sun questioned our motivations and our financial commitment on East West Link.

Moreland has not cut its Christmas decoration and road budget to pay for legal action.

This suggestion is as absurd as the unsourced figures suggesting that our legal action will cost millions.

Let me put the record straight: legal costs for Moreland will be between $65,000 and $175,000 depending on the duration and outcome. But the cost of inaction is far greater.

There is a myth being circulated that the East West Link will have no direct impact on Moreland.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our residents will be affected by loss of recreation facilities and parkland, excessive road noise, disruptions to the cycling and public transport networks and unacceptable congestion from vehicles avoiding high-priced tolls.

The East West Link Assessment Committee agreed with Moreland on such matters but Minister Matthew Guy ignored those recommendations.

Minister Guy accused our council of wasting money by appealing against his decision.

On the contrary, he should be embarrassed about calling for an expensive panel process involving hearings and submissions and then rejecting many of its key findings.

This issue runs much deeper than traffic flow — it comes down to trust and openness in government. Any project of this magnitude must be supported by the best evidence before receiving ministerial approval, especially when it requires the compulsory acquisition of residential properties. That is, people’s homes.

If Minister Guy had sound arguments for the project, he would not resort to throwing insults at another elected level of government. We believe the justice system is best placed to decide the rights and wrongs of the approval process.

A good State Government should have nothing to fear from a review of its major decisions. A good State Government, with a good business case, should properly communicate with the Victorian public before spending $18 billion on one project.

The East West Link will do little to solve the city’s transport woes but will drain billions of dollars of resources from public transport, schools and hospitals.

We will continue to call for the removal of dangerous railway crossings and for extending the North Coburg tramline to Fawkner. And we’ll call for increasing the frequency of train, tram and bus services, particularly at night.

Those improvements would cost only a small fraction of the East West Link budget and would make a real difference to Moreland, unlike the East West Link.

If the hastily approved tunnel project is built, local projects and public transport improvements across Victoria cannot be funded.

We know East West Link was examined and found wanting by Infrastructure Australia; the only published benefit-cost analysis, the Eddington report in 2008, found the benefit-cost ratio was low; and Leighton Construction pulled out of tendering for the project because it said the risks were unacceptable.

The East West Link approval process was rushed and inadequate.

The Minister is stubbornly trying to force it through without giving Victorians the chance to vote in November on the desirability of this massively expensive tunnel project justified by a secret business case.

Lambros Tapinos is the mayor of Moreland city council

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