The North East Link Project is destroying hundreds, perhaps thousands of trees, as well as hectares of ground vegetation as the project blunders on.
Associated with this devastation, many native animals have perished or have otherwise been harmed as their habitat is destroyed.
The bureaucrats running the project on behalf of the Victorian Government refuse to detail this loss publicly. A mix of anxious stage management and indifference on their part.
Much of the most visible destruction, so far, has been in the northern perimeter of the project at Simpson Army Barracks, Borlase Reserve, the Greensborough Road reservation and Windsor Reserve.
Notably, the forest destroyed by the North East Link Project also included habitat for the critically endangered Matted Flax-lily and the Studley Park Gum.
Wildlife at risk
Wildlife has been lost or otherwise harmed as a consequence of the project. The area has been home for many years for an estimated 200 Eastern Grey Kangaroos. These animals have been treated with cavalier disregard by the North East Link Project. They are at risk of death or injury as much of their habitat has been bulldozed. It is clear that in the circumstances some of these creatures should be translocated. However, the responsible Victorian Government agency, the Department of Energy, Water and Land Planning, whose job it is to protect our native animals, has turned a blind eye to the plight of the kangaroos displaced by the project.
It is also in the wildlife corridor used by the critically endangered Swift Parrot and the Powerful Owl, which is classified as vulnerable.
The threat to open space along the Eastern Freeway
There is evidence that the North East Link Project is now turning its attention further south to threaten green open space alongside the Eastern Freeway, which is also in the project corridor. One such area is the 32-hectare Koonung Creek Reserve in North Balwyn. It appears that no less than 20% of the reserve could be lost permanently to the project in the quest for additional road lane space for the project. The reserve has been an important destination for passive and active recreation for thousands of residents over the decades, although it is increasingly problematic as traffic numbers, and associated noise and air pollution threatens to get even worse.
The reason that the consequences for the reserve is so unclear is due to two over-riding factors. The first of these is that the government proposes to manipulate the public response and mute it as much as possible. The second reason is that the project is being developed under what is called a reference design. This permits the actual design, including open space under threat from the project, to be manipulated right throughout the development process.
The final design is uncertain as a consequence. Importantly, this is also a technique for cutting government project costs, and externalizing identified costs to local communities in the form of the loss of open space, associated losses in the natural environment, including vegetation, and higher levels of road noise and air pollution.
Things that matter? No, things that shatter.