Report off the mark

THE State Government has been accused of trying to politicise a drainage problem affecting Morwell’s Wallace Street residents rather than “fixing the problem itself”.

Speaking after VicRoads released a geotechnical report assessing drainage problems along the Princes Freeway reserve behind Wallace Street, which have long plagued residents, State Opposition Member for Eastern Victoria Region Matt Viney said the report failed to investigate the essence of residents’ concerns.

The matter was the subject of debate in State Parliament recently when Legislative Council president Bruce Atkinson said the response Mr Viney had received from the State Government, following his efforts to obtain a copy of the geotechnical report he had requested on behalf of residents, was “an extraordinary discourtesy to Mr Viney and, by extension, a discourtesy to this house”.

Mr Viney had been advised by former Premier Ted Ballieu that, although he had twice requested a copy of the independent site assessment, the report would not be provided to him. Instead, any updates would be given to State Member for Morwell Russell Northe as he had also “previously met with VicRoads to discuss this and related matters”.

In Parliament Mr Viney said the response verged on contempt and was a “very serious matter”.

His view was supported by Mr Atkinson, who undertook to write to the Premier’s office indicating “I am displeased with the response because I do not think it is an appropriate response”. Meanwhile Mr Viney, having since obtained a copy of the report, said technical consultancy firm GHD had “vindicated local residents” by confirming “the surface water in the area at the rear of Wallace Street, Morwell properties had nowhere to go except into their backyards”.

He said the report indicated “that the table drains are not taking all of the water away from the site”.

“Section three of the report states clay soils below the topsoil have ‘a low permeability, representing a thick hydraulic barrier, which retard (prevent) surface waters from infiltrating deeply’,” Mr Viney said.

“This is what residents have been telling VicRoads and Russell Northe all along.

“What is not stated by GHD is that the water therefore floods the properties in Wallace Street.

“This is because the report focuses on confirming that the Princes Freeway will not fall into the mine – this was not the concern.

“The real problem has been ignored by Russell Northe and the Napthine Government and it has only inadvertently been highlighted in the report.

“GHD were clearly never asked to address the real concern of residents, being the flooding of their properties,” the MP said.

“Residents are concerned about the impact the flooding has on the structural integrity of their homes in the long-term.

“But this was not investigated because Russell Northe and the Napthine Government are more interested in politically managing the issue rather than fixing the problem,” he said.