Some of you received a Westlink News Community Update April 2010, dropped into your letter box over the last week.
In it, it announces a new $10 million two and half year study. This study and all that follows is conducted under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act, introduced in Victoria in 2009. It is administered by the Minister of Planning, the Honourable Justin Madden (he’s the one that’s been in the news recently over his staff suggesting they fake a community consultation).
Westlink will affect the communities of Seddon, Footscray, West Footscray, Sunshine and Sunshine West. One of the key elements is a road tunnel between the Port of Melbourne and Sunshine Road running under the Maribyrnong River and the communities of Seddon and Footscray. The key reasons for building Westlink are:
• to cater for an additional 350,000 people moving into the west over the next 15 years (i.e. more cars);
• reduce pressure on the Westgate Bridge (i.e. more cars and trucks);
• to improve freight access to the Port of Melbourne (i.e. more trucks)
The newsletter introduces us to a “Social Impact Assessment” team leader Ruth Davies (see here for Ruth’s LinkedIn profile) and to two new advisory groups (you can see why is costs $10 million) to help with the communication with the community, and vitally, to get the community’s input. There’s even talk of 2 way communication. There’s a online community survey (click here and select the Community Survey picture on the right hand side). Excuse me, but it sounds awfully like she has lots of experience selling unwanted projects to communities using social planning skills to try and make them palatable!
Of concern is that there’s not one mention of health issues. There is a link between ultrafine particles (a form of particulate matter prevalent in truck and car exhausts) and the following:
• Individuals with respiratory disease (e.g., Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, acute bronchitis) and cardiovascular disease (e.g., ischemic heart disease) are at greater risk of premature mortality and hospitalisation.
• Individuals with infectious respiratory disease (e.g., pneumonia) are at greater risk of premature mortality and morbidity (e.g., hospitalisation, aggravation of respiratory symptoms). Also, exposure to particulate matter may increase individual susceptibility to respiratory infections.
• Elderly individuals are also at greater risk of premature mortality and hospitalisation for cardiopulmonary causes.
• Children are at greater risk of increased respiratory symptoms and decreased lung function.
• Asthmatic children and adults are at risk of exacerbation of symptoms and increased need for medical attention.
These findings where documented in a federal government literature review of published studies from around the world- it’s just over 300 pages – click here.
Have a read and start thinking about what the future developments will mean for our communities. We live in safe Labor seats; Labor is the party in power at the state and council level. Go and fill in the online survey, start talking to your neighbours and to your local council member, to your state level representative. We need to make sure that our air, our soil, our environment is not in a worse condition for all of us.