Compelling and perpetuating: how an unpopular infrastructure project stayed alive in an era of public consultation

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The East West Tunnel, an AUD5.3 billion contract signed 29 September 2014 between the State of Victoria, Australia and East West Connect consortium, will not be going ahead under the new government elected in November 2014. The project was defeated because the community used their electoral power to revoke the right of the sovereign who had selected the project to conduct it. That is, the community elected an alternative government that would not support the project. This revoking of sovereign power was a last resort, after the community failed to compel the stopping of the unpopular project during community consultation processes. Several papers have already begun to document the process of community action through which this project was brought down. However the mentalities which brought the project into being in the first place are less well known. This paper documents this case study of a failed mega project, uncovering the knowledge, technology and rationality which combined to bring the project into being – and to sustain its existence despite widespread unpopularity and community objection. The paper uses Sturup’s (2010) understanding mentalities of mega projects to tease out how this project was selected, and supported, even to the point of electoral loss. It focuses on the government and private-sector actors and their stakes in keeping the project alive and maintaining their right to decide which projects should occur. In doing so it validates and expands our understanding of the features of the art of government of mega projects.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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