PS: We’ve put up a comment, but on reflection believe that it should be more prominent and accessible to readers. Here is what we wrote:

The extent to which this entire issue has become a political football where the Liberals bash Labor and Labor bashes the Liberals and the Greens are content to sit back and see the fur fly is reprehensible all round. We have gone back over the Records of Assembly and what is literally quite staggering is that the LXRA October presentation that Delahunty refers to included two prominent ‘apologies’ (ie neither of these councillors attended). They were DELAHUNTY AND OKOTEL.

Admittedly there were subsequent meetings and another ‘presentation’ but the impression (deliberately?) created from both Okotel’s and Delahunty’s comments at council meeting was that both were in attendance. Perhaps quite fitting that it should be one from each side of politics that with their sins of omission and spin seek to further obfuscate and turn this into a political football. As we have repeatedly stated – SHAME UPON THEM ALL

This is a very, very long post – but an important one. We ask all readers to carefully consider the diverse and contradictory statements made here and the underlying politics that colours everything!

The Skyrail petition included: no options provided to residents and ‘sky rail was never presented’ for consultation. Petition asked that consultation be undertaken to ‘determine whether this is the community’s preferred option’ plus including studies on noise and other environmental impacts.

Esakoff moved that the petition be noted and that council supports level crossing removal. Council writes to all MPs and newspapers advocating for no ‘elevated skyrail through our city’ until after there has been ‘full’ consultation and that LXRA reps plus government holds a ‘public forum’ on the issue. Pilling seconded.

ESAKOFF: (reading from a prepared ‘speech’). Said that she would ‘advocate strongly’ for residents about ‘their concern’ for skyrail being ‘the preferred option’ when they ‘and indeed councillors were not aware’ of the option. The concerns were ‘lack of consultation, visual amenity’ and ‘in some cases year round overshadowing’. Said that everyone wanted separation and that council ‘had advocated for a decade or more’ for separation. Stated that skyrail may be cheaper but ‘cheaper is rarely better’. Residents ‘want to be consulted in a meaningful way’ and decisions to come after consultation and not by ‘one on ones’. This is a ‘disaster that has befallen them’. Said she ‘doubts’ the usefulness of the 11 MCGs of open space and ‘linear parks’ which will be ‘narrow strips’ and only suitable for a bike track. Council ‘could’ buy land to ‘incorporate into this’ area but with ratecapping that becomes impossible. There’s also the question of maintenance and what they don’t know is the ‘financial implications’ of this. So if no benefit is provided to residents then the money of ratepayers is ‘better spent’ on ‘meaningful open space’. (applause)

PILLING: said he lives in Murrumbeena and is ‘quite close’ to the proposed skyrail and is ‘well aware of the issue’. He has received over 100 emails from residents and will advocate strongly for residents. ‘We are certainly concerned about the lack of consultation’. Agrees that no decision be made until after consultation and that there has been ‘misinformation’ put out because of the lack of information from the government. People need to be ‘better informed’.

LIPSHUTZ: skyrail could be the best thing ‘since sliced bread’ but he doesn’t know because he hasn’t been given the ‘opportunity’ to find out ‘what the alternatives are’. On the East-West link the government consulted with the community ‘but now they’ve ignored that’. Sky rail ‘might be wonderful but how about telling the community why it’s wonderful?’ and let people tell ‘the government what they actually want’. What we now have is a ‘monstrosity’ where there will be ‘graffiti’, ‘crime’ and 11 MCGs that are ‘useless’ and ‘we’re told as a council’ that it’s ‘wonderful’. Said he read one newspaper article where Andrews didn’t take this to cabinet and decided ‘himself’. Claimed that if he was ‘cynical’ he would wonder why skyrail isn’t in the marginal seats of Bentleigh and instead going into a ‘safe Labor seat’. Consultation ‘is very important’ and that when dealing with big issues like this and ‘people’s lives, people’s property, people’s values’ then ‘it is so important to consult the community’. Said that when council did GESAC they consulted extensively via forums and ‘hearing what the community had to say’. Booran reservoir is the same where ‘we went to the community’ and asked ‘what do you want’. The government didn’t do this and ‘they didn’t even look at any other alternative’. (applause)

MAGEE: the government ‘will decide’ whether to ‘go ahead’ with skyrail. Said there is currently a ‘four week consultation period’ and they will ‘get to see what the results’ from this are. He is ‘more interested in the process’ and whether this is ‘appropriate’ and ‘just’. Council would be in a ‘much stronger position’ if they had plans about what is happening in the ‘corridor’ proposed. Said that Guy wrote to all councils and took away their powers over the land in the corridor so that ‘no control’ over parking. If this hadn’t happened then council and the planning scheme still had these powers then council would have ‘grounds to argue’ and to ‘refuse’ but ‘unfortunately’ all that council can now do is ‘listen to the community and speak on their behalf’. Unfortunately Guy and David Davis who are the ‘champions of this railroad, this skyrail’ are the ones who ‘set it up’. (applause)

OKOTEL: said that previously when there was consultation about grade separation ‘consultation was narrow’ and ‘wasn’t genuine’ and that council were told they could have ‘input’ into what ‘would occur around development’ around the area. Said that was her ‘understanding that we would have the ability’ to have a say. And ‘my understanding this year is that this is no longer the case’. Now they’ve told council that there would be skyrail and that the land would be controlled by the government and that they ‘would hand over maintenance to council’. Given ratecapping it ‘will be more and more difficult’ to maintain these areas. Said that in her time on council has ‘never seen the community so outraged’ about an issue. Thanked residents for their ‘passionate advocacy’ and that without their ‘passionate advocacy we would not be in the position we are to take a strong stance’ to government. Council is ‘your voice’ and they will advocate that ‘things don’t happen without your input’. Said that council put to the rail authority that the ‘rail should go underground’.

DELAHUNTY: ‘point of order’ on accuracy.

PILLING: told Okotel that he didn’t think ‘that was correct’.

DELAHUNTY: said her point of order was about the ‘truthfulness’ of Okotel’s statement in suggesting ‘that council had a position that rail should go under road’. Said that council ‘never had a position’.

OKOTEL: said that her ‘understanding’ was that the majority of councillors thought it should go underground. Went on and asked residents to ‘put your trust in your council that we will do the right thing by you’. (applause)

PILLING: said he was ‘very conscious that what we say to our community is correct’.

SOUNNESS: went through his background on planning and being on the Transport committee rep with other councils and so is very interested in the issue. Concerned that in ’40 to 60 years time’ Melbourne will be double in population but without the necessary infrastructure. Need to ensure that more people ‘move about more efficiently with less impact’. ‘Grade separation’ can make the system ‘more efficient’ but there will be ‘trade offs’. Knows that designers are ‘doing their best’ and so do ‘technicians’ who are ‘passionate about urban design’. Said he did see proposals for ‘rail above’ and other options but ‘why this is the best option, I’m not too sure’. Wants to know why it’s the best option so ‘I can explain to you’. Stated that he ‘appreciates’ the petition and wants to see ‘consultation’ go further but as a council it is not their domain but a ‘state infrastructure matter’. Hoped that information would come out so people would understand why we’re ‘going this way’ so council can ‘adjust’. (applause)

HYAMS: claimed there was ‘no reason’ for council not to accept the motion. Said it was important that ‘we are united’ as a council behind the ‘principles of decent community consultation’. Went on to say that there’s ‘nothing in the motion’ that is not in line with council’s ‘position’. The flood of emails and questions is ‘proof of how poor this consultation process has been’. Stated it should ‘have been done’ like the Liberals did with Ormond where they presented 4 options and then ‘chose the one the people were behind’. On Magee’s earlier point about Guy removing council power ‘that happens with all major’ projects and governments. Here a decision was made ‘and then consulting on it’. On claims that ‘this is a party political campaign’ admitted that ‘the opposition has got behind this’ but that ‘doesn’t mean that the opposition is running the campaign’. Quoted from some recent articles in The Age – Farah Tomazzin, Clay Lucas, and others. Went on to say that as a result of some of the emails he had received he learnt about impacts that he hadn’t thought of before such as the skyrail ‘going through Neighbourhood Character Overlays’ and ‘neighbourhood residential zones’. Asked then that if the project goes through ‘will we be able’ to continue to keep ‘those protections’ on the neighbourhoods since the government is ‘seeking’ to change Plan Melbourne so that there is ‘more development in existing suburbs’. Other impacts are overshadowing and since the tracks will be narrow whether these would comply with Glen Eira’s planning scheme. Thought that residents ‘have a right’ to the forum and that ‘all questions are answered in public’. When something that is ‘so unexpected and so life changing’ is put before people ‘they have the right to a proper consultation’. (applause)

DELAHUNTY: supported the motion and thanked Esakoff and residents and thought it was right that ‘there be a public forum’. ‘Concerned’ that the ‘one on one sessions’ aren’t ‘doing what it is that you want them to do’. Right that the petition be accepted, but her ‘concern’ is that it is ‘constituted on an incorrect premise’ but ‘that we are responsible for that incorrect premise’ – ‘that we didn’t know’. ‘We did know’. Said that council had participated with ‘1500 others’ on ‘what this separation project might look like’ and that was ‘some time last year’. Said that council asked for ‘open space, bike tracks’ like others and in ‘early October’ claimed that council were ‘presented’ with ‘some options and one of those was elevated rail’. ‘I am genuinely sorry for the misinformation that comes out of this council’. Said this wasn’t a ‘surprise’ to her because it was ‘pictured’ quite clearly

OKOTEL: point of order on ‘incorrect information’ in that the ‘option of elevated rail was never presented’.

COMMENTS FROM GALLERY – IE ‘WHO’S TELLING THE TRUTH?’

PILLING: ‘there was a range of options’

DELAHUNTY: said that this presentation was in ‘early October’ and ‘it didn’t quite lay out what we’ve now seen’. Agreed that the process was inadequate and ‘not taken to residents’. Said that ‘they haven’t done a great job at consultation and they need to do better’. Didn’t think that ‘one on one’ was good enough and she supports ‘you being able to turn up here tonight and ask public questions’. But ‘unfortunately most of my councillor colleagues don’t support that’.

HYAMS : point of order and ‘that is false and defamatory’ and asked that Delahunty withdraw.

DELAHUNTY: said that she had in the past moved a motion asking that meeting procedures be changed so that ‘members of the public’ could ‘speak and that was voted down by a majority’ of councillors. ‘So I stand by’ the comment.

Multiple calls for point of order

PILLING: said that this was ‘out of context’

DELAHUNTY: back to LXRA and repeated that she didn’t think ‘their consultation’ processes have been adequate. Also ‘wanted to give an apology for some of the misinformation that has come from council that hasn’t helped your genuine concerns’. ‘Some of that is that we did not know’. Said that in the agenda papers there is a letter from the Minister ‘which again reiterates elevated rail proposals’. ‘Council did not tell you properly, we did not take you with us’ and LXRA ‘didn’t take you with us’. ‘It wasn’t done properly so I support the motion’.

OKOTEL: question to Delahunty. Said she didn’t know about the proposal for skyrail and is ‘surprised that you state you knew’. Question was ‘if you knew why didn’t you say anything earlier?’

DELAHUNTY: ‘We all knew. There was an authority presentation to council’. Said she’s got the ‘presentation package’ and ‘there are pictures of elevated rail’ including ‘some of the ones that are being used now’. Agreed that it ‘might be for a lack of understanding’ why this ‘wasn’t given to the community’.

UPROAR FROM GALLERY

PILLING: admitted that the presentation referred to by Delahunty ‘certainly had pictures and some concepts’ but that they were in the ‘similar position then of not knowing’ what would come out of this. ‘Council genuinely did not know’ of the skyrail option would be the option. ‘We found out on February 7th the same day as you’. Said that in the presentation there were ‘a lot of things floated’.

DELAHUNTY: ‘we didn’t know it was the final option’ but they knew ‘it was on the table’. Thus the ‘premise of the petition’ is that ‘we were not aware’, ‘we didn’t know that it was an option’. Thought that it was ‘important’ that people realise that ‘we did know that it was an option’. (uproar from gallery)

PILLING: repeated that council knew but ‘did not know that it was going to be the preferred option’.

COMMENT FROM GALLERY – ‘WE DON’T CARE THAT YOU KNEW. WE DIDN’T KNOW’ AND OTHER COMMENTS LIKE ‘WHAT ABOUT INTEGRITY AND CREDIBILITY’. ‘YOU’RE TERRIBLE ALL OF YOU’.

PILLING: was ‘sure’ that ‘everyone wanted to get to the vote’ on this.

OKOTEL: another question to chair. Referred to the presentation and Pilling’s understanding that council were given 4 options and that ‘you were referring to small pictures’

PILLING: said that ‘the bottom line’ was that like residents ‘council did not know that the skyrail would be the preferred option’.

OKOTEL: asked about the ‘pictures from around the globe’ and whether this was ‘being consulted on rather than the 4 options presented?’

PILLING; ‘as I recall’ they got the same information as the ‘general public’ . ‘We didn’t have any more knowledge’.

SOUNNESS: wanted to answer Okotel. Said that at the presentation the reps were speaking mainly about ‘rail under but they did not rule out rail over’. ‘they showed pictures indicating the potential’ of this. They said ‘it was in the mix’. So from ‘my point of view, we knew’ but most of the attention was on rail under. ‘From my point of view it was an option’.

COMMENTS FROM GALLERY – WHY HAVEN’T YOU ‘SHARED WITH US’? ‘YOU HAVE BEEN DERELICT IN YOUR DUTY’

OKOTEL: another question. About the presentation whether the presentation was showing the ‘elevation of the’ entire train line? (applause)

SOUNNESS: said ‘they didn’t say much about it’ because they were still getting information. ‘My impression’ was that it could have been under, over.

PILLING: they could ‘argue’ about ‘detail and who recollects what’ but the important thing is the petition and councillor support for residents.

ESAKOFF: ‘from my perspective we did not know about skyrail’. They ‘saw a picture of skyrail’ from maybe America, and this ‘was amongst a lot of other pictures’ of grade separation in other places. Skyrail ‘was not put down as an option here’. ‘My recollection is the same as Cr Okotel’s’ and their picture was ‘a bridge and not a 6km skyrail’. (applause) Also if other councillors knew ‘because they had close connections then it should have been more forthcoming’ so they could ‘inform the rest of us’.

DELAHUNTY: asked for withdrawel of comment

ESAKOFF: if it was ‘offensive I’m very happy to withdraw it’. Went on to quote the Government Architect statement of recent times and ‘pre-election policies’. (applause). Said she went to the meetings of LXRA and that it was too small and ‘very little information provided’ just ‘pretty pictures’. Also went to the ‘rally on the weekend’ where ‘residents told their stories’. These residents felt ‘that an actual disaster’ had happened ‘in our community’ ‘similar to’ and earthquake and’ this is how these people are feeling’. At these meetings people weren’t allowed to ‘take photographs’, ‘have representation’. ‘they sit there absolutely stunned’. They feel they have nowhere to go but to put their houses on the market. ‘It is a concern’ for families who have ‘built up a nest egg’ in their homes ‘to have this taken from beneath them’. ‘To hear stories on the weekend – it brought tears to anyone’s eyes’. (applause) So if there is a forum ‘they would have to be moved by these stories’. Said they ‘expected the same process’ as for North Road and McKinnon Road ‘where the community was listened to’. Hoped that the motion would ‘provide the avenue for a real consultation’. Thought that there was ‘still’ some room ‘for movement’ and didn’t think ‘this was signed off as yet’. (applause)

MOTION PUT: CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY (APPLAUSE)

 

 

 

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