Inner-west community groups are divided over a new state government reference group tasked with tackling the area’s poor air quality.
Melbourne’s inner-west suburbs have some of the city’s worst air pollution and associated health problems, stemming from high diesel emissions in Footscray and Yarraville and ongoing dust and odour issues around Brooklyn.
The government says the Inner West Air Quality Community Reference Group will help it better understand and respond to air pollution in the area.
The group will bring together representatives from Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay and Brimbank councils to examine the new air-quality monitoring program introduced in response to the West Gate Tunnel project.
But last week’s announcement has triggered a mixed response from community groups.
Don’t Destroy Millers Road and the Better West – Spotswood South Kingsville Residents Group, opponents of the West Gate Tunnel Project, argue pollution problems associated with the tunnel project are already being ignored.
The Maribyrnong Truck Action Group, which conditionally supports the project but wants tunnel filtration, has tentatively backed the new group.
MTAG president Sam McArthur said the attention on air quality in Melbourne’s inner west was welcome, but air quality and health experts must have a strong voice on the reference group.
Ms McArthur said Maribyrnong adolescent asthma rates were 50 per cent higher than the Victorian average and the area had the highest hospital admissions rate for respiratory illness in Victoria for children aged three to 19.
“This population shouldn’t have to pay for the state’s heavy freight load with its health,” she said. “It’s absolutely critical the people involved in this are health experts – our major concern is that this is going to be a panel stacked with representatives of the bureaucracies that are part of the problem.”
Better West argues the reference group is asking the community to solve a problem of the government’s making, given the tunnel project will be adding to pollution in and around Brooklyn.
Don’t Destroy Millers Road spokesman Chris Dunleavy said the project is being proposed as a solution to get trucks off Yarraville roads, but in doing so it transfers the health problem to Millers Road.
“The Brooklyn residential area already has the worst air quality in Victoria,” he said.
Don’t Destroy Millers Road has written on open letter to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews outlining its concerns and calling for a halt to the project until traffic management issues and impacts on the air quality and liveability for Brooklyn residents have been addressed.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the new reference group gave the inner west community a chance to have its voices heard.
Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said the group followed his campaign to create cleaner air in the inner west.
“I’m pleased the establishment of this group will help further improve air quality in our region.”