Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Victorian State budget: Money for East west road link, but no cash for surfacing Merlynston Station carpark

The State Government has just handed down it's 2013 budget. As expected, there is little for public transport, or meeting it's own environmental election promises. Instead we see more support for brown coal which contributes to climate change, and to major road projects like initial funding for the east west link which will result in a public-private partnership and a privately managed tollroad which you and I will pay to travel on. The Metro rail tunnel and other badly needed rail network extensions have been effectively shelved by the current Government.

It hurts even more when the State Government ignores basic maintenance and simple upgrades which benefit public transport commuters. Melbourne's inner middle northern suburbs residents are calling out for existing station car parks to be resurfaced, at the cost of several thousand dollars, to avoid injuries such as broken ankles sustained from potholes in the gravel carpark surface.


On surfacing the Merlynston Station car park, local Pascoe Vale MP Christine Campbell moved in State Parliament, "That this House condemns the Minister for Roads for stating on 4 February 2013 that the sealing of the car park at Merlynston Station is not currently a priority, despite having advised the House on 11 December 2012 of the need to improve a number of such car parks."

She followed this with another motion urging the Minister for Roads to inspect the car park in person: "That this House calls on the Minister for Roads to see if his opinion on the need to repair Merlynston Station car park would remain unchanged if he were to attend the site and witness a woman dressed for work breaking her ankle in a pothole on the way to work."

Many people who live in Fawkner or further afield drive to Fawkner or Merlynston Stations which are in Zone 1 for public transport fares. It is high time that zone 1 for all fares is extended to all of Moreland, which would then include Gowrie Station, plus changing inconsistent fare zoning for bus routes in Moreland's northern suburbs. Station Car parks like at Merlynston Station should be properly surfaced for the commuters that use these stations.

Similarly upgrading busy railway crossings like the one at Glenroy - listed as one of the ten worst in Melbourne - has been again ignored.

Local Pascoe Vale MP Christine Campbell moved a motion in April 2013 in State Parliament in relation to the upgrade of the Glenroy Railway Crossing "That this House notes increased traffic congestion around the Glenroy Railway Crossing, currently sitting at number 10 on the Department of Transport's priority rail crossing upgrade list, and calls on the Government to commit to reassessing that crossing in the priority list."

Instead, the Napthine Government has seen fit in the State budget handed down this week to fund the East West link which will cost billions of dollars. If they can allocate hundreds of million dollars to a new project, then surely they can pay for the upgrade of station carparks at a very small fraction of the cost, and undertake upgrading some of Melbourne's worst existing rail crossings.

Tony Morton from the Public Transport User's Association says the money could have been better spent. "What we really are not seeing though is any kind of city shaping public transport project in the suburbs," he said.

Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria also commented on the State's environmental budgeting priorities: "Environment, it would have to be a fail mark, they've failed to address climate change, they've failed to clean up our energy supply," he said.

In further comments Mark Wakeham slammed the Napthine Government's first budget on environmental grounds:

"If you're in the business of coal mining, road building or port dredging this budget is for you. If however, you are like most Victorians and concerned about the environment and the future we are leaving for our kids this budget lets you down."

"The Budget confirms that the Coalition has abandoned key election promises outlined in its 2010 Energy and Planning policies given they will now not be significantly advanced in this term of Government."

"The Coalition's promise to improve the energy efficiency of Victorian homes to a 5 star average has been ignored in this and previous budgets, guaranteeing no significant progress in this term of government. This is deeply disappointing given that improving the energy efficiency of Victorian homes would deliver cost savings for households as well as environmental benefits and job creation."

"Similarly the pre-election commitment to ensure 5% of the State's electricity is generated from solar power by 2020 has again been ignored at budget time and is unlikely to be achieved."

"Meanwhile taxpayers are footing a $4 million bill in this budget to repair failing coal mines in the Latrobe Valley; Clean Coal Victoria is receiving $8.3 million in new funding in part to run a PR campaign for a technology which doesn't exist; $19 million is being spent to fast-track mining exploration; and $110 million is being spent to develop Western Port Bay with a view to establishing a coal export industry. When it comes to energy policy the Napthine Government is obsessed with developing the coal resource at all costs.

"The Budget papers also confirmed significant cuts to departmental spending on environment protection, with an 8.7% cut to the budget for Environmental Protection and Statutory Activities.[1]"

Mr Wakeham said that the Coalition was backing last century's industries instead of embracing the rapidly growing clean energy and environmental restoration jobs that will be the powerhouses of the 21st century. Transport spending in the budget reflected this outmoded approach:

"The budget has bet the house on a new freeway to rejuvenate Victoria's economy, reflecting last century's thinking and tunnel vision, while public transport is the poor cousin ".

But Mr Wakeham wasn't entirely negative. He drew attention to several small funding areas that are important to address water quality and waste management but said that the positive results from these areas would be undermined by other budgetary allocations.

"$7 million to begin to improve the health of the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay, $12 million for new waste programs and $25 million of new funding for new coastal, native vegetation and threatened species spending will be welcomed by local community groups and will support important work. However they are undermined by other budgetary allocations to increase hunting and controlled burning which undermine biodiversity protection efforts. This inconsistent approach highlights the lack of a clear Coalition environmental policy that sets strategic directions to reverse environmental decline state-wide."

"More impressive is the funding for an Office of Living Victoria which aims to introduce systemic change to the way Victorians use and conserve urban water given the project's holistic vision."

So there you have it. Very little in the 2013 State budget to benefit residents of Fawkner or making our state more sustainable.


Original posted at Fawkner.org