Nats push for highway rethink
By RENEE FORD
NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner met cane growers this week to discuss the preferred route option for the Wells Crossing to Iluka Pacific Highway upgrade.
Mr Stoner, the Member for Oxley, and Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell assured cane farmers that the State Opposition will lobby the Iemma Government to protect more than 300 hectares of prime agricultural land north of the Harwood Bridge.
The land will be 'destroyed' if the Roads and Traffic Authority's (RTA) preferred route for the highway upgrade proceeds without any refinement, Mr Stoner said.
"The RTA's preferred route will destroy farms and harm the productivity of the Harwood mill and refinery," Mr Stoner, who also met with Clarence Valley Council mayor Ian Tiley yesterday, said.
"I am convinced the RTA has ignored the sugar industry. "They stand to lose up to 500 hectares of sugar land and that will affect the viability of the Harwood mill, it's one of the Valley's biggest employers."
Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell said he would make representations in State Parliament next week and ask the Government to reconsider the route.
Mr Cansdell said he was convinced the RTA could work out a compromise
"We need to see if there is a solution where we can minimise the impact on the rural sector," Mr Cansdell said.
Clarence Cane Growers Association president Vince Castle said this loss 'has the potential to render the industry unviable'.
Mr Castle has arranged for the RTA to meet with cane growers tomorrow night at the Maclean Civic Hall to discuss potential changes to the preferred route option.
"The RTA remains committed to working together with property owners and the cane industry to further minimise the impacts of the new highway on cane land," an RTA spokesperson said.