The North East Link panel hearing finished in mid September 2019 after 8 weeks of submissions and discussion. See our previous report for a summary of how the hearing unfolded https://warringal.org.au/latest-news/59-north-east-link-panel-hearing-summary. The Expert Panel’s report and recommendations, and Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s assessment were released to the public on the 3rd December 2019.
The expert panel made a range of recommendations of varying magnitude. Key recommendations aiming to reduce impacts involved significant changes to the current reference design. With respect to the environment, the expert panel determined that cut and cover works in the Simpson Barracks would have an unacceptable impact on significant ecological values, including the endangered Matted Flax-lily and Studley Park Gum. It was recommended that the Simpson Barracks be designated a “no-go zone” and the North East Link Project be redesigned with an extended drilled tunnel north of Lower Plenty Road. This extended tunnel approach was also recommended to reduce social impacts. An additional “no-go zone” was recommended near Macleod Station to protect habitat for the critically endangered Swift Parrot.
Disappointingly, Minister Wynne rejected these key recommendations. The Minister’s assessment indicates that the Victorian State Government is not willing to modify the reference design in any meaningful manner, even in the face of expert advice that it should do so.
The Warringal Conservation Society is satisfied that the expert panel members were diligent and capable. Their report vindicates many of our concerns and makes clear recommendations for improvements to reduce unacceptable environmental impacts. Warringal Conservation Society members, and many others who devoted countless hours to the panel hearing, have every right to feel dissatisfied with the cursory manner in which Minister Wynne dismissed community opinion and expert advice.