70% for Green Route

By Robert Muir

Seventy per cent of Mulwala residents want the new Yarrawonga Mulwala Traffic Bridge to be the Green Route, alongside the railway line which crosses Lake Mulwala.

Thirty per cent favour the Grey Route which would be closer to the existing bridge route.

The bridge survey result was revealed at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Federation Council in Corowa.

Council will now seek to meet with the road authorities and state governments of Victoria and NSW, Moira Shire Council to formally relay and discuss the survey results, and to progress works towards a new bridge, after endorsing the Green Route in a 6:3 vote.

Voting for the Green Route were Crs Bronwyn Thomas, Andrew Kennedy, Shaun Whitechurch, David Longley, Norm Wales and Mayor Pat Bourke.

For the Grey Route were Crs Fred Longmire, Gail Law and Paul Miegel.

Federation Council’s General Manager Adrian Butler said, before debate yesterday, the topic was a “very divisive issue”.

That was the case amongst councillors yesterday with savage comments on the pamphlet published by Green Route supporters at the time Mulwala residents were voting on the preferred bridge route.

Cr Longmire said he supported the opportunity for residents to be surveyed.

“But I did not support them with an intrusive document which had gross misrepresentations,” he said. 

“And for a former mayor of a shire to say any councillor who does not support the Green Route to resign is way out of line.” 

Cr Longmire enquired if Mr Butler as to whether the pamphlet as distributed was

Mr Butler did not believe the document was illegal but will investigate all aspects of it.

“The NSW and Victorian State Governments, and the silent majority of people, want the Grey Route. I still support the Grey Route.”

Cr Shaun Whitechurch referred to “this very long journey”. “We did decide to survey the people.”

“I don’t believe the people of Mulwala have been influenced by that flyer.

“As selected councilors representing the ratepayers we should support their findings.”

Cr Gail Law said she voted for the Grey Route when on the former Corowa Shire Council, “because it made the most sense and was least disruptive to the ratepayers.”

She still supports the Grey Route and slammed the Green Route flyer describing it as “almost fraudulent.”

Cr Kennedy said he previously didn’t care where the new bridge was to go.

He does not support retention of the existing bridge.

But because the existing bridge is to come down, “it’s more reason why the new bridge should be the Green Route,” he said.

“It would be more disruptive if the Grey Route was chosen because the existing bridge would have to be removed first,” Cr Kennedy said. 

Cr Paul Miegel disputed the fact and said the critical factor is connectivity between Mulwala and Yarrawonga and that “the Grey Route is the best”.

He said most traffic is via Belmore Street and Melbourne Street and therefore better if the route is as close as possible to the main streets.

“I’m really disappointed with the incorrect information distributed,” Cr Miegel said. 

“It obviously had some effect on people.”

Cr Thomas, who moved the council motion to support the Green Route, emphasized the significance of the vote by Mulwala residents.

“Let’s respect their wishes,” she said.

“Mayor Bourke said: “it’s a shame the survey got darkened.”

But the Mayor believed that voters had done their homework as to which bridge to tick. 

Leading Green Route supporter, Robert Purtle OAM of Mulwala, said he was “overwhelmed with the positive result” for the Green Route by Mulwala residents.

“This demonstrates the local people of Mulwala want to see the traffic out of the main streets in both our towns and build a new bridge that can be built without interruption to the communities,” Mr Purtle, who is Mulwala Progress Association President, said.

“It is to be hoped that the powers to be are taking notice of this result and act accordingly to go Green, after seeing both Mulwala and Moira Shire plebiscites almost unanimously voting Green.”  

Whilst the “almost unanimously” is not a correct assessment of the survey result, it is, nevertheless, an emphatic vote for the Green Route. Neither the Green nor the Grey route involves traffic in Belmore Street – both routes avoid the main street. 

But in Mulwala, it would appear the extended route of either the Green or Grey will extend into, or along, Melbourne Street Mulwala – at least for the foreseeable future. Green Route supporters want to see the extension into Mulwala along the railway line in due course. The Grey Route by the road authorities is for the extension into Melbourne Street.

For decades, the people of Rutherglen have wanted trucks to bypass the town’s main street, Main Street. Numerous trucks go through Main Street every day.

In 2017, a Moira Shire Council survey of Yarrawonga, Bundalong and Tungamah residents resulted in a resounding 3159 to 968 Green Route preference or a 70% endorsement.

In Mulwala, a total of 1562 surveys was distributed on May 25 by council, with a return date of 28 days.

Residents also received a document from Green Route supporters which badly depicted the Grey Route along Irvine Parade meeting up with an apparent extension of Belmore Street Yarrawonga crossing the lake. 

The error was acknowledged and regretted by Green Route supporters. Its effect on the way residents voted is unknown. Mulwala residents, however, have had the opportunity many times beforehand to read about the traffic routes which have been correctly depicted in the Yarrawonga Chronicle.

Regarding the Mulwala response, 867 completed surveys were returned, 73 unopened surveys were returned, 604 (70%) favoured the green route and 259 (30%) supported the grey route. Six responses did not clearly pick an option and two ticked both options.

Local residents of both Moira Shire and Federation Council surveyed therefore returned a strong Green Route Bridge endorsement of 70%.

Commenting yesterday on the Mulwala response to the survey forms, Federation Council’s General Manager Adrian Butler said: “This is over a 55 per cent return/response rate, and for a voluntary survey, this is an extremely high rate.

“The mailing firm advised this is a strong validation of the topic’s importance to the community and justifies council’s decision to survey the community.” 

Prior to the formation of Federation Council (merger of Corowa and Urana Shires) , the Corowa Shire Council unanimously backed the Grey Route in 2013 and after representation from Mulwala Progress Association for the Green Route in 2014, re-affirmed its position for the Grey Route. 

Mr Butler considered it critical the matter be revisited by authorities and progressed urgently for four reasons; the survey results now of Mulwala, Yarrawonga, Bundalong and Tungamah residents favouring the Green Route; lack of any real visible progress towards the new bridge, impending closure of the weir bridge 2020 date unknown, and the time elapsed since both state governments endorsed the Grey Route including subsequent elections and changes in Ministers and staff.