BRIDGING THE GAP - PT IV: Highway planners take wrong option

HOW did this freeway balls-up occur? Let's peek into the past.

The first (?) plan for the freeway from Coffs Harbour north came out in 2005. It provided four options for the section from Halfway Creek to Iluka, using the existing Harwood bridge for northbound and a new bridge for southbound.

Option 1: Parallel the existing highway, except for a Grafton bypass. It's 69km long with 38km over floodplains.

Option 2: Turns north at eight mile lane to Tucabia, then meets the existing highway near Tyndale. It's 66km long including 13km over floodplains.

No Caption
No Caption Bill North

Option 3: Turns north near Wells Crossing and follows the western side of the Coastal Range before passing through the outskirts of Gulmarrad and James Creek. It's 60km long including 5km over floodplains.

Option 4: Turns north near Wells Crossing and follows the eastern side of the Coastal Range before passing east of Gulmarrad and James Creek. It's 60km long including 9km over floodplains.

From the length, cost, staying outside community boundaries and minimising farm crossings, even blind Freddie could see that the best option would have been Option 3, combined with Option 4's bypassing of Gulmarrad and James Creek. So what happened?

From documentation I was given there were two main reasons. An influential cattle property owner didn't want "no highway" near his property and our green rabble were adamant that the road couldn't go through a state forest or anywhere near any other self-proclaimed "critical" habitat.

So what are we getting? Option 2. It will be 6km longer, more expensive (flood plain roads are expensive), is still subject to 1-in-20 year flooding, has the most impact on grazing and cane farms, but does do a detour around the Pine Brush State Forest. And worst of all it splits an interdependent, growing community of 15,000 people in half.

And the evolution of the Clarence crossing at Harwood appears to be just as ridiculous, maybe even more so.

<< Click here for more information on RMS plans for the Pacific Highway upgrade >>

In 'Gaps III' I wrote that "whoever it was in the CVC who signed off on the current shemozzle should be tarred, feathered and run out of town". A councillor has made it clear to me that this was an inappropriate comment because, as it was controlled by the RMS, the CVC had no say in the matter.

Really! So a farmer and the Greens were able to dictate where the road went, but our council couldn't say boo?

Back in 2005 the council should have employed a visionary group whose sole task was to ensure that the best highway solution for the Valley and its people was achieved, and to develop projects within the valley to take advantage of the new highway when it was built. They didn't.

So between the council, the Greens (is there a difference?) and the RMS, which has ignored its own rules, the Valley and it's people have been well and truly dudded.

John Ibbotson, Gulmarrad



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