The Moira Shire Council Yarrawonga Mulwala Bridge Plebiscite has returned overwhelmingly in favour of the green route.
After several weeks of voting and campaigning from supporters of both the green route and the grey route, the votes were counted by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) on Friday and the result revealed on Monday afternoon ahead of schedule.
Of 8824 ballot packs sent out to residents in the 3730 and 3728 postcode areas 3129 (36%) voted for the green route as their preference for the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge.
The green route would sit directly alongside the existing weir bridge crossing and connect with Gulai Road in Mulwala and Irvine Parade in Yarrawonga.
According to the VEC, 968 people (11%) voted in favour of the grey route.
The grey route sits directly alongside the existing ‘traffic bridge’ and would connect with Belmore Street in Yarrawonga and Melbourne Street in Mulwala.
Informal votes numbered 843 (9%) leaving 3854 ballots (44%) not returned.
With regard to the informal votes, the VEC would not confirm if the issue was a result of voters failing to number 1 and 2 in the boxes provided, instead a spokesperson simply said the ballot papers were not filled out correctly.
The VEC was engaged by Moira Shire Council to conduct the plebiscite to determine the Yarrawonga community preference on the alignment of the new proposed Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge.
The vote was not compulsory and how the outcome will be used to inform or guide Moira Shire Council’s future position on the bridge route is yet to be revealed.
Both the Victorian and NSW governments have selected the grey route as the preferred option and VicRoads is in the process of completing a draft Environmental Effects Statement Referral on the grey route for submission to the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure for determination.
The referral will determine the requirements for the planning approval process.
Moira Shire Council has consistently stood in favour of the green bridge route option, at odds with the former Corowa Shire Council in NSW and the state governments.
Moira Shire Council CEO Mark Henderson said “despite voting not being compulsory, the participation rate in the plebiscite was extremely high”.
“I understand almost 5000 were received by the VEC which is a terrific result.
“We are pleased the Yarrawonga community took the opportunity to send a very clear message to the key decision makers.”
Mr Henderson thanked residents for taking part in “this very important issue and for engaging in a respectful debate and the strong level of participation tells us this issue was extremely important to the community”.
“The goal of the plebiscite was to provide a robust, independent and democratic process to confirm the community’s preferred future alignment for a new bridge,” Mr Henderson said.
“While numerous reports over many years have assessed various route options, at no stage during the development of this project has the Yarrawonga community had a structured way to express an objective view.
“A plebiscite brings a new level of active democracy to the discussion around this critical project.
“Our main goal moving forward is to get a bridge built that will enable both Yarrawonga and Mulwala to function well as a lifestyle and tourism destination.
“The community’s response to the plebiscite will be invaluable in helping to achieve that.”