Ridge campaigners to protest at ALP conference



CANBERRA — A June 30 meeting of Save the Ridge activists decided to rally outside the July 26 ACT ALP conference as part of their campaign to press the territory's Labor government to abandon its plan to build a major freeway, known as the Gungahlin Drive Extension, through the O'Connor-Bruce Ridge and Black Mountain nature reserves.

Controversy has surrounded the choice of the route for the freeway. During the last ACT election, the Liberals campaigned for it to follow a route east of the Australian Institute of Sport, which would affect areas of bushland. The ALP campaigned for a west-of-AIS route.

Urban planning in the ACT is partly controlled by the federal government's National Capital Authority. In December, the NCA declared its preference for the bush-destroying east-of-AIS route. A month later, and without further community consultation, the ACT Labor government announced that its hands had been tied by the NCA, and that it would therefore pursue the eastern route.

In May, 300 people attended a public meeting to protest this plan. On May 30, 200 people rallied in protest against the plan outside the ACT Legislative Assembly. The rally was addressed by Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker, Democrats MLA Ros Dundas and Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett.

Greens senator Bob Brown has moved a disallowance motion in the Senate that would annul the amendment to the National Capital Plan that allows the east-of-AIS route to go ahead. So far, only the Democrats have indicated support for the motion.

The ACT government estimates the cost of the freeway at $100 million. By contrast, the construction of a light rail system to the northern Gungahlin suburbs would only cost $60 million, according to government consultants.

The Save the Ridge campaign can be contacted at <admin@savetheridge.org.au>.

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