Updated | Nationalist Party wants ERA chairman to resign over Central Link Project vote

The party accused Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak was doing what the government wanted him to

The Nationalist Party has called for Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak to resign in wake of Planning Board vote last week which approved permits for the controversial Central Link Project.   

The project was approved with just three votes against, with Axiak voting in favour, despite the authority he represents having raised serious concerns about the €30 million project’s environmental impact.

In fact, an Environment Impact Assessment carried out last year had warned that the project will result in the permanent loss of 48,466sq.m of good quality agricultural land, and the uprooting of 549 trees, 272 of which are protected by law.

The project will also see a number of historic structures in the vicinity of the chapel of St Paul Shipwrecked are proposed to be demolished.

“Not only did the person whose role it is to protective the interests of the environment remain silent for the whole hour meeting, but he also voted in favour of the destruction,” PN environment spokesperson Jason Azzopardi said.

He said that Axiak’s vote clearly showed how he was looking out doing the government’s bidding, making his position “untenable”.

“Prof. Victor Axiak had an opportunity to show that he and the authority he runs are truly independent from the government and building contractors,” Azzopardi said. “He had a unique opportunity to challenge the government and show his long-term vision for addressing the issue of emissions from traffic, but he chose to remain silent.”

Speaking to MaltaToday last week, Axiak said that his vote was in the national interest.

He claimed that nothing that was said during Thursday meeting of the Planning Authority board had convinced him to depart from the “reasoning” behind ERA ‘s final report – in which “it did not object to the project”.

“Whenever I speak it is the end of the world and if I don’t, it is also the end of the world,” Axiak commented when questioned about his uncharacteristic silence, with his only intervention being to raise his hand in favour of the project.

Nationalist Party never changes - PL 

Reacting to the PN’s statements, the Labour Party described the request for ERA chairman Victor Axiak to resign as the reflection of a party which ‘refuses to change’ and one which ‘lacks credibility’.

“While from time to time, the PN quotes reports from ERA to substantiate its arguments, now it wants Victor Axiak to resign because it doesn’t agree with him on the Central Link project,” the PL said in a statement.

Labour said the PN wanted to remove Axiak despite the fact that he was known for his integrity and knowledge.

The proposed project, it said, was different to that which had been proposed by the Nationalist Party in that it was more ‘environmentally just’. 

“The Nationalist Party doesn’t change, you either agree with it or it wants your head,” the PL said.

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