Highway forum blasted

CONSERVATIONISTS believe a Pacific Highway workshop at Angourie later this week is a waste of time and money.

The workshop, called by the Roads and Traffic Authority, will consider a Clarence Valley section of the proposed highway upgrade.

North Coast Environment Council secretary John Jeayes said yesterday it appeared that the public would have no say at this forum on the environmental impacts of the Wells Crossing to Iluka Road Pacific Highway upgrade.

"Despite the inclusion of some ecologists of undoubted expertise and integrity, there are only one or two non-government associated representatives with some environmental background," Mr Jeayes said.

"There are over 33 representatives at the workshop."

The environment council, which represents more than 40 groups on the North Coast, has been refused permission to join the value management workshop on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Angourie Rainforest Resort.

Mr Jeayes said the council wanted to send a representative but the RTA had refused.

The council also was concerned that the RTA had withheld flora, fauna data and heritage information.

The council had written to the RTA, asking for a postponement of the value management workshop so that information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act could be disseminated and studied.

"When local people appealed for help to the council, that body was also refused the information, so it applied under the Freedom of Information legislation," Mr Jeayes said.

"Constant delays and excuses led to the supply of that information taking a ridiculous total of 85 days, when the legislation allowed only 21 days for compliance."

Mr Jeayes said he acknowledged two weeks should not be counted in the 85 days because the RTA required payment of an extra deposit.

He said the time taken for delivery meant the council and Clarence people did not have sufficient time to study the material.

Mr Jeayes said council had received complaints on land clearing from groups the length of the North Coast.

"The RTA has become the biggest broadscale clearer of vegetation and threatened species habitat on the North Coast," Mr Jeayes said.

"If a farmer did so much cumulative damage, the government would fine that farmer massively."

Mr Jeayes said he had pointed out to the RTA that the New South Wales Legislative Council Gardiner report stated:

'The RTA lacked candour in its dealings with its committee, and people in the community felt the RTA had made up its mind before the VMW at Ballina as to the preferred route, before the upgrade process even began and that much beautiful environmental and productive farmland would be wasted'.

"It is obvious that the RTA could not care less about the Legislative Council and will just roll on like a juggernaut," Mr Jeayes said.

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