Council declares health emergency
Published on 17 May 2023
Maribyrnong City Council has declared a health emergency in its municipality - citing the impacts of air and noise pollution from heavy trucks using local roads.
Rates of illness and hospitalisation in the municipality due to air pollution are reported to considerably exceed the Australian average. Council believes this is in part due to the exhaust from heavy trucks, which contains particulate matter, being blown directly into resident’s homes day in and day out from morning to night.
Particulate matter are tiny pieces of solids or liquids that include dust, dirt, soot, or smoke that can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and cause problems for younger and older residents specifically those with pre-existing conditions, like asthma.
The World Health Organisation recognises there is no safe level of exposure to these particulates, which respiratory illness expert, Dr Louis Irving, has been quoted as saying are particularly dangerous for children who “are at risk of diminished lung capacity as adults” given the rate of exposure we see in Footscray.
A heavy truck curfew was introduced on some city roads in 2015, after many years of community campaigning, but Mayor, Cr Sarah Carter, said a lack of monitoring and enforcement has undermined its efficacy as a protective measure.
“Our residents tell us at least as many heavy trucks are using residential streets now, as they did before the curfew was introduced.”
This includes Road Trains carrying concrete casings for the construction of the West Gate Tunnel Project who are being allowed to drive through Footscray, during curfew, which Mayor Carter said “further erodes their value and poses further health risks to our local community.”
Council is writing to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Melissa Horne, requesting State Government take proactive steps to immediately reduce the number of heavy trucks using residential streets in the municipality by monitoring and enforcing current curfews and their conditions.
It also wants the Government to start monitoring the health effects on residents from the heavy truck movements.
Mayor Carter said Council appreciates recent moves by Minister Horne, in response to Council’s ongoing advocacy in this space, to help manage these issues specifically on Moore Street.
This includes: requesting increased on-road compliance and surveillance and enforcement from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) during curfew periods. Government is also installing new crossings, stopping points at traffic lights at the intersection with Hopkins Street and reducing speeds from 50km/hr to 40km/hr by the end of April 2023.
Council is anticipating follow-up conversations, specifically around Government’s response to recommendations in the Footscray Transport Advisory Group (FTAG’s) 10 Point Plan - Bring Back the Footscray Truck Curfew: Practical and Immediate Measures to Protect Our Community’s Health in the coming weeks.
Signs and cameras designed to make drivers of A-Double and B-Double trucks more aware of the areas they are not permitted to travel through, and times when restrictions are in place, were also erected on Somerville and Williamstown roads last September - with more planned for Geelong Road, and Francis, Moore, Whitehall and part of Hyde Street.
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