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Emergency health crisis declared by Inner West council

Maribyrnong Council in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs has declared a health emergency in response to air and noise pollution caused by heavy trucks on local roads.


Image description: Trucks travelling down Yarraville’s Whitehall Street, Docklands Highway (Elisha Walker)

The council made the announcement in a statement last month, citing that hospitalisations and illnesses caused by air pollution have “considerably exceeded 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,” the statement said.


Maribyrnong roads are throughways for many of Victoria's most popular trucking routes, with an estimated 12 million trucks travelling through the municipality every year. Maribyrnong’s industrial areas are distinctly close to local homes and schools, making resident’s increasingly concerned about the health and safety effects of truck pollution.


President of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group Martin Wurt said that “the community has been screaming out for change for 23 years now”.


“The trucks are impacting us in so many ways, there’s noise pollution, there’s air pollution, there’s safety and amenities issues,” he said.


Maribyrnong residents are 40% more likely to be hospitalised for asthma and 60% more likely to be hospitalised for heart failure than the average Australian.


“If you look at the average population of the city of Maribyrnong, we’re quite a young demographic. We have low smoking rates, we have below average obesity rates, so we should not have those other illnesses at such high rates,” said Mr Wurt.


“The difference between us and our neighbours is the amount of trucks running through here,” he said.


The Maribyrnong Truck Action group recently reached out to Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas regarding their concerns for Maribyrnong residents. The group was then told that their issues don’t concern the Health Portfolio.


“How can you, as health minister, say you've got no responsibility for a city that's declared a health emergency because of air pollution?” said Mr Wurt.


Greens Councillor Bernadette Thomas moved the motion to declare an emergency health crisis and said that the community has been raising concerns regarding truck pollution “for a long time”.


“The government, who has all of the levers to change things, really needs to start taking [truck pollution] seriously. They've known about it for a longtime, but we need them to act.”


While truck curfews have been in place in the Inner West since 2015, Cr Thomas said the amount of exemptions granted “really needs to be limited.”


Over a quarter of Australia’s truck fleet doesn't meet emissions standards for newly registered trucks. These older vehicles emit over 60 times more pollutants than newer trucks of comparable size and power.


Cr Thomas is calling on the government to enforce existing truck curfews, take older trucks off roads and implement new low emissions zones in Maribyrnong.


“We want to see a response that outlines what actions the government is going to take and when,” she said.

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