I have spent the last couple of days with my head spinning. A single day on Thursday at the East-West Link Panel Hearing and I emerged enlightened, and enraged. Enlightened because I had the pleasure of hearing from eloquent community activists such as Kaye Oddie, Secretary of Friends of Royal Park
, who left me in no doubt of the unique value of the park's remnant native vegetation, the White's Skinks habitat site and the Trin Warren Tam-Boore Wetlands. Kaye was utterly convincing in her assertion that this 'green jewel' in Melbourne's crown needs to be seen as a whole and left exactly as is.
The calibre of the speakers from professional, business and community organisations opposing the Link was uniformly high and their passion for the areas championed was very moving. Professor Louis Irving, specialist in Respiratory Medicine, appeared on behalf of Gold Street primary school, threatened by the positioning of an unfiltered tunnel vent nearby.
|Flourishing and heritage-listed Gold Street Primary School|
Professor Irving managed to retain his decorum under the predictable attack on his qualifications by the LMA barrister, Stuart Morris, who even suggested at one point that the witness had learned his facts 'down at the pub'. A welcome comic rejoinder by Irving was that we would be satisfied if the air in our neighbourhood was as clean as that of Toorak.
I ended the day enraged for two reasons. The first is that, if only the LMA had genuinely sought feedback and tapped into the expertise of locals before embarking on the project, it would have had to conclude that the Tunnel was a no-go. The second reason is the lurking uncertainty about the openness/impartiality of Panel members, and their ultimate power should they end up convinced that the project is ill-advised.
Even a single day at the Hearings leaves listeners in no doubt that the Tunnel should be shelved forever.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon, with my camera, wandering the streets of Collingwood and exploring the lesser known areas around the Eastern Freeway with two impassioned community members. Keith Fitzgerald, who faces compulsory acquisition of his Collingwood home, is due to present to the Panel next Friday and wanted to undertake some further research in anticipation. Fiona Bell, Heritage Advisory Committee member to Yarra City Council, arrived at Keith's house equipped with information about some of the unique houses that dot the threatened streets of Collingwood:
|Full of history|
Keith, convinced that the LMA's research-base is sadly lacking, had also made a recent discovery. The huge Australian Paper Mill(AMP) site, destined to become a high-density accommodation area, is sadly lacking in public transport options, but that does not need to be the case. Keith took Fiona and I on a local orienteering adventure to demonstrate why.
|APM complex in background. Indentation of old rail track in foreground|
Keith argues that reinstating a rail link from the APM building and running it to near-by Ivanhoe station would be a relatively simple feat. It would give future APM residents easy access to that train line, particularly if a station is built within the APM residential area itself. In the other direction - widening the Chandler Highway bridge and running the train line beside the Guide Dog's building and along the empty hills below the freeway would link the APM to the Doncaster train line in the middle of the Eastern Freeway.
|Water tanks (?) in perfect alignment with Eastern Freeway|
Keith's proposal captured my imagination. It sounded like it might be cost-effective, have the advantage of requiring no compulsory acquisition of peoples' homes and be sited on vacant lands.
It is exactly that sort of visionary planning that is so fatally lacking in the LMA's dud project.