Gov’t ignores community on East West Link

Issue 
Police break up a community picket on November 6.

The Victorian government has released the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement (CIS). Public comment has been sought until December 12. The consultation process ends in July next year.

The proposed East West Link is an 18-kilometre road project, including a multilane tunnel, which would extend from Hoddle St to the Western Ring Road at Sunshine East. The CIS covers the eastern section of the proposed road, extending from Clifton Hill through Parkville to the Port of Melbourne precinct.

A CIS is supposed to provide the planning minister with the necessary information to determine whether the project should be approved under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act.

But it has been clear from the outset that the process is a cynical exercise, and neither the CIS nor any public comment would stop the project.

As the public was being “invited to comment”, three short-listed consortia — East West Connect (Lend Lease et al), Inner Link Group (Cintra Infraestructuras et al) and Momentum Infrastructure (John Holland, Leighton et al) — received tender documentation for completion three months before the formal consultation process would end.

The CIS does show the impact of the project will be devastating.

The $6-8 billion spent on stage 1 alone will result in: hundreds of homes destroyed; parkland and sports ovals bulldozed; more road congestion; damage to animals’ welfare at the nearby Royal Melbourne Zoo during the lengthy construction period; air, vibration and noise pollution during the construction period; and falling property values.

The enormous heartbreak and devastation brought about by the project will do nothing to relieve road congestion. In fact, the opposite is true. Ultimately, well-funded public transport, and in particular rail transport, is the only long-term solution to road traffic congestion. Yet funding for the East West Link can be made available only by slashing funding of public transport projects.

Communities have responded by organising ongoing pickets against the short-listed consortia.

Residents picketed the offices of Lend Lease in Docklands for the second time on November 6. Even though the previous picket was peaceful, police told the picket organisers they would not enter into any agreement on the conduct of the picket this time.

The police brought the Critical Incident Response Team — a riot squad — to help smash the picket. Police violently pushed picketers to the ground as they forced entry to the building.

Police also openly and strongly encouraged employees to break the picket line, even pursuing employees who had already decided not to cross the line.