‘Mr Napthine, I’m not moving’

Keith Fitzgerald on the picket line in Melbourne. Photo: Sue Bolton.

Many residents have been involved in the campaign to stop the East West tunnel in Melbourne, an $8-15 billion tollway project of Denis Napthine’s Coalition government.

One resident, Keith Fitzgerald, has lived in Collingwood for 70 years.

Fitzgerald told Green Left Weekly his grandparents had come over from Richmond in 1898 and settled in Collingwood. His father was born in Collingwood in 1900.

Fitzgerald has lived in the same house for 69 years but has received a letter saying it is likely to be requisitioned,

He told GLW: “I’ve got a message for Mr Napthine: I’m not moving. I have lived here for 69 years, and I will die here.

“Collingwood has always been struggletown. It used to be a thriving town but now it is a backway for traffic.”

Fitzgerald said Collingwood was dissected and devastated by big new roads in the 1970s when the state government widened Hoddle Street by bulldozing 99 homes and five hotels. It devastated the median strip on Alexandra Parade that was played on by local kids.

Later, 36 acres of Yarra Bend Park were taken to build the Eastern Freeway.

Fitzgerald was involved in the big community campaign to stop the building of the Eastern Freeway at the time. He said there were up to 2000 people on the picket line. The police responded by charging the picket with batons.

Fitzgerald has been at every public meeting, rally and early morning picket since the campaign began. There is enormous support for the campaign among local Yarra residents.

Now that the drilling for soil testing has been completed, the picketing is still continuing but on a less frequent basis. There have been three pickets of John Holland, one of the building companies bidding for the project.

Community rallies are being planned for Kensington on November 24 and Fitzroy on December 1. The Victorian Integrated Transport Alliance is a coalition of transport action groups formed to organise combined actions against the tunnel.

Moreland council is organising a public meeting on November 12. A grassroots campaign committee is to be launched in Moreland on November 26.

The state government released the Comprehensive Impact Statement for the East West Tunnel on November 1. Community groups will have 30 days to put in submissions in response.