Yarra Council gives Australia Day award to ‘everyone’ who campaigned against East West Link

The Australia Day award for 'everyone who campaigned against the East West Link'. Photo: Twitter
The Australia Day award for ‘everyone who campaigned against the East West Link’. Photo: Twitter

Yarra Council gives Australia Day award to ‘everyone’ who campaigned against East West Link Marissa Calligeros (January 26, 2015)

The Yarra City Council has given an Australia Day citizen award to “everyone” who campaigned against the $6.8 billion East West Link.

The grassroots campaign against the proposed road tunnel – the first stage planned to connect the Eastern Freeway with City Link – involved a number of community groups and individuals united under the slogan “Trains Not Toll Roads”.

The heated debate surrounding the project prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to label last year’s state election a referendum on the road tunnel.

Harriet Mantell, a member of Residents Against the Tunnel, accepted the Australia Day award from on behalf of those who participated in the campaign.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Ms Mantell told Fairfax Media. “So many diverse groups and individuals came together…because we understood that this was wrong.

“The award recognised the strength that individuals and groups can have when they unite together to fight.

“The campaign became much bigger than a local issue because it was something relevant to all Victorians: it was the money Victoria was going to spend; the debt we were going to incur for decades to come; the fact that it wasn’t a solution to our traffic problems…it was so many things.”

Protesters spent months fighting the project, targeting the offices of Labor MPs and construction giant Lend Lease – the preferred bidder for the first leg of the project.

“Thankfully we had great support from the council, which really started this campaign off back in June,” Ms Mantell said.

The campaign was largely funded by Yarra City Council, which amassed more than $400,000 in legal bills and spent a further $75,000 on pushing against the roal tunnel in nine months.

Moreland City Council spent $32,768 on its campaign. The two councils also joined forces to challenge the East West Link Assessment Committee’s recommendation the project be approved.

Labor pledged to dump the East West Link during the state election, saying it would cripple industry and create decades of traffic gridlock.The project was promptly scrapped after Labor claimed victory at the polls on November 29.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ government has steadfastly refused to build the road, despite concerns the compensation East West consortium could run up to $1.2 billion.

Ms Mantell said the award for the grassroots campaign was very apt on Australia Day.

“We always tend to think of people power as something that happens in other countries. We’ve just demonstrated that a group of individuals can come together and unite,” she said.

She hoped the award could be displayed publicly in one of the council’s community halls.

Greens MP Adam Bandt congratulated those involved in the campaign, via Twitter.

“We won! Yarra’s ‘community group of the year’ is the anti-EW tollway coalition, celebrating their great victory,” he wrote.

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