UNDER THREAT - FROM - MELBOURNE METROPOLITAN RAIL AUTHORITY AND THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT

Supreme Court challenge to protect trees over MMR

Supreme Court challenge to protect trees over Melbourne Metro rail

ANTHONY GALLOWAY, State Political Reporter, Herald Sun

January 25, 2017 5:57pm

THE $11 billion Melbourne Metro project is facing a Supreme Court challenge over plans to dig up more than 200 trees along St Kilda Rd’s boulevard.

A community group has served a writ on Planning Minister Richard Wynne in a bid to have the government consider alternatives to pulling out parts of St Kilda Rd near the Shrine of Remembrance.

The community group — calling themselves the Domain Precinct Preservation Association — is calling for the government to hold off on its environmental effects assessment process before considering the other options.

Lawyer Nicola Lally, a spokeswoman for the group, said she believed its alternative proposal would save taxpayers about $800 million.

MORE: RAIL BUILD TO SHUT CITY ROADS FOR UP TO FIVE YEARS

“In the view of our group and other Melbourne citizen groups, the alternative will save some 203 mature trees on St Kilda Rd currently slated for destruction under the government’s plans, and ensure that the existing St Kilda Rd streetscape is protected,” Ms Lally said.

“What many Melburnians have not yet realised is that the current plan will see St Kilda Rd from Toorak Road to Dorcas Street — a distance of some 800 metres — reduced from eight traffic lanes down to two and be an open pit, the size of two football fields, for possibly five to eight years of construction works. Traffic in the area will be chaotic.

“It will be a tragedy to lose so many beautiful trees unnecessarily and have one of the finest boulevards in the world turned into a giant, dusty, construction site for many years to come especially when there is a viable, cost-effective alternative”

Ms Lally said the alternative proposal — developed by a group of engineers — would move the proposed Domain railway station by less than 50 metres off the St Kilda Rd carriageways.

The court challenge comes after an application was sent to the Federal Government to have the famous tree-lined boulevard declared a national heritage icon, which could derail the government’s preferred option.

Deputy Premier James Merino said the government would defend the legal action.

“People can take what action they want. This is a free society and people can take that action,” Mr Merlino said.

“We are getting on with the job. Melbourne Metro is effectively doubling the size of the City Loop.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government needed to be upfront about its plans to rip up more than 200 trees on the iconic boulevard.

“The government can’t claim on one hand that the project is beneficial for the environment and then on the other hand dig up 200 trees on St Kilda Rd, a world class boulevard, without conducting proper environmental effects statements,” Mr Guy said.

The project originally earmarked 900 trees for removal but the EES process has spared 119.