The campaign against the East West Link received a boost on July 18 when the Moreland Council voted to take legal action against the Victorian state government in the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn planning minister Matthew Guy’s approval of the unpopular motorway.
The proposed East West Link is an 18-kilometre tollway between the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and the Western Ring Road in Sunshine West.
In a special meeting, the councillors voted six to two to take the legal action, challenging the process by which the minister made the decision to give the project a green light.
Moreland councillor Sue Bolton, a member of the Socialist Alliance, moved a motion at the July 9 council meeting for the CEO to get legal advice on a possible legal challenge.
The government has refused to release the business case for the project, thus denying local councils and residents the opportunity to properly consider and raise objections to the project.
It is widely suspected that the business case has been kept secret because the economics do not stack up for the community. Bolton told Green Left Weekly “the project is simply a hand-out to freight companies like Linfox and that’s why the business case hasn’t been released.”
Other councils have since joined in. Yarra council voted unanimously at a special council meeting on July 21 to join Moreland in the legal challenge. Darebin council refused to debate a motion to support the legal challenge. Moonee Valley council was evenly split on the issue so the motion to support the challenge was lost.
This is the second legal challenge facing the East West Link. Brunswick resident Tony Murphy is challenging the project in the federal court on the basis that the project is based on “misleading representations” that breach community protection laws.
The Herald Sun argued in a July 22 editorial titled “councils run by crazies” that the Yarra and Moreland councils should be sacked for spending ratepayers’ money for a “purely political agenda”.
It said: “Socialist councillors would be better placed to stand for election to state government. That is where the argument lies, not with councils that should concern themselves with roads, kindergartens and libraries.”
In response Bolton said Moreland council had consistently opposed the East West Link since it was proposed in 2008 by the former ALP state government.
“Council opposition to the East West Link is meaningless if it isn’t prepared to spend money to challenge the dodgy approval process with this legal challenge as well as supporting the community campaign.
“The Moreland council would never have voted for the legal challenge without the development of a grassroots community campaign against the East West Link in Moreland.
“And the other councillors might not have supported the legal action if not for the barrage of emails and phone calls to Moreland and Yarra councillors just before the special council meetings.”
Bolton said she hopes the legal challenge will prevent the signing of any contracts until after the November state election so that “the state election can be a referendum on the East West Link”.
The ALP says that while it is opposed to the East West Link, it will honour contracts that are signed before the state election.
The state government is rushing the process in the hope that it can get contracts signed before the election to make the project a forgone conclusion for any incoming government.
Despite the two legal actions, residents have been told that the government will start compulsory acquisitions of properties to make way for the East West Link in August.