Dr HAINES (Indi) (19:40):
By leave—I table a set of documents which contain a petition that seeks the abandonment of the ARTC’s proposal for a railway overpass bridge and a proper and detailed analysis of an alternative for referral to the Standing Committee on Petitions for consideration.
I’m proud to walk alongside the citizens of Euroa. They’re on a journey to get a railway precinct upgrade that their community deserves. I’m honoured to be their representative both here in this place and home on the ground.
Euroa is one of the towns in my electorate affected by the Better Rail upgrade. The station precinct and the Anderson Street bridge will need significant work to safely accommodate double-stacked freight trains. Two options are under consideration: replacing the current Anderson Street bridge, or building a vehicle underpass—a road-under-rail solution. The community is being consulted on both options, yet this process is complicated by a deficit of trust. People feel like they aren’t being heard. Messages are getting confused. Community engagement isn’t hitting the mark.
There’s a historical precedent for local concerns being ignored by far-away decision-makers, who pack up and leave once the job is done, as far as they’re concerned, leaving a disappointing legacy to be borne by those who remain. Because of this, the community is anxious to get it right, and rightly so.
Euroa Connect is the community group behind this. They kicked it off in the midst of increasing concern about the bridge proposal and to reflect the local community’s desire for proper consultation.
In tabling these signatures tonight, I’m not siding with the road-under-rail or underpass proposal as the solution. I don’t live in Euroa or drive past the station every day, so it’s not up to me to say what solution is best. This is a decision for the community and the ARTC. The ARTC have told me that they’re agnostic about the solution: it just needs to be safe, workable and fit in with the requirements of the community and the Victorian Department of Transport.
Euroa Connect are passionate and highly organised. They have a strongly thought through perspective of what works. There are, of course, other views. The important thing, though, is that people feel that they are being heard in a meaningful way.
This document is not just pages of signatures. It’s been a remarkable catalyst for getting the community talking. People stopped and signed, sure; but more than that people engaged. They talked, they asked questions, they listened and then they signed.
The conversations covered topics such as appropriate human-scale development; the importance of green spaces; climate change initiatives, given the urban-heat-island effect; the need to consider and promote our heritage; the tourism potential; and connectivity across Euroa—north, south, east and west.
This is the Indi way: communities taking control over their own destiny, collaborating and coming up with the answer themselves.
This document contains 2,777 signatures. This is phenomenal when you consider that Euroa has a population of 3,275 people. That’s over two-thirds. People from Violet Town and Strathbogie and visitors who love the region also signed.
The principal petitioner is Jim Shovelton, the spokesperson for Euroa Connect, who also presented it to the Deputy Prime Minister when he visited Euroa in March. Kate Auty and Charlie Brydon drew up the document. Phil Siems, Charlie and other members collected signatures at the farmers’ market and on Binney Street. Anne Shovelton organised a roster. Many shops collected signatures both in Euroa and in Violet Town. This document was handed into my Wangaratta electorate office and sent up via express post to land in my hands here tonight.
I also want to recognise Janet Fogarty, John Simpson AM, Annie Mahon, Tess Egan, Kathi Clark Orsanic and Zvonko Orsanic for their contribution to this important work.
Too often, in rural and regional Victoria, we see what happens when people who make decisions do not understand us, and, too often, this happens without the community being asked.
Well, Euroa has insisted they be asked. They’re starting the conversations. And they’re playing a role in finding the best solution.