Cool reception for the Summerland way
By ALEX EASTON firstname.lastname@example.org
ROADS Minister Joe Tripodi yesterday rubbished Ballina MP Don Page's plan to move the Pacific Highway onto the Summerland Way, even as he promised to seriously consider it.
Within hours of a meeting with Mr Page, Lismore MP Thomas George and Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Mr Tripodi was on the attack, accusing them of delaying the upgrade and going against the community on the issue.
In what they described as a cordial meeting, the MPs told Mr Tripodi that putting the highway onto the Summerland Way and building a new road from Casino to the coast near Bangalow would cut the cost of the upgrade by one third, protect high-value agricultural land, and provide a major arterial link between the coast, Lismore and Casino.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Tripodi said he would ask for a preliminary examination on the inland route, ahead of doing the analysis.
However, he attacked the plan, saying it would not solve traffic or safety problems on the existing highway, could further delay the upgrade, and went against the wishes of the community.
Even if it were diverted onto the Summerland Way, the existing highway would still need to be upgraded to cope with tourist traffic and population growth, he said.
"Communities on the highway have said they want their road upgraded to A-grade standard," Mr Tripodi said.
"Communities do need that up- grade. They do need that massive investment. ... There's big population growth on the coast now and there's more coming."
He said investigating the route would also stall planning for the highway upgrades, which could delay the whole project.
Mr Tripodi singled out Mr George for criticism, saying: "It's peculiar because it's never happened before ? a local MP saying 'put interstate trucks through my electorate'.
"We've already had the mayor of Casino object to having this proposal going through his area."
Mr George said putting the highway on the Summerland Way could bring major benefits to the region, by replacing the LismoreBangalow Road as a major commuter and freight road and by giving freight-reliant businesses in Lismore and Casino easy access to the highway.
"I make no apologies for doing or supporting what I have," he said. "I have been in businesses here that depend on heavy transport and I have no hesitation about this."
Mr Cansdell accused Mr Tripodi of acting unprofessionally, saying the three MPs had entered and left yesterday's meeting with an attitude of respect towards Mr Tripodi and were disappointed that it had not been returned.
"We went to see him because we could see cost savings and benefits. You'd think he'd be smart enough that would be worth looking at," Mr Cansdell said. "He's been given a position as a minister and he's abused his position to make a political bun-fight."