Four councils in Melbourne’s north east are taking legal action against the Victorian Labor government over its support for the $16 billion tollway, the North East Link.
The Boroondara, Whitehorse, Banyule and Manningham Councils are arguing that residents will be adversely impacted by the destruction of at least 26,000 trees, and the habitat of some species, and the eradication of local parkland and recreational facilities. In addition, dozens of homes and businesses will be bulldozed, and jobs lost.
The finished tollway will add 95,000 more vehicles to the Eastern Freeway, sections of which will be increased to 24 lanes. It will also increase carbon emissions when the climate crisis demands that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced.
Air quality as a result of car and truck emissions on the Eastern Freeway is already above the World Health Organization’s recommended level as are noise pollution levels.
Residents have been campaigning against the project since its inception. They want more and better public transport, including the long-promised rail link to Doncaster.
The hard work of campaign groups, including early-morning banner drops across the Eastern Freeway, taking part in the government’s consultation process, letters to newspapers, letterboxing, meetings, small rallies and attendance at council meetings has helped sway the councils to take their stand.
Their legal case asserts that the minister’s approval was based on misleading information about the impact of the tollway. The councils’ cases are limited, however, as Banyule Council supports the North East link, but wants the design modified.
Meanwhile, a government prepared to spend billions on a polluting tollway has told the Community and Public Sector Union and the Australian Education Union that this year’s budget is tight — which is usually code for job cuts.