Community goes first in highway forum

ALL roads, including the Pacific Highway, lead to today's 'There must be a better way' regional community forum at Grafton High School's multi-purpose centre.

At least several hundred community representatives, trucking company owners or managers, and local and State politicians will discuss highway upgrade routes and alternative inland freight options.

The forum starts at noon with a roster of speakers from coastal communities as diverse as Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga, Swan Creek/Ulmarra, Pillar Valley, Tucabia, James Creek, Harwood, Ballina and Newrybar.

The trucking industry perspective then will be given and politicians will respond. Individual speakers will be strictly limited to a maximum of five minutes to give everyone a fair go.

NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast Don Page will be given more time to flesh out his plan for a possible upgrade of the Summerland Way between Grafton and Bangalow. So too will NSW Roads Minister Joe Tripodi's nominated representative from the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority.

Other confirmed speakers are Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell, CVC mayor Cr Ian Tiley, Member for Lismore Thomas George, Coffs Harbour mayor Keith

Rhoades, and Clarence councillor Chris Gulaptis. Tendering their apologies already are NSW Premier Morris Iemma, Mr Tripodi, Federal Member for Page Ian Causley, Mills Transport owner Reg Mills, Herb Blanchard Haulage owner Robert Blanchard, Clarence Valley councillor Richie Williamson, and Grafton business leader Des Harvey.

The forum will be chaired by Daily Examiner editor Peter Ellem, and moderated by Northern Star editor Russell Eldridge. Coffs Coast Advocate senior writer Craig McTear will head up coverage of the forum, which is scheduled to finish at 2.30pm.

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