Moira Shire Council confirms support for green bridge route
Moira Shire Council officially confirmed its support for the green route for the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge at the October meeting following the emphatic result of the recent bridge plebiscite.
After noting the results at the previous meeting, council made their position on the issue clear on October 25 with the recommendation “that council confirm its ongoing support for the green route as the preferred alignment for the construction of the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge and continue its advocacy with key decision makers”.
The motion was moved by Cr Peter Mansfield and seconded by Cr Marie Martin.
Cr Mansfield said “this is just a confirmation of the plebiscite. We employed the Victorian Electoral Commission to run the plebiscite; more than 56 percent of eligible voters participated in the plebiscite and the results confirmed emphatic support for the green route.”
The Yarrawonga Mulwala Bridge Plebiscite returned 3159 votes in favour of the green route – which would sit alongside the weir crossing, connecting at Gulai Road in Mulwala and Irvine Parade in Yarrawonga.
There were 968 votes in favour of the grey route – which would follow the alignment of the existing traffic bridge, connecting at Belmore Street in Yarrawonga and Melbourne Street in Mulwala.
The grey route has been chosen as the designated bridge route by VicRoads, NSW Roads and Maritime, the Victorian Government and the NSW Government.
The grey route was also endorsed by the former Corowa Shire Council.
“The plebiscite result is a 77 percent plus for the green route,” Cr Mansfield said.
“It’s obvious that the people of Yarrawonga, Tungamah and Wilby prefer the green route overwhelmingly and as a council we are on the right track in supporting that.”
Cr Martin said while the plebiscite was not binding, council was formalising its position on the issue.
“We’ve got that direction from the community and when we go forward, when we advocate, that is our line and we feel we have the backing of the people, of those that bothered to vote,” she said.
Cr Wendy Buck said council had discussed at length the ‘tos and fros’ of the bridge issue and the people who had voted had clearly stated what they want.
“I think as a council we are happy to support the people and I did say that whatever comes out of the vote I would support and I will stand by that,” she said.
Cr Kevin Bourke said, “this is a case of yes, we thought we were right the first time but we didn’t have the undertaking from the community”.
“I think it’s a fantastic position now that we are in. We asked the community and we got the answer.
“The community has spoken and we need to move forward with as much haste as possible.”
Cr Ed Cox said he hoped the newly-elected Federation Council might consider its position on the bridge route.
“Hopefully with a new council over the river we might finish up with some more support at a local government level,” Cr Cox said.
“I think it would be an appropriate action in the near future to see where that council is at.
“We need action from state governments and federal government. The NSW Government and the Victorian Government have really got to come on board with us here.
“The community has spoken clearly and strongly on their preferred route – end of story.”
Cr Peter Mansfield said he understood the new Federation Council was reviewing their position on the bridge route.
“And hopefully they will make a decision in favour of the green route, or reaffirm their position in favour of the grey route, when they review it before Christmas,” he said.
Cr Peter Lawless said the plebiscite result had reinforced the position previously held by Moira Shire Council in support of the green route.
“It puts us now in a position where we are all on the one page and we can be pushing all together for the community to come to that right decision and I’m sure maybe people in other directions will now sit up and listen.”
Burning bridge questions
The route for the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge featured in public question time at Moira Shire Council’s October meeting.
Yarrawonga’s Peter Bennett asked “do all councillors acknowledge that the old bridge, the traffic bridge at Yarrawonga, will be demolished?”
“And if you do acknowledge that, are you satisfied that there has been no misinformation or conflict of interest caused by distribution of a flyer by a member of the shire council that stated quote ‘if you want to save the old traffic bridge you must vote green’?”
Mr Bennett continued to speak before being interrupted by Mayor Gary Cleveland who said “you’ve asked a question, I’m going to rule on that question”.
“Your question deals with a matter beyond the power of the council and is designed to embarrass a councillor; therefore I have to say that the question is disallowed.”
Paul Flavel, also a resident of Yarrawonga, asked “what was or will be the total cost to the ratepayers, that’s direct costs and indirect costs, of the voluntary, non-binding plebiscite which was held recently concerning the Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge?”
CEO Mark Henderson said “the contracted price with the Victorian Electoral Commission was $23,000, on top of that there was obviously a communications program that we ran above our normal level of weekly advertising, particularly in the Yarrawonga Chronicle, so I think that would probably be somewhere around five or six thousand”.
“I haven’t tried to cost the staff time with regard to working with the VEC but the actual outgoings would be about $28,000.”
The Yarrawonga Chronicle sought further clarification from Mr Henderson regarding the plebiscite campaign costs following the meeting and received the following;
“The communications program for the Yarrawonga Mulwala Bridge Route Plebiscite was extensive and involved increased advertising, production of promotional materials, design work and consultation,” Mr Henderson said.
“Advertising in the Yarrawonga Chronicle was just one facet of a multi-pronged approach to raising the community’s awareness of, and providing accurate information for the plebiscite.”
*Editor’s note: According to Yarrawonga Chronicle records, Moira Shire Council spent $1408 on two half page advertisements on September 16 and September 23 during the plebiscite campaign. The newspaper received no other advertising bookings or printing orders from council in relation to the plebiscite.