27 August 2013

Melbourne City Council tonight agreed to two Greens motions – one written and moved by Cr Cathy Oke and one written and moved by Cr Rohan Leppert – resulting in a significant shift of the City’s stance on the East West Link.

The Council considered a report from officers describing the implications on the City of Melbourne of the East West Link as publicly announced. These ‘preliminary assessments’ were accompanied by a recommendation from officers that Council endorse the preliminary assessments and note that the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement would come before Council in November 2013.

The Officer report and recommendation is here (PDF file, 14MB).

Greens Cr Cathy Oke moved instead the following motion, which was supported by a majority of Councillors (6 of the 11 Councillors):

That Council:

1.  Notes management’s preliminary assessment of the East West Link proposal in Attachment 2;

2. Writes to the Ministers for Transport and for Planning requesting:

2.1. their urgent consideration of the City of Melbourne management’s preliminary assessment of East West Link in the further planning of the project and the associated Integrated Elements;

2.2. that LMA and DTPLI open a formal dialogue immediately with the City of Melbourne to resolve the matters raised in the preliminary assessment, including the potential for further changes to the project design (i.e. the alignment of the East West freeway and its on- and off-ramps, in Royal Park and along the Moonee Ponds Creek corridor);

3. Resolves to hold a public meeting in October (preferably to coincide with the date of a Future Melbourne Committee meeting, but with details to be arranged by management after consultation with officers and Councillors) so as to allow the residents and ratepayers of the City of Melbourne the opportunity to have presented to them and to provide feedback on the implications of the East West Link in relation to traffic, transport, open space, recreation, amenity, community and strategic planning projects, and resolves also to invite the LMA to that meeting that they can present further details of the East West Link proposal;

4. Notes that the LMA is also expected to release a Comprehensive Impact Statement for the East West link project in November 2013, to which the City of Melbourne will have the opportunity to reply, and resolves that the City of Melbourne’s position will at that time be considered at a Future Melbourne Committee meeting rather than a Council meeting so as to allow for public submissions;

5. Notes that the 2013-14 Annual Plan contains an action which reads “Consider approach to State Government East West Link proposal” and anticipates that the public meeting in October referred to above, and further discussions with LMA and DTPLI in the interim, will facilitate Council arriving at a final position on this action in the months to come.

6. Resolves that, given that the City of Melbourne does not yet have the data at hand to fully assess the East West Link, and given the need for further dialogue with LMA and the State Government, the City of Melbourne does not support the East West Link project as announced.

The final words, highlighted above, were the subject of extensive debate, but ultimately prevailed.

A stronger form of words would have been unlikely to have been supported by a majority, but this balanced position facilitates the other parts of the motion being carried: Council will, for the first time, convene two public engagement processes, and it will also enter into formal negotiations with the State Government about remaining potential to influence the alignment and design of the East West Link.

The agenda item received more than 140 public submissions, all of which implored Councillors to oppose the East West Link.

Separately to today’s Council deliberations, planning scheme amendment C190 (Arden Macaulay) is being assessed by an independent panel. The C190 area includes the Moonee Ponds Creek corridor, the west bank of which is slated for 6 lanes of raised East West Link freeway.

The Linking Melbourne Authority has also indicated future Arden Street on and off ramps, and widening of Arden Street as well as the lowering of the Upfield Line, which will (according to Council officers’ analysis) increase traffic in North Melbourne and Kensington local streets, as well of course as Arden Street itself.

The Linking Melbourne Authority yesterday requested the independent panel to decide that the western section of planning scheme amendment C190, to the west of CityLink, be deferred until after the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement process is completed (i.e. up to 12 months).

An urgent business motion moved by Greens Cr Rohan Leppert will now advise the independent panel that the City of Melbourne considers this partial deferral to be unacceptable, given that it implies that the City of Melbourne as the Planning Authority is implicitly supportive of the west bank of Moonee Ponds Creek being used for the East West Link.

This question is far from settled, and the City of Melbourne is not privy to any data which supports the west bank being used over the land immediately to the east of CityLink.

Council unanimously supported Greens Cr Rohan Leppert’s motion, which reads:

That Council:

  1. Notes the intention of the independent panel assessing Planning Scheme Amendment C190 (Arden Macaulay) to defer consideration of land affected by the amendment which lies to the west of CityLink until after the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement process is complete;
  2. Indicates that the City of Melbourne is currently not in a position to agree, or imply that it agrees, with the East West Link being aligned along the western bank of Moonee Ponds Creek, and wishes to continue investigating the question of the East West Link alignment with the State Government and LMA as a priority; and
  3. Resolves to request the independent panel (through officers at the hearings scheduled for tomorrow, 28 August 2013) that the scheduled hearings currently underway continue, so as to allow further discussion among affected parties and so as to hear from submitters with an opinion on the East West Link alignment, but that the hearings then be deferred, such that the panel resumes its assessment of planning scheme amendment C190 as a whole after the East West Link Comprehensive Impact Statement process is complete.

Council has therefore taken two very significant policy decisions tonight in the interests of the local Parkville, Kensington and North Melbourne communities.

Update: the minutes and audio of the Council meeting are available here. The two relevant items are items 6.7 and ‘urgent business’.