By ADRIAN MILLER and EMMA CORNFORD
THE expansion of the study area for the Pacific Highway upgrade is causing concern among Gulmarrad residents who fear the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is leaning towards a preferred route through their area.
Taloumbi resident and member of the Community Liaison Group, Alex McCartney, said his personal view was that constructing a highway through the area would have a detrimental impact on residents' lifestyles and the environment.
"This really is a pristine wildlife area around here and ... it's full of animals, especially the coastal emu and they're only in a really small area in New South Wales," Mr McCartney said. "There's not many of them left and a road would run right through their migration area."
Mr McCartney was also concerned that residents had only been sent a small map which did not clearly identify properties which would be affected by the preferred route.
"It's only a foolscap size map covering Wells Crossing to Iluka so as you can imagine it's very difficult for people to identify properties," he said.
"They just changed the edge of the border about one kilometre east, about a month before the three preferred routes are going to be released, so it's really thrown people into it without much time to do anything."
Resident Louise Sheehan said with the study area expanding to include the town of Gulmarrad, locals were fearful the preferred route would be directed their way.
"The expansion of the study area hasn't gone down well at all, especially east of Brooms Head Road," she said.
"All those in Causley's Farm and all those other sub divisions on that side of the road will be very affected if it takes the easterly route."
Last month the RTA extended the study area of the highway upgrade, pushing the boundary east of Pine Brush Forest to include Gulmarrad. It raises the possibility of a new highway running directly from Harwood to Wells Crossing.
Mrs Sheehan said this expansion had many people worried about the environmental implications.
"I'm getting a lot of feedback from the Taloumbi community and they're very, very worried," she said.
"Most have large bush holdings and we see a lot of wildlife, so we're really worried about the threat to those species."
Brooms Head resident Pauline Jackson is one resident who is particularly concerned about the impacts of a highway on wildlife.
Mrs Jackson is circulating a petition in Tucabia, Townsend, Brooms Head and Angourie urging the RTA to take into account the effects a highway in such an area would have on the coastal emu.
Mrs Jackson said with only 80-100 coastal emus remaining, and the Clarence Valley the only remaining habitat for the bird on the eastern seaboard, a highway running from Harwood to Wells Crossing would lead to the extinction of the bird.
"It will be diabolical for their population if they push the motorway through the middle of their habitat," she said.
"This is basically the only place left in the world where they live, so if we don't stand up and protect this bird then no-one is and it's another large flightless bird that becomes extinct in our generation."
Any residents wanting to voice their concerns can contact Mr McCartney on 6645 4184.