Protestors arrested as bulldozers move in at Westerfields

Four protestors have been arrested this morning and charged with trespass on summons as they attempted to halt the bulldozing of a flora and fauna reserve to build the Peninsula Link Freeway in Frankston. Up to a hundred police converged on the site, forcibly removing around 30 protestors and arresting four.

Roads minister Tim Pallas had given an undertaking that work on the site would be suspended until a VCAT appeal had been heard, however it would seem that AbiGroup, the contractors building the freeway and the Minister have not honoured this agreement and the destruction of this important habitat corridor has begun.

Campaigners were devastated at watching machinery trash this piece of bushland. Much of the vegetation was destroyed today and they expect the dam/wetlands to be drained tomorrow. Save the Pines still intends to pursue their VCAT appeal regardless and use the hearing as an opportunity to expose the lies of those who have been building this freeway and responsible for this environmental vandalism.

It has also emerged in the last week that the Freeway extension will cost the public $2.3 Billion dollars over the next 25 years instead of the $850 million claimed by the Government. Deals like this and the desal plant (the worlds largest public private partnership) make it clear that this State ALP government is determined to ensure that the Victorian public transfers much of its wealth into the hands of the corporate sector for decades to come.
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I did not go to the site this morning. We heard late in the day that the same number of police were going to be present - it's too silly to think about, really, but your tax dollar was so wasted yesterday that I couldn't stand to see it wasted again today.

What I have been doing is thinking about what an amazing journey we have been on together, and how it really cannot end here. Ceci Cairns has withdrawn her offer of selling her painting of Westerfield to raise money for our fight because she cannot bear to part with it, She says it has reignited her reason for painting and represents her deep feeling for her participation in the cause. I hope we're all going to feel some of that.

She has, instead, made some limited edition archival paper prints available for $20. If you'd like one - and they are suitable for framing - let me know. The funds will go to meet any further VCAT expenses and the expenses of the Frankston North Community Group, Inc., who have taken the brave stand of making the appeal.

The VCAT appeal will be heard to the end. This Friday there is a "Directions Hearing" that lays out the who, what, where, and when of the hearing itself - kind of a chat about the rule book. We may be told when the hearing itself will be, but we don't know now. I will keep you informed.

There will be a gathering in the next couple of weeks where we will mourn the destruction of Westerfield and celebrate the great effort we all put in to save it. I will let you know the details when they have been decided. Right now the plan is to share a meal, hold a memorial gathering in the woods, and perhaps plan for us to organise together to put what we have learned to good use. Our natural environment is under constant attack, and we need to get better and smarter and more organised if we are to have any hope of having our voice taken seriously in the halls of power.

Until then, please know that what we did matters, that we have inspired thousands of people to do likewise, and that the community spirit that we have shared will not die.

Gillian Collins - Save the Pines Campaigner

Dark day as state shows its might
September 30, 2010

TO SAY Tuesday was a sad day for democracy and for the environment is an understatement. But it is hard to adequately express the significance of the freeway protesters' defeat at Westerfield, near Frankston (''Police arrest freeway protesters'', The Age, 29/9).

That 100 police are brought in to subdue protesters sends a message that no matter what people do to protect what they value, the state will bring in stronger forces to overpower them.

At that point there is nothing further that citizens can do to protect their environment and the only reasonable reaction is despair. A disengaged populace without hope fits best into the Brumby government's ''plan''.

Jill Quirk, Malvern East

No more softly, softly

THE Brumby government will not tolerate any interference with Peninsula Link freeway plans, even if it means the compulsory acquisition and destruction of pristine, privately owned, heritage-listed bushland complete with endangered species of fauna and flora.

This was carried out before a VCAT hearing pertaining to the historic site.

I was witness to the extraordinary events at the Westerfield site on Tuesday, when 100 or more police, including mounted police, arrived on the site equipped in riot gear, ready to defend construction workers against a tiny group of peaceful protesters, many of whom were in their 60s or over.

It appears that since former chief commissioner Christine Nixon retired, the era of softly softly ''community policing'' is over. We are well and truly back in the strong-arm-of-the-law era of the Kennett government.

Rod Binnington, Brighton

No trust for Pallas

ROADS Minister Tim Pallas should resign. Last week he assured the protesters that the bulldozing would not go ahead until the VCAT ruling was handed down.

On Tuesday, Mr Pallas suddenly switched. It is shameful when a minister of the state cannot be trusted.

These incredible protesters have picketed this area all through the cold winter. They deserve medals; instead they are arrested.

Mary Drost, convener, Planning Backlash, Camberwell

Bullying shifts south-east

JOHN Brumby, not satisfied with bullying Footscray residents affected by the $4.3 billion new rail line, from Southern Cross through Footscray to Little River, now bullies southern pensioners and retirees.

Mr Brumby's message to residents in the west that the new rail line will go ahead regardless of the findings of any study on its impact on residents and the environment reeks of the bully-boy tactics well practised by his government.

Charging in to break up the Westerfield picket line, manned by locals in their senior years, is the latest new low for this government. Once again, Brumby's mantra - regardless of residents and the environment - wins the day, but perhaps not the next state election.

Darlene Reilly, Sunshine