Melville boosts Roe war chest

MELVILLE council will throw another $50,000 into its Roe 8 war-chest.

The money, approved as a late amendment this week to a motion calling on the council to lobby the state government, would be to “raise awareness” amongst locals about the highway extension. The information would be based on a report commissioned by the South West Group of councils which identified the Perth Freight Link as “essential”.

The extra cash was floated by veteran councillor Pat Phelan, who described Rethink the Link protestors as being motivated by “stupid propaganda and sentimentalism”.

Cr Cameron Schuster even mocked RTL’s slogan “put it on rail” as akin to US president Donald Trump’s Mexican wall plan or Brexit.

• MELVILLE’S been left red-faced after talking up a native bird conservationists say faces habitat destruction courtesy of Roe 8. In the December issue of its magazine Mosaic, the fervently pro-Roe council featured rainbow bee-eaters in its “wildlife awareness” section. “This species build long nesting tunnels about 90cm long, in the ground and along sandy banks, this means they are often subject to disturbance by human interaction, such as nests being trodden on...” As work started clearing the bushland along the Roe 8 extension last week, conservation groups said bee-eater nests and chicks were at risk; a fact not noted in the project’s fauna management plan. “These rainbow bee-eaters fly thousands of kilometres every year from places as far flung as Papua New Guinea to nest in Beeliar wetlands,” says BirdLife WA manager Helen Bryan. The federal environment department says it’s investigating the issue.

• MELVILLE’S been left red-faced after talking up a native bird conservationists say faces habitat destruction courtesy of Roe 8. In the December issue of its magazine Mosaic, the fervently pro-Roe council featured rainbow bee-eaters in its “wildlife awareness” section. “This species build long nesting tunnels about 90cm long, in the ground and along sandy banks, this means they are often subject to disturbance by human interaction, such as nests being trodden on…” As work started clearing the bushland along the Roe 8 extension last week, conservation groups said bee-eater nests and chicks were at risk; a fact not noted in the project’s fauna management plan. “These rainbow bee-eaters fly thousands of kilometres every year from places as far flung as Papua New Guinea to nest in Beeliar wetlands,” says BirdLife WA manager Helen Bryan. The federal environment department says it’s investigating the issue.

Buckets of funding

Councillors Nicole Foxton, Duncan Macphail and Nicholas Pazzoli spoke against the amendment, saying it was inappropriate to use ratepayer funds for a state/federal issue.

“I think this late in the piece people have made up their mind … I cannot support another $50,000 of ratepayer funds being spent on a state/federal issue,” Cr Foxton said.

“They’ve got buckets of funding for advertising…it’s a bottomless pit for the state and federal government. We haven’t got that,” Cr Macphail said.

But mayor Russel Aubrey and CEO Shayne Silcox threw their weight behind the awareness campaign, saying there is a “real threat” Roe 8 won’t proceed.

“The report wasn’t generated on political grounds … it asked ‘if you’re not going to do [the PFL], what are you going to do?’,” Dr Silcox said.

“From where I sit, the alternative does not make a very attractive city. It’ll have multi-storey overpasses that are huge.”

Mr Aubrey got stuck into his Cockburn counterparts, describing a decision to put $25,000 into Save Beeliar Wetlands’ High Court challenge to the highway as “disgraceful.”

Before the vote, Cr Phelan said the SWG report, which had been conducted by a former Main Roads commissioner, identified “serious” and “catastrophic” impacts on Melville if Roe 8 was not built.

“I really think $50,000 isn’t enough but that’s about all I can go for,” she said.

“There’s so much stupid propaganda and sentimentalism out there that has nothing to do with Roe Highway and everything to do with ideology. We need to bring it back to facts and figures.”

Cr Lisa O’ Malley (Labor candidate for Bicton), Cr Tim Barling (WA Conservation Council vice president), and Cr Rebecca Aubrey (Liberal candidate for Willagee) declared conflicts of interest and left the chamber, so when it came to voting Phelan’s amendment was carried 5-4, and the substantive motion 7-2.

by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM

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