Preliminary hearing of the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS) Planning Panel

Chair, Kathy Mitchell, gave some background: outlining subject specialisations of each of the members of the Panel, to be called Assessment Committee from now on. (I assume these are detailed at the website.)

Role of Assessment Committee: to recommend to the Planning Minister on appropriate approvals. The Minister has stipulated it must not spend more than 30 days hearing submitters, their advocates and experts. Note: this includes days devoted to the LMAs advocates/ officers!

Furthermore, the Assessment Committee must take no longer than 30 days to deliberate.

Stats re submissions: ~1500 received- of these about 1300 have been fully processed so far.  Ms Mitchell explained the process involved in uploading them to the website  –  in some cases, submitters were contacted to seek approval if they had not filled out a coversheet (for privacy consideration).

Of the submissions: nine came from Councils, 57 from organisations, six from Parliamentarians, 190 individuals and ~540 were on a proforma submission (that doesn’t add up to 1500, does it?).  She noted that there were seven different proforma submissions.

So their huge initial task (other than reading all the submissions) is to allocate time to all parties given that the requested time added up to double the time allowed by the Minister. For example, LMA requested 13 days and agencies’ requests added up to 29 days.

See Draft Timetable Part 1 resulting from some tough decisions about time allocation.

Following their examination of submissions, the Assessment Committee has handed 25 pages of questions to LMA (allowed under Section 57 (4)) to be answered covering such aspects as traffic, acoustics, groundwater, heritage, flora/ fauna, social impacts. LMA to provide response by 10 Feb. And this will be put on their (PPV) website on 20 February.

So submitters and their advocates and their experts have until 20 Feb to submit response to LMAs responses. (Obviously a number of submitters expressed concerns about timelines leading up to and during the Hearings. This was of particular concern regarding traffic data which, even the Chair implied, was the area most wanting in the CIS.

Assessment Committee proposes ‘hot tubbing’ to manage the limited hearing period. Not ever having had a hot tub, it took me a while to work out how this is applied to a rigorous planning review of a major infrastructure project.

I think it involves a process of elimination where affinity groups (Councils, community groups) will confer about similar points and issues, and ‘hot tub’ ie get in together and share hearing time. I’m not sure how this will be facilitated by PPV. There will also be concurrent hearings- in two separate rooms where issues don’t overlap.

Advice to submitters: don’t repeat what you said in your written submission and don’t go off topic. You won’t be cross examined- only experts will be. Though members of the C’ttee may ask you points of clarification. Provide 15 copies of your submission (contact them ahead of time if you need photocopying assistance with this).

Key submitters then outlined their views of the ‘hot tubbing’ and whether experts should be limited to answering questions or be allowed some time to summarise their reports.

LMA advocate noted that LMA’s request for 12 days was reduced to 7 days. Notwithstanding this he considered it important that their experts be allowed to summarise their reports before cross examining. On less contentious aspects of the project he proposed that some of his experts not talk at all. He then cited 16 experts who he considers will require time!

EPA will respond to LMA’s response to the C’ttee’s Request for information under Section 57 (4).

City of Melbourne cited 10 experts it wants to call up and complained about limited time for them to prepare following LMA response. Happy with hot tubbing.

City of Yarra: time constraints will make hot tubbing difficult (i stopped noting details of experts at this stage).

Barrister representing PPLV / RPPG: strongly asserted that 45 minutes allocated to them was totally inadequate to call up its 3 experts.

Timelines: 10 Feb-   LMA to respond to Planning Panels Victoria  (PPV) Request for info

  • 20 Feb –  experts to respond to this
  • 3 March – Hearing commences
  • So submitters and their advocates have from 20 feb to 3 march to digest all this.
  • A time on Day 25 will be allocated to submitters of proformas to present their ‘hot tubbed’ content. (Don’t step out to the loo at the wrong time or you may miss it).

Legal issues raised (by Yarra Council, I think)

1. Section 61 (2) has robbed the Committee have the opportunity to prepare an Assessment report

2. has LMA had a chance to read submissions? Given that some of these submissions propose changes to the Reference design, has the LMA any intention to review the CIS?

Individual submitters- issues raised:

  • how indepth were the site visits conducted by the Committee? They went on 18 Dec (see website for details of locations visited) and are likely to go out again.
  • traffic data: could LMA seek historic data seeing as this submitter was unsuccessful in getting it from Vic Roads? Dep chair thought that concerns might be assuaged by the responses he’ll get from LMA to his Qs lodged with them this morning.
  • Mr Herrington: see his Doc 4 tabled today (will be at website): 4 areas –

1)  what is actually being proposed?

2) Committee should seek experts in 9 additional areas (highlighting deficits of CIS), eg. Traffic data contradicts projections provided in PT Plan, uncontested claim that EWL will benefit north south traffic flows across Alexandra Parade –  nothing from Yarra Trams on this claim yet.

3) Given Reference design status of EWL, how can approvals be transferred to final project? Especially as, in April, critical info will be made available to govt. These circumstances would qualify Committee to seek a supplementary assessment under Section 69

4) Why is minister to be represented at this Hearing? Section 65 does not provide opportunity for authorised decision maker to be present or to speak.

Furthermore, is there going to be a requirement for participants (experts?) to declare pecuniary interest as party to tendering consortia?

He also requests that submissions be made searchable. He considered that LMA should be allocated five days instead of seven.

  • Mr Lay: seeing as part of the project (as described in CIS) will not be built, this is misleading and contrary to the Act. Committee is compromised by this. In support of this argument, he then described several options for how the project might be implemented, eg Part A, under conforming or non-conforming bid or Parts A and B under conforming or non- conforming bid, describing these as ‘wriggle room’ for the proponent.

I left at lunchtime.

2 thoughts on “Preliminary hearing of the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS) Planning Panel”

  1. Michael Ingram says:

    I Tabled a 3-Page document with the AC at the Prelim Hearing, which in brief asked them to make a ruling on;
    I ask the AC to consider and determine that the CIS was not prepared according to the Act and thus to find that it was not proper, under the conditions laid out in the Act for the Minister to have released the CIS to the public. As such, the CIS was not properly released under the Act into the public domain and so the Submissions and subsequent hearings are not valid.
    Thus, the only proper course of action is to fulfill the conditions of the act and require the Project Proponent to re-release a completed CIS, as per Sect.38 to 42, that fulfills Sect.39 of the Act.
    This will then provide the opportunity of due process to the public and submitters to consider and prepare submissions based on an accurate CIS.
    Until such time, the submissions to be heard at a Public Hearing, and the CIS itself should be considered as incomplete as they are based upon inadequate information.
    As such, I ask the Assessment Committee to determine if (until the CIS is properly prepared and released correctly according to all the steps laid down in the Act), it can lawfully consider both current submissions and the CIS according to its Terms Of Reference (Part 1.3, 2.2 & 2.7).

  2. Michael Ingram says:

    Apologies, forgot to add to most important bit………..
    Do we now have a situation where the Victorian Government throws the full force of the law at the protestors, while the Government itself, fails to obey its own law?

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