Recent events here in downtown Dibley demonstrate how far vested interests will go to cripple public debate on the proposed Ellerton Drive Extension.
Sorry, did I say Dibley? Of course I meant Queanbeyan, but it is easy to imagine this town slipping further into farce as proponents of the EDE grasp at ever more illogical reasons to promote the road.
The recent community input forum on the EDE was advertised as an opportunity for both sides of the debate to air their views, and so it was – however by the end of the evening it was clear that the so-called vocal minority might have been vocal, but they were not a minority.
It is important to remember that Mayor Overall had originally badgered council to hold the community forum after the date which council had agreed on to make their final funding decision.
Without the intervention of dissenting councillors many of the issues raised at this important event would never have been available in time to inform future decision-making.
Talking to the public against councillor code of conduct?
A number of councillors later found themselves facing threats of potentially breaching council’s code of conduct if they went to a public discussion of the EDE with East Queanbeyan residents.
Councillors Brown, Cregan, Winchester and Burfoot, agreed in April to attend a public meeting in East Queanbeyan organised by the Queanbeyan Conservation Alliance.
Prior to the meeting they received an email from the City Manager in which they were warned that if they attended the meeting they could be in breach of the code of conduct, and be excluded from voting on any future EDE matters.
This application of code of conduct regulations was dubious at best, but successful in preventing those councillors from talking directly to residents.
Ultimately of course, it was a blatant attempt to stifle public debate.
Design Review of the EDE
A recent design review of the original 2009 plan for the EDE has identified a number of areas where council was not transparent in its costing information.
According to a leaked report, commissioned by Googong Township Pty Ltd, the original costing for the EDE in today’s dollars would have totalled $78.8 million including GST and a massive contingency of 38% (compared to the present $90 million and counting).
The report suggested a number of savings that might reduce the estimate, including lowering the bridge, removing off ramps into Fairlane Estate, and reducing the width of cycle lanes, and dropping the assumption that the whole thing will be built as dual carriageway rather than single lane as residents were told.
Of greater significance, was the suggestion in this report that development of the EDE be staged, with works starting on the north side of the Queanbeyan River, giving property developers and real estate agents early access to the proposed Jumping Creek estate subdivision.
The report argued strongly that early access be provided for marketing and land sale purposes from the end of Lonergan Drive in Greenleigh.
Once again, despite repeated Council assertions that proposed plans for the Jumping Creek estate are not part of the EDE project, appearances indicate that the two projects and their supporters are super-glued together.
I wonder if we have a fat lady vicar somewhere in town to get us out of this mess?
No, no, no, no, yes?
With Graham Franklin-Browne