PROTESTERS LINK ARMS

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
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Protesters Lesley Dewar, Midge Avery and Mitch McKie,3, are supported by fellow Eastern Link opponents Zoe, Marty and Ellie McKie, Maidie Brockman and Kim Fletcher.
Camera IconProtesters Lesley Dewar, Midge Avery and Mitch McKie,3, are supported by fellow Eastern Link opponents Zoe, Marty and Ellie McKie, Maidie Brockman and Kim Fletcher.

Tensions have boiled over in Busselton, with work on the City’s controversial Eastern Link road project starting this week.

The works prompted protests, with opponents describing the project as “sickening” and “shameful”. On Saturday, 50 protesters gathered in Rotary Park and throughout the week smaller groups lined the development’s fences with placards.

Protestors said the City had not listened to the community, many of whom were against the development for environmental reasons.

The City maintains the development will ease congestion on Causeway Road and Queen Street, while presenting the least destruction to the environment.

Stage one of the works will provide a second entry point into the city centre via a new link road and a new bridge across Vasse River.

Busselton and Districts Residents’ Association president Julia Avery said the community wanted the project halted so newly elected councillors could be better informed and other alternatives could be assessed.

“Main Roads traffic statistics and modelling indicate other options for traffic into Busselton — all we ask is for more options to be considered,” she said.

A petition to stop the development has the support of 1500 Busselton residents.

Despite concerns, City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said the project would proceed according to schedule.

He said the City had invested “significantly” in independent environmental reports on the site and the engagement of a possum spotter during clearing.

“We are progressing with the City Centre Eastern Link development because it provides the best cost-benefit ratio and the least impact on the environment,” he said.

“All the necessary environmental approvals at both State and Federal levels have been obtained before the commencement of works.”

The Eastern Link has been met with a backlash from sections of the community which have called for the City to develop Ford Road.

Ford Road is an initiative the City plans to develop in the future, but as it runs beside Ramsar-listed wetlands, it was determined not to be environmentally acceptable.

Outspoken critic of the project former mayor Ian Stubbs said the City had “absolutely” refused to listen to residents.

“The Eastern Link is a sickening project and I have been campaigning against it for a very long time,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I am almost resigned to the fact that we are wasting our time.”

Seven mature peppermint trees will be removed from the site’s river embankment for the works to progress.

Peppermint trees provide habitat to critically endangered western ringtail possums, which are found only in the State’s South West.

The City has prepared a possum management plan with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and engaged fauna experts to ensure any possums in the area are sensitively relocated before the work.

As a direct offset for the loss of the peppermint trees, the City is required to plant 428 peppermint trees along with other native vegetation in the vicinity.

Wildlife group FAWNA president Suzanne Strapp said she had recently picked up a disoriented western ringtail possum from near the site.

“It’s so disappointing the council has rushed this development,” she said.

“Busselton should be a beacon of biodiversity and this project flies in the face of all of the research FAWNA is doing.”

Stage one works are expected to be completed by July.

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