Eastern Metro MP Rod Barton has welcomed the Minister for Planning’s green light for tendering consortiums to incorporate community driven designs into the final North East Link plans.
Mr Barton said he was heartened to see many of the concerns expressed by communities directly affected by the North East Link were considered in the Independent Advisory Committee report released on Thursday and that while Minister Wynne hadn’t supported recommendations to revisit the reference design, he had agreed to make alternative options available for consideration.
“This gives the community another chance to have input into final designs for the project and for consideration to be given to proposals to extend the tunnel north to Grimshaw Street and rethink the footprint at Manningham Road,” said Mr Barton.
One of the main criticisms throughout submissions and hearings was the use of a reference design for the environmental effects process, and the IAC recommended that in future reference designs for projects of this scale need to be “substantially resolved” describing the difficulty the Committee had in providing a fair assessment of the final project impacts in relation to landscape and visual, ecology, business and social impacts.
“Really, these impacts – landscape, ecology, business, social – these are the things that really matter to the community and until we see a final design then we can’t really have a proper assessment of those impacts,” said Mr Barton.
“All through the process we’ve been dealing with a design that may or may not be incorporated fully into the final plans. It’s been an incredibly confusing and frustrating process for the community because there just aren’t any solid answers, and there still aren’t any answers, about what the real impact will be.”
Mr Barton said he was pleased the Minister had supported providing tenderer’s with the alternative designs for consideration.
“This will allow independent consideration of the SMART taxpayer design, which proposes extending the northern end of the tunnel, and other proposals such as the Willow Bend tunnel option for the connection into the Eastern Freeway, which moves the tunnel to just north of Doncaster Road and has potential to save the Bulleen Industrial Zone.
“I would hope that the community groups involved in creating these alternative designs have the opportunity to present to the consortium’s and to collaborate in the final design process.
“A community led design, which really considers the impact on the communities, is one of the key’s to bringing our communities along on this project,” Mr Barton said.
The Ministers assessment acknowledged “the detailed design process [of the Manningham Road Interchange] has the potential to reduce the project footprint to lessen business impacts, [and] avoid the River Red Gum..”. and recognised the unprecedented loss of an entire business district.
“We have advocated on behalf of these businesses and their employees and we welcome the Committee and Ministers acknowledgement that impacts and compensation should go beyond just the land owners.
“The offer of planning and support for each individual business and individual employee assistance plans for employees who request it is very welcome.
“And, of course, it’s a great achievement to see that the iconic Bulleen Art and Garden will get the support it needs to continue operating from its current site.”
The Minister’s report reiterates the North East Link Authority’s position of offering like-for-like relocation for sport clubs and recreational facilities, and asked for a compound plan to mitigate impacts from construction compounds.
“Residents near Borlase Reserve have been very vocal in their protests against using the reserve as a staging ground for construction and I am pleased the Minister has agreed to offer voluntary acquisition of the most affected residences, many of whom will be eager to take him up on that offer.”
Mr Barton said this was really the beginning of the project and he would continue to advocate on behalf of individuals and community groups who felt unheard or unfairly considered throughout the design and construction process on the North East Link.