Cranbourne-Pakenham elevated rail project


Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) (10:55) — I rise to speak to Mr Davis’s motion. The Cranbourne-Pakenham elevated rail project has been very sensitive for affected communities that live, work and go to school near the line. Over the past 18 months my colleagues Ms Springle and Ms Pennicuik and I have listened to diverse views of members of the community, consulted with experts and project stakeholders and undertaken visits to the affected sites. It is worth noting from my colleague who is in fact a resident nearby some of the construction sites in Noble Park that she is very happy to see those works being undertaken in the area, and in fact it is her view that once those works are completed it will be a far superior solution to what the current conditions are in the Noble Park area.

It is certainly understandable that many of the residents and businesses that are located close to the elevated rail have the most concerns, particularly with respect to loss of privacy or overshadowing. There have been many deficiencies with the implementation of this project. The critical deficiencies occurred prior to the announcement of the elevated rail solution, and certainly it will not be any surprise to members in this chamber, because the Greens have raised these issues in the past. There was insufficient discussion with the community about the comparative advantages and disadvantages of all the options for the removal of those level crossings. A lot of community angst could have been avoided if much better communication and information had been provided up-front rather than after the announcement.

The state government provided little explanation of the benefits of elevated rail, with deference to an artful video rendering of the proposed station and without a meaningful discussion of how the project as a whole could potentially benefit the local community and commuters from further afield. Neither the community nor local councils were given the opportunity to provide meaningful input into the design of the main piece of infrastructure — the elevated rail tracks — particularly the exact alignment and how this will affect neighbouring businesses, residents and the broader community. There has been no clarity as to how the voluntary acquisition of property along the rail corridor will function. Since the project construction commenced there has been woeful disclosure of detailed information on vegetation removal, particularly which trees would be removed, why the removal would be necessary, when the removals would happen and the extent of tree removal associated with the different possible options. The Greens have raised this issue both in this place and directly in advocacy meetings with the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA).

There has been a failure to develop confidence in the community that heritage elements will be preserved satisfactorily and incorporated into the final design, and I make particular reference to Carnegie and Murrumbeena stations. The Greens have raised this in this place and directly with the LXRA, resulting in the LXRA committing to preserving parts of heritage stations for incorporation into the new stations or other aspects of the project.

The Greens also have concerns that the life span of this critical infrastructure project will not be as long as claimed by the state government. While the brief provided by the government to the Level Crossing Removal Authority for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line was for two tracks, it is not clear that two tracks will be sufficient to accommodate express metropolitan services, V/Line services and freight trains beyond 2030. It would have been prudent to look for quadruplication of tracks on the Caulfield–Dandenong corridor instead of solely removing level crossings. I know rail experts, such as the Rail Futures Institute, advocated such a holistic solution to the government prior to the construction of the elevated rail. Unfortunately the retrofit of two additional tracks would have major implications for communities neighbouring the line, not least due to the need for more property acquisitions. It would jeopardise the existence and utility of the parks, gardens, community features and sporting grounds that the government has promised will be created under the elevated tracks. It is certainly worth noting — and I draw on the comments of my colleague Ms Springle in terms of that project that is rolling out in the Noble Park area — that in fact those elevated tracks actually remove what was a physical barrier between the two halves of Noble Park, and in fact that will be removed as part of the project.

However, we as a Parliament must learn some lessons from this experience so that future infrastructure projects will be better received by the community. Specifically for rail projects there must be meaningful, comprehensive, early and continuing community consultation and the provision of clear, accurate and timely information must be mandatory. Such projects must accommodate forecast rail traffic over the long term for at least 50 years. The projects must conduct sufficient property acquisition from the outset to allow for an easement of sufficient width for all the tracks required to accommodate rail traffic over the long term.

The Victorian Greens are committed to transparent and open government. When ministers and agencies hide documents about projects that affect the amenity of neighbourhoods and the livability of people’s homes, this is not beneficial to democracy; indeed it is clearly secrecy in aid of managing the messaging around the government’s agenda. The house has an important role to play in scrutiny of government. I certainly take the point in Mr Leane’s contribution about those matters that may be confidential. Certainly the Greens do not have a desire for the explicit details of people’s backyards to be a public matter, and nor should they be. If I was one of those residents, I certainly would not want the specific details of my backyard released in a public forum. However, there are a range of documents that support this project, and given the Greens’ view in relation to scrutiny of government, transparency and openness and in terms of forwarding this principle, the Greens supported the documents motion back on 24 February 2016 and we will do so again today with this particular documents motion.