Murray Shire Council general manager Greg Murdoch is recommending support for a planning panel for the second Echuca-Moama river crossing.By Ruth Clayton
Murray Shire Council general manager Greg Murdoch has recommended councillors not support a call to waive a planning panel for the proposed second Murray River bridge.
Committee For Echuca-Moama in December lobbied Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy to waive the planning panel process, a more thorough, but timely investigation of the bridge’s impacts.
In council’s agenda, Mr Murdoch wrote ‘‘calling in the project’’ would ‘‘negate the opportunity for all options to be considered as well as further community input’’.
‘‘There is also no guarantee that the Minister would call in the council’s option preference,’’ Mr Murdoch wrote.
C4EM chief executive Hayden Cock believes the panel was unnecessary and that it could add another 18 months to the final decision on the bridge route.
He said the Planning Minister was unlikely to act in an ‘‘expeditious manner’’ unless he believed he had the support of the local council and the community.
Mr Cock said while he was disappointed with the recommendation, he was not surprised as it was not Murray Shire’s jurisdiction.
He said Murray Shire’s ultimate decision on the matter was important, but not critical to the initiative.
He said most weight lay on Campaspe Shire’s decision as it was the local jurisdiction for Victoria.
Campaspe Shire will vote on the decision at a meeting on January 22.
‘‘Murray (Shire’s decision) is important to the extent that it sends the message to the minister that both local government authorities on the Victorian and NSW sides support the action and therefore it adds weight to a level of support,’’ Mr Cock said.
Murray Shire mayor Tom Weyrich said he was in a ‘‘precarious position’’ when it came to deciding which way to vote, but he was leaning towards supporting C4EM’s initiative.
Cr Weyrich said he believed council was concerned if the planning panel was scrapped, the bridge option currently supported by both shires, 2B, would be locked in without consultation.
‘‘There’s still groups out there who advocated differently,’’ Cr Weyrich said.
‘‘The planning process will give those groups the opportunity.’’
Cr Weyrich has spoken out on many occasions in the past saying he did not care where the bridge went and the important thing was Echuca-Moama got a bridge.
‘‘It puts me in a precarious position because I’ve been advocating to have a bridge anywhere,’’ Cr Weyrich said.
At a council meeting in July 2011, Cr Weyrich said the community needed closure.
‘‘I’m happy with any option. I don’t care where it is,’’ Cr Weyrich said at the time.
Cr Weyrich said he would respect whichever decision council made.
‘‘I’ll be bound by whatever council’s decision is,’’ Cr Weyrich said.
‘‘In some respects, I long for the day the government says, ‘This is where the bridge is going to be and that’s it’.
‘‘The authorities are using planning as a means to defer the inevitable.
‘‘And the inevitable is that governments put their short arms in their long pockets and pull out a wad of cash. That’s what we need.’’
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