A STATE Government MP has contradicted his own Transport Minister and confused Colac Otway Shire Council after calling for Colac to decide on a bypass option.
Western Victoria Region MP Simon Ramsay told parliament this week that Colac urgently needed “a bypass option that complements the highway duplication”.
Mr Ramsay’s comments have baffled Colac Otway Shire Council but mayor Lyn Russell says she is pleased the MP has agreed that Colac needs a bypass and hopes he will support a campaign for $10 million funding for an investigation into the route.
Mr Ramsay’s speech implied the council was “dithering” on developing an option yet his fellow parliamentarian Polwarth MP and Transport Minister Terry Mulder told the council last year the government had no money for a Princes Highway bypass of Colac.
Mr Ramsay spoke critically of council “procrastination” since the 1930s regarding a bypass and called on the Transport Department to “help guide the council to a decision”.
“The Colac Otway Shire Council has been debating for decades on a preferred bypass option, whether it to be to the north, across the lake, to the south through the industrial precinct or even through the established side streets. The latest bypass committee convened by the shire was abandoned due to a lack of consensus,” Mr Ramsay told parliament.
“The action I seek is for the minister or his representative meet with the Colac Otway Shire with the intention of progressing a bypass option that complements the highway upgrade and duplication.”
Cr Russell said the council agreed that deciding on a bypass route around Colac was important for the region’s future.
But she said the council “was confused by Mr Ramsay’s recent comments, which appear to contradict the position of his parliamentary colleague”.
“In 2012, council embarked on a process, in partnership with VicRoads and a reference group of community members, to identify an alternative heavy vehicle route around Colac in order to remove trucks from Murray Street,” Cr Russell said.
“The project’s focus turned to finding a bypass route around Colac, because it became obvious that any alternative route around Colac would effectively be used as a bypass, and a longer-term strategic approach was required.
“A bypass is a significant infrastructure project, and the delivery of such would be the responsibility of the State Government.”
Cr Russell said the State Government would lead a decision on the bypass route in consultation with council.
“Council has had verbal confirmation from the regional director of VicRoads to that end, and has written to VicRoads seeking a written confirmation of this position,” she said.
“We understand that VicRoads does not currently have funding available to begin investigations, however we welcome the opportunity to be involved in the process once it does commence, particularly in the community consultation aspects of the project.
“VicRoads has indicated that it could cost in excess of $10 million just to get a bypass route incorporated into Colac Otway’s planning scheme.”
“As such, we would like to see the project get priority status and funding at a state level for the preparatory investigations.”
Mr Mulder, in response to Mr Ramsay’s speech, said he was “happy to hear the shire’s views on where a future bypass or heavy vehicle alternative route could be located”.
“I encourage the shire to work with VicRoads on the planning.”