Bridge build should be priority

May 17, 2017

Standing in the middle of a busy Belmore Street, business owners Marg Macheda, Sue Bigger and Mel Bakkum, with former business owner Bernie Bott and petition writer Peter Bennett, called for the plebiscite to be abandoned and the bridge built on the chosen route.

Belmore Street business owners frustrated with Moira Shire Council plans to conduct a plebiscite have joined the push to have the vote abandoned and urged the community to get behind the chosen route once and for all.
Yarrawonga resident Peter Bennett collected signatures from business owners in Belmore Street in favour of the chosen route, the grey option directly alongside the existing bridge, with its obvious benefits for CBD retailers.
They signed the petition urging Moira Shire Council to change its stance in endorsing the green route as the preferred option.
Sue Bigger from Biggers Floorworld and Furnishings said a plebiscite for Yarrawonga residents only was irrelevant because it took no account of businesses or residents in Mulwala.
“I live in Mulwala so I don’t get to vote but I own a business in Belmore Street that is directly affected by the bridge decision,” Sue said.
“The vote doesn’t mean anything because it doesn’t take into account everyone’s opinion. It’s a waste of time.”
Mel Bakkum from Avalanche Ice Creamery said her business relied directly on foot traffic from the bridge and foreshore area as well as people driving through.
“People might not necessarily be thinking about having an ice-cream but then they drive past, see us and decide to pull in,” she said.
“That direct connection and traffic flow between Yarrawonga and Mulwala is vital to our business.”
Mulwala resident Ken McLean has been a vocal supporter of the grey route option for some time and he told the Yarrawonga Chronicle the Moira plebiscite was just another frustrating step in the bridge saga. “This continued debate is going nowhere and the bridge plebiscite isn’t going to add anything to the issue,” he said.
“The reality is that the decision has been made for the grey option and that the old bridge is going to be removed.
“When accepting the reality that the old bridge is not going to stay, the only sensible option is the grey route which maintains that vital connection between Yarrawonga and Mulwala. That’s why two state governments, two roads authorities and one council back that option.
“The other council holding a plebiscite is a waste of time and money.”
Mr McLean said the ongoing debate around the bridge route, and the ensuing plebiscite, ensured funding for the Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge project would continue to be off the agenda for state and federal government.
“If we don’t move forward on this and finally all get on the same page the bridge project won’t get funded in our lifetimes - let alone built,” he said.
“The plebiscite is flawed because you don’t have to vote and the wording of it needs to be 100% correct or the result won’t be accurate by any means.
“Even so, the result doesn’t mean anything when the decision has already been made.
“Get the plebiscite out of the way, accept the decision and lets, as a community, get together and get the funding for the bridge back on the agenda.
“We can turn this around. If we start working together we can get funding for the bridge in the next five years instead of ten years or worse which is what we are looking at now.”

Bridge petition calls for council rethink

By Fiona Blick

A petition, signed by 35 people and demanding Moira Shire “change its stance” and nominate the Grey route as its preferred bridge route, was presented to council at the  April ordinary meeting.
Organiser of the petition, resident Peter Bennett, said since his Letter to the Editor featured in the Yarrawonga Chronicle in early April regarding Moira Shire’s decision to hold a bridge plebiscite, he has had many comments from people who read that letter and agreed the vote was a waste of money.
“All have totally agreed with my sentiments,” Mr Bennett said. “No one offered a contrary view.”
“The plebiscite will be asking people to vote who may have little or no idea of the decision making process and did not attend any of the information sessions.
“In other words, Moira Shire is happy to have uninformed people contribute to the debate and have their vote count the same as informed citizens.”
The tabled petition states;
“The old bridge across the lake is to be demolished.  This is a certainty (courtesy of information supplied by VicRoads). The designated route is the Grey route, alongside the old bridge.  This is a Victorian State Government decision.
“We are concerned that Moira Shire’s continued support for the Green route will take business away from our shopping strip.
“The Green route will;
Greatly disadvantage cars trying to enter the shopping precinct
Enable cars to bypass the town entirely
Absolutely devastate pedestrian access to Belmore Street shops and cafes once the old bridge is gone.
“We, the undersigned business owners, ask that Moira Shire take notice of this petition and change its stance to support the Grey route and in doing so, support business in this town.”
According to Mr Bennett most people were aware the town needed a vibrant shopping precinct to prosper.
“All of us should be aware the old bridge will be demolished,” he said.
“Also, the Green and Grey route make no difference in Mulwala, as a bypass is already in place.
“I carried out the survey of businesses in Belmore Street to check the business community’s pulse on this issue. 
“I received a clear message - no plebiscite and a new bridge at the end of Belmore Street.
“So my question to Moira Shire is what community pulse are you feeling that makes you think this plebiscite is a good idea?
“I’m not swayed by the council’s comments the $20,000 has been tagged earlier for a submission to VicRoads and therefore the money is “there” to pay for the plebiscite.
“Moving money to another project doesn’t validate the project, nor does it mean the money will be well spent.”
Mr Bennett said he would like to know when Moira Shire began to have concerns the decision process was flawed.
“I suspect it was immediately after the decision was made to choose the Grey route,” he said.
“Surely the councillors and shire employees who attended the many bridge alignment information sessions could have been nothing less than extremely impressed with the process.
“No, the process was fine but the decision was not what the shire wanted.
“So, all you readers of my letter and this article who are members of sporting groups, community service groups and other worthwhile local organisations, write to Moira Shire and ask them to re-tag the $20,000 to a much better cause.
“Moira Shire love hearing from the community to help with decision making.
“Good luck with your submissions.”

Echuca-Moama bridge enjoys Federal funding

The 2017-18 Federal Budget has been described as a big win for the Murray electorate by Federal Member Damian Drum.
Among the funding for the region is $97 million for the new Echuca-Moama bridge, which has a total estimated price tag of $280 million.
More than half a billion dollars in funding will flow to new and improved road, rail and bridge infrastructure in the Murray electorate by 2022, as outlined by Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester in a visit to the region.
Mr Chester joined Mr Drum in inspecting ongoing works at the site of the new Echuca-Moama Bridge, described as “one of the centrepieces of the Australian Government’s Victorian infrastructure investment”.
The 2017-18 Federal Budget provided funding for the start of works this financial year on several big ticket projects for the region including a $10 million upgrade of the Murray Valley Highway from Echuca to Yarrawonga.
“We are investing $97 million in the new Echuca-Moama Bridge, and getting on with the job of building this long-awaited project. The new bridge will reduce travel times, and open up new opportunities for communities, businesses and people on both sides of the border,” Mr Chester said.
“This is in addition to projects the Coalition Government is investing in the region, with more than $572 million to be spent on new or upgraded highways, local roads, bridges and rail projects across northern Victoria.”
Mr Drum said the works on the new Echuca-Moama Bridge symbolised the ‘can-do’ outlook of last week’s Federal Budget.
“The works here are just the start of the pipeline of infrastructure investment that will pour into the region,” Mr Drum said.
“The people of Echuca and Moama have been waiting decades for their new bridge. The work has started, it is fully funded, and it is delivered by the Nationals in Coalition.”
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