LMA closes its case

By Andrew Herington

As the LMA case wraps up, it is fair to say the experts they called to argue the case for the East West Link were underwhelming.

This reflects the small pool of specialised knowledge in Australia – and the choices made by the proponent and consultants to defend the project and the work of colleagues.

There were heartening remarks about Trin Warren Tam-Boore wetlands in Royal Park. The LMA expert recommended the wetlands be excised from the proposed project area and fenced off during construction – adding in the need to protect the avenue of elms to the south. A registered lemon scented gum, a stand of “senescing” sugar gums and a row of elms in Flemington Rd were not so fortunate with all to be removed and replaced.

After 7 days the LMA has now completed its presentation of evidence and on Friday the Melbourne City Council will open its case against the project – focussing on Royal Park and the proposed viaduct down Moonee Ponds Creek (Part B).

In summarising the state of debate late on Thursday, Stuart Morris QC addressed five key criticisms that have emerged as consistent themes in submissions and cross examinations

  1. Whether the LMA has complied with the requirements of the Transport Integration Act and specifically the difference between the dictionary meaning of “minimising impacts” and the legal definition in previous cases.
  2. The legal issue of whether the trees in Royal Park are “planted vegetation” and whether they are exempt from planning controls – including the applicability of the Council’s 1934  regulations and whether the trees had involved “public funds”.
  3. The LMA are to provide more information about why they did not support alternative grade separated interchange arrangements at Hoddle St (known as P and Q turns).
  4. The LMA will also provide more information about the basis for allowing cut and cover in the eastern section of Royal Park, highlighting the much greater cost of tunnelling.
  5. They also submitted that the “relevant comparator” was what traffic would be like in 2031 if the freeway was not built, rather than a comparison with today’s traffic conditions.

There will be a lot more heard about all these topics in the remaining 22 days.

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