‘No due diligence’, but Inland Trail is moving forward

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Cr Les Larke was unsuccessful with his notice of motion calling for due diligence and community consultation on the proposed $7.7million 14km indoor trail between Wonthaggi and Inverloch, but he made sure that the issue was properly discussed at last Wednesday’s board meeting.

COUNCIL clearly missed the point regarding Cr Les Larke’s notice of motion last Wednesday calling for the Wonthaggi to Inverloch Inland Trail (WIIT) to be put on hold.

He just wanted the Council to stop spending $4.7 million of taxpayers’ money, when the state government had already committed to developing a 40-mile coastal walk and bike route between San Remo and Inverloch.

He said the county should wait to see what the government does first because if WIIT becomes the only trail between Wonthaggi and Inverloch it amounts to a massive cost shifting exercise to allow county ratepayers to pay for what was essentially a state government promise, despite the fact that they had committed $3 million of their own money.

He also called on the county to flesh out the business case before investing in WIIT.

But, amid the hyperbole, county anthem sheet singing, obfuscation and lessons to state the obvious bleeding in the ensuing debate, a key question remained unanswered.

It was a matter of Cr Rochelle Halstead who ultimately voted for the project to be put on hold pending presentation of a proper cost-benefit analysis and meaningful community engagement on the specific 14km indoor trail for which ratepayers were to contribute $4.7 million. .

“Mr. Mayor, I would just like to ask a question if I can. I’m struggling to be informed about this particular project. I’m just wondering if this council, this current council has been informed. Is there a briefing I may have missed on the actual logistics of this trail?said Cr Halstead.

The county’s chief executive, Place Making, James Stirton, frankly couldn’t remember either.

“I can’t remember off the top of my head a specific briefing day. I know this avenue has been an important part of the advocacy strategy adopted by this council and also the council’s resolution to seek funding from the Growing Suburbs Fund application process as well.

So, no specific briefing with a cost-benefit analysis of this specific project.

Despite this, the board voted 6 to 3 to move forward.

Cr Les Larke summarizes:

“Thank you to Mayor Whelan and I appreciate the comments from the various councillors.

“However, insofar as the inner trail from Wonthaggi to Inverloch, in my opinion, on reflection, notwithstanding previous rulings, the board has failed to exercise due diligence as to why $4.7 million for taxpayers money should be spent in circumstances where the Victorian government has pledged to fully fund a consolidated coastal walking and cycling path from San Remo to Inverloch.

“Despite a potential contribution of $3 million from the Victorian Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund at the overall cost of $7.7 million, if the inner trail from Wonthaggi to Inverloch is ultimately the only route between Wonthaggi and Inverloch , it is a form of cost transfer to the council of $4.7 million that could otherwise be used for other key projects across the county.

“And importantly, the strategic basis, any feasibility study, cost-benefits and overall economic benefits and use of the inner trail are non-evidence and are supported by deliberative community engagement and communication.

“That is the reason for this notice of motion, to put the project on hold, pending the final outcome of the Yallock-Bulluk Marine Park project, including the development of an iconic tourist coastal park and trail along the entire length from San Remo to Inverloch and fully funded by the Government of the State of Victoria. Thank you.”

Cr Bruce Kent had previously said the board could benefit from seeing the cost-benefit ratios requested by Cr Larke.

Cr Bauer said it was unclear to the community if the county was building a coastal trail or an inland trail.

Cr Le Serve read the explanation on the county’s website, but concluded by saying that any delay could jeopardize the whole project.

Cr Rooks said connecting cities with shared pathways was an essential part of state and local government policy.

Cr Tessari said Cr Larke’s opposition was ‘the beggar’s creed’.

Cr Halstead asked the key question.

And Cr Laing claimed Cr Larke did an embarrassing backflip after backing the funding request in September last year.

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