EDE campaign heats up on Facebook

THE campaign for and against the Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) has branched out onto social media, and is becoming increasingly bitter with claims of posts being deleted by page admins who disagree with their content.

The anti-EDE campaign is represented on Facebook by the 'Stop the Ellerton Drive Extension in Queanbeyan' page, administered by the Queanbeyan Conservation Alliance. It currently has around 360 'likes'.

The pro-EDE camp is represented by the 'Ellerton Drive Extension for Queanbeyan' page, which has around 900 likes. This page contains no details on who administers it or how to contact them, stating only that the page "is developed and administered by interested community members, and is not produced or authorised by Queanbeyan City Council."

Several residents who opposed the proposed link road have contacted The Queanbeyan Age this week complaining that their posts on the pro-EDE page that questioned the need for the road have been deleted. The number of posts liked on the pro-EDE page by Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall and his political supporters, as well as some Queanbeyan Council and CIC Australia staff has also led some to spectulate that the Mayor's camp is funding and administering the page. However The Age asked Mayor Overall whether he was adminstering the page this week and he said "no we are not."

"As you well know it's not beyond the community to set up their own options for having their voices heard," Cr Overall said.

The Age also asked Cr Trudy Taylor, who worked on the earlier 'Cinemas for Queanbeyan' Facebook page, whether she was involved with the pro-EDE page however she said she was not.

Some Queanbeyan Councillors have said they're also concerned about a lack of transparency around who's running the online campaign page for the EDE, which states that its aim is to "allow Queanbeyan/Jerrabomberra community members who support the Ellerton Drive Extension to publicly and freely express their support, without being ridiculed or shouted down as has occurred in other public fora."

Given both Facebook pages are 'sponsored', meaning money has been paid to Facebook to promote and broaden the reach of the pages, it's impossible to determine from the outside how many of each pages 'likes' are genuine Queanbeyan residents interested in the issue and how many have been purchased from Facebook. The Queanbeyan Age put this question to the anti-EDE campaign team, and Conservation Alliance member Katrina Willis said their group had "funded promotion but not sponsorship for our EDE campaign Facebook page."

The Age also attempted to contact whoever administers the pro-EDE page via a post to their page however no response was recieved.

Cr Kenrick Winchester, who opposes the EDE, said more balance was needed in the Facebook campaigns on the EDE.

"I have no issue with people providing information on the proposed road, however that information should be balanced, and anyone who looks at both pages will see that there is definitely not a balanced approach to the pro-EDE page," Cr Winchester said.

Cr Brian Brown said the Facebook pages represented the "new paradigm" of public discussion, but said "we cannot ignore the fact that these organisations should still be held accountable. In respect to Local Government even more so."

Meanwhile, Mayor Overall maintained there was strong, genuine support for the EDE within the Queanbeyan community.

"In the 2012 election I very publicly stated my position on the community's stated aim of dealing with Queanbeyan's increasing traffic issues including the EDE.

"Having received 55 per cent of the primary vote for Mayor... I would suggest there is mandate to go forward with this matter."

*The pro-EDE Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/ellertondrive and its rival page run by the Qbn Conservation Alliance is at www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-the-Ellerton-Drive-Extension-in-Queanbeyan/389755134466894.