Last week, the Mayor of Moonee Valley shut down the Council meeting declaring that decisions could not be made while residents continued to call out.
Cr Cusack was cited in The Age the next day describing residents as “feral”: “They went quite feral,” said Labor councillor Jim Cusack on Wednesday. He said there were about 150 opponents of the project at the meeting. “There was a big crowd. They took their gloves off and didn’t talk to the issue at all.” From The Age.
I was at the meeting. I would describe the residents as understandably upset, shocked, disempowered, and angry. I would not have described them as “feral”.
The residents were angry that the Council, after more than 12 months of advocacy for a better option, voted 4/4 and then, with the casting vote of the Mayor, 5/4 against challenging in the Supreme Court the State Government’s planning amendment for the road under rail design for Buckley St.
Comments made by residents (as recorded by me at the time) included:
“Sack the Mayor.” “Disgusted.” “Keep smiling Cusack.” “Where was Nicole Marshall?” “Boo Nicole.” “Labor’s not going to win again.” “Change your vote Narelle.” “Labor party legal opinion.” “I cannot begin to articulate how wrong this is on so many levels”.“Shame Mayor.” “You’re gone.” “Resign.” “What’s your reason?”“Vacate the chair.” “You’re a disgrace” “So are you Narelle.” “Look in the mirror.” “Disgusting, Dishonest. Going to wreck Moonee Valley for generations. Bring Andrea back get out and stay out.”
Residents were angry. And they are still angry. And they have, in my view, a right to be angry.
The Buckley St road under rail design is unquestionably flawed. It does not comply with cycling standards. It does not provide adequate DDA compliance. It prevents movements from side-streets into Buckley St in certain directions. It obstructs movement into schools and churches. It removes parking and access for traders. It requires the rerouting of several bus routes relied on heavily by school children. It has necessitated the removal of significant trees. It will create a deep crevice in the road raising amenity and safety issues for local residents and users.
Have a look at the alternative routes the LXRA proposes for cyclists – below. The diagram below doesn’t even show how cyclists can cross the tracks to the south of Buckley St.
It has always been a challenge to get MVCC councillors to take cycling seriously. This proposal is utterly absurd.
The proposal will divide people in the area either side of the train line restricting movements across the track to a single pedestrian underpass that is highly likely, like most underpasses in the area, to flood every time it rains heavily.
If I lived in the area, I would be as angry as the residents who were apparently “feral”. I would be angry that the LXRA, to date, has not released any traffic data, no final designs, and no safety assessments for pedestrians and cyclists.
I would be angry that, from what was said at the Council forum last night, the LXRA has seemingly been with-holding information from Council until Council was no longer advocating for an alternative design.
At the Council’s public forum last night, it was commented several times by Councillors and officers that MVCC is ‘now at the table’, ‘now has the information’, ‘now part of the discussion’ – and that information from LXRA was now coming forward, albeit shrouded in confidentiality clauses.
Is it the case that the LXRA has deliberately with-held information from the Council about traffic, pedestrian movements, cyclists, design, parking, bus routes – until now? If so, this is appalling.
And there is no reason for continuing to with-hold traffic assessments and proposals from residents.
I think it is shameful. And I think the Buckley St trench will wreck Moonee Valley. So call me feral, councillors.
The design for the level crossing removal for Buckley Street is deficient.
It may well be that there is, in fact, no need to spend millions on this crossing (if essential at Buckley St, why not Macaulay Rd?). Changing the light sequence and providing an alternative under-pass for pedestrians to cross north/south might make a significant and sufficient difference without the additional millions being spent.
Without an traffic assessment, or clear data about the length of time the pedestrian lights (rather than the boom gates) are holding things up, it’s hard to know.
In any case, Council has resorted to maligning its constituents and dismissing their concerns – rather than appreciating the deep concerns about the issue.
The role of elected representative is to represent their constituents. It’s not an easy job. But it comes with plenty of privileges and perks – and no sympathy.