MARCH ON RTA
By EMMA CORNFORD firstname.lastname@example.org
TEMPERS ran just as high as the temperature in Market Square yesterday, culminating in a vocal protest at the Roads and Traffic Authority office in Prince Street.
Around 150 Clarence Valley residents, most from Pillar Valley, were at the square to rally against proposed Pacific Highway upgrade routes, holding placards criticising the RTA; "It's so full of holes you could drive a semi through it", "Planners need 2020 vision" and the telling "No way, RTA".
The meeting came the day after the RTA agreed to extend the public submission deadline from November 18 to December 2, but according to rally organiser and Pillar Valley resident Phil Hazell, the two-week extension is 'nowhere near' enough time for people to make adequate submissions.
"With the size, scope and money they're proposing to spend on this, there's no way in the world they should be looking at such a short time frame for public submissions," he said.
"I would think it shouldn't be any sooner than February or March next year, to make sure they can get together a serious options report ... with actual on-the-ground research."
Environmental, social and economic issues were all broached by the speakers, including concerns that the construction of a motorway through Pillar Valley would decimate the habitat and cause the extinction of the Eastern Coastal Emu, of which there are only 100 left.
"What are all our politicians sitting underneath on the coat of arms? The emu, and this could see it go," said one speaker, Pillar Valley resident Pauline Jackson.
"I'm sick of extinction ... and I'm sick of money being the excuse. We need to think of this as a bigger issue than just our individual losses."
Coffs Harbour State Member Andrew Fraser, recently suspended from Parliament after he attacked Roads Minister Joe Tripodi over the highway issue, called for the Clarence Valley community to 'stick together'.
"You can't afford to be divided over this because that's what the RTA wants -- that's how they'll win," he said.
At the conclusion of the speakers, a group of the protesters marched to the RTA office in Prince Street, making their message known as they chanted 'No way, RTA'.
Blocking the footpath they continued their chant until the RTA General Manager of the Pacific Highway Development Office,