We had a great Public Meeting on 29th May 2014

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 Friends of Banyule - Public Meeting 29th May 2014

 

What the East west Toll Road and Doncaster Rail Mean for Banyule

 


On 29th May, the latest in the continuing series of Friends of Banyule public events took place at the Old Shire Offices, Heidelberg with a good turn up of approximately 45 - 50 people. Our two guest speakers for the meeting were FOB Steering Committee and Doncaster Rail Advocacy Group member Mary Merkenich and Public Transport Not Traffic Campaign Manager, Danae Bosler.

The topic for the evening was "What the East West Toll Road and Doncaster Rail means for Banyule". With the State election coming up in November, issues around public transport and infrastructure have now taken on a central focus. This has recently become clear with an advertising blitz by the government in the press and, the release of a plethora of rushed policy on transport, the majority of which if they proceed, would be a decade or more away and will be impacted by the majority of available funding still directed to East West Link.

Mary provided a very informative and engaging overview on the impact of East West Link and its effect on Doncaster Rail, a project the current government said it supported in the lead up to the 2010 election. In the intervening period, whilst a study has been carried out into the feasibility of Doncaster Rail, the government has done nothing since to advance this important and necessary project, any further. Doncaster is one of the few areas in the metropolitan area with no surface rail of any kind, being a real missing link in our rail network. Mary spoke of the Mandura rail line in Perth, which runs down the middle of a freeway (similar to that which the Eastern Freeway was designed to accommodate) and which, has been very successful in reducing congestion and fostering a major shift in transport mode, from road to rail. This has been integrated with more frequent upgraded bus services to new stations along the route.

She noted, that the government's determination to proceed with the horrendously expensive East West Toll road, costing $8b for the eastern section and a similar amount for the western section, effectively soaks up all available funds for a decade and beyond, meaning Doncaster Rail will be further delayed and potentially not proceed at all, if present funding priorities are perused. It was also noted that in an analysis by senior Age economics commentator Kenneth Davidson, the total cost of East West Link (both sections) could total $18 - 20 b, putting it in a similar realm to the Desalination Plant as a long term burden on the Victorian tax payer with questionable results as to a business case. Construction of the East West Toll Road would also inevitably lead to the subsequent building of the North East Link through our parklands in Banyule, with similar negative impacts as those in Royal Park with extensive loss of trees and parkland.

Danae gave a lively and similarly engaging presentation on the Public Transport not Traffic (PTNT) campaign. PTNT is coordinating a campaign to promote public transport on behalf of a diverse cross section of community groups and organisations across Melbourne and regional Victoria, in the lead up to the State election in November. The campaign has included a widespread multi media and public relations strategy, rallies, public meetings door knocking, community engagement initiatives and communications strategy. The campaign has been successful in engaging with the community including in marginal seats across Melbourne. Danae noted that if people are acquainted with all the issues involved, they are capable of making more informed decisions based on the facts, rather than government advertising or the media, which often skews the argument in favour of the roads lobby.

She provided an update on the progress of the campaign and latest developments on the East West

Toll Road vs Public Transport issue. it was noted that the case currently proceeding in the Supreme Court regarding lack of transparency and business case was continuing, with the Court directing Linking Melbourne to provide further documentation on the matter, including projected traffic volumes and details of the business case. She also advised that the E/W Link CIS Planning Panel, would deliver its finding this week, meaning that the Minister for Planning Mathew Guy will be required to make a statement on behalf of government. If the Panel requests further information and clarification from Linking Melbourne, this could potentially delay the signing of contracts. It was noted that the present policy of Labor to" honour" the contracts which the government intends signing prior to the election, was being questioned by various members within the opposition and Shadow Cabinet. She encouraged all to contact Opposition MPS regarding the issue and put pressure on our politicians from all sides of politics on these matters as well as transport policy.

 

Everyone was encouraged to participate by joining up/donating, signing petitions and writing to to their local and State member. The overall message was participate, become involved, take action at the local level and be part of the solution to help shape what sort of city we want in the future.


A spirited Q & A session followed with an engaged audience, and excellent questions from the floor on a range of issues around the presentations. Given the number of questions, and enthusiasm of the audience, question time was extended till 9.00 pm. Both the Mayor Craig Langdon and local ward Councillor Tom Melican attended and participated in questions and general discussion following.

Overall, a very successful meeting, with positive comments from those who joined us for tea/

coffee and discussion afterward.

Thanks are extended to both Mary and Danae for their excellent presentations on the night. Thanks also to all concerned who helped to make the evening a success including Felipe for the flyer design and logo, John, for last minute assistance with the flyer, to Pauline, Mary, Don, Toni and Ian for distribution and letter boxing and, to Greta, Harris and Monique for social media dissemination. Importantly also, thanks to Marion for her invaluable organisational skills.

Lastly, thanks to all who attended, including our Mayor and Councillor Melican for showing support for our public events.

Dennis O'Connell

President

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