Margaret Oldham addresses the forum.
Margaret Oldham addresses the forum.

RTA highway boss hears ?the will of the people

BY CRAIG MCTEAR

MAJOR flooding, flora and fauna devastation, the loss of prime farming land and lives turned upside down.

These were some of the catastrophic predictions at the 'There Must Be A Better Way' community highway forum in Grafton yesterday.

Passions erupted over Pacific Highway route options from Wells Crossing to Iluka Road, but Coffs Harbour and Ballina residents were also worried about where planners wanted to take the highway in their areas.

Speakers who slammed a major motorway slicing through the North Coast won support among the 100-strong crowd.

Tucabia representative David Pinnells said three of the four route options between Wells Crossing and Iluka Road would lead to increased noise and pollution, local flooding, and hurt lifestyles and the natural environment.

"We don't want a motorway-standard road which carves through part of the largest and undisturbed coastal region of NSW, just to provide the shortest route," he said.

Wayne Evans, from Coffs Harbour's Bypass Action Network, said immediate reductions in fatal highway accidents in the Coffs Harbour area would not happen until the Iemma Government made interstate heavy vehicles use the New England Highway, and reduced speed limits to 80km/h on non-dual carriageway.

"The best way to preserve our roads is to put less heavy vehicles on them," Mr Evans said.

"Fixing the rail network will significantly enhance the value of the money we're putting into roads.

"At the same time, it will save fuel and reduce emissions."

Jim Albert, of Four Mile Lane south of Grafton, said route A, the most western of the proposed routes, would increase noise and flooding levels.

"We say no to Option A. Let's keep our heads above the water," he said.

Swan Creek and Ulmarra residents' spokesman, Trevor Want, said this western route would affect flood heights.

"It will be a flood levee as well as a road," Mr Want said.

"It will take all the high ground from Swan Creek to Tyndale, the best agricultural land. It will destroy four dairy businesses and there'll be major flooding on three others."

Phil Hazell, from Pillar Valley, said all four options would result in a large motorway cutting through the Clarence Valley.

"Three times more lives will be lost by taking an eastern option," Mr Hazell said.

"We call for an A-class upgrade of the existing highway."

Harwood's John Wade said residents were upset that 'all options go through our place'.

"The main concern is the destruction or removal of houses and buildings and the impact on land and property values," he said.

"No consideration has been given to bypassing the village."

Newrybar's Tony Gilding said locals didn't want a 'six-lane motorway up the North Coast', and he foreshadowed a highway blockade between Ballina and Grafton.

Jack Harper, from the Ballina area, said the RTA was not being open and transparent in its consultations and that people were being asked to accept a motorway through the region.

Clarence Valley resident Judy Pigg argued for a new highway, while Bradley Sharp, who has homes in Sandy Beach and Pillar Valley, said a renewed focus on the Summerland Way was the 'way to go'.



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