Victorian planning minister Matthew Guy approved stage one of the East West Link toll road on June 30, ignoring key recommendations from the planning panel to reduce impacts from the project.
Guy said he had granted relevant approvals for the project on the condition that the Linking Melbourne Authority redesign parts of the project.
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria (PPL VIC) said: “The huge Elliott Avenue toll road exchange that threatened the viability of Melbourne Zoo will not go ahead. Royal Park woodlands near the zoo will also be left standing. What will happen instead is not yet clear and no one can relax.”
This partial reprieve for Royal Park comes after a determined campaign to save it and Melbourne Zoo from the catastrophic impacts of the East West Link. The minister’s request for a “redesign” of this section is testament to the political pressure that this campaign was able to exert.
Royal Park is not in the clear yet. The minister’s statement is doubtless intended to confuse and disarm the campaigners. Now that the minister has called for modifications to the design, opponents are calling for a new hearing on the impact of any future design.
The approval also came two days after 3000 people marched against the toll road and for more investment in public transport.
Cait Jones, campaign director of Public Transport Not Traffic, said: “The recommendations handed down by the East West Link Assessment Committee criticise the cart-before-the-horse design process, the poor quality of community engagement and the proposal to hand the whole project, from design to accountability, to the private sector.
“Victorians are again left wondering why the Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, appoints expert committees and then ignores their advice.”
The government’s own traffic modellers revealed that the toll road will attract more traffic, in particular trucks, and consequently increase congestion rather than reduce it.
Jones asked why the government was rushing this process, saying: “The government is clearly scared to take this unpopular plan to build the world's most expensive traffic jam to the state election.”
Some Melbourne local councils have taken a stand against the toll road. The Future Melbourne Committee of the City of Melbourne passed a motion on July 8 opposing the East West Link.
Moreland City Council also passed a similar motion, reaffirming its opposition. The motion said: “The Link is the most costly infrastructure project in Victoria’s history, yet it was never part of any transport plan or road reservation process, has no available Business Case, is opposed by the ALP and Greens, lacks public support, is being challenged in the Senate and Supreme Court of Victoria, and lacks supporting legislation from State Parliament.
“It is characterised by planning-on-the-run coupled with no final design and a mad rush to sign contracts and begin construction prior to the State Election in November.”