COLLISION COURSE: Iluka and Woombah residents gather near the site of a proposed asphalt plant near the Iluka turnoff. They are unhappy about the traffic problems and the lack of consultation over the location of the plant.
COLLISION COURSE: Iluka and Woombah residents gather near the site of a proposed asphalt plant near the Iluka turnoff. They are unhappy about the traffic problems and the lack of consultation over the location of the plant. Adam Hourigan

Fight over highway asphalt plant

OVER the past few days, the community of Woombah has been a hive of activity. Emails bouncing back and forth, letters written and many phone calls made to rally the residents.

As some gathered yesterday morning on the makeshift intersection at Iluka Rd that takes them towards the Pacific Highway, they were keen to point out they are not against the upgrade of the Pacific Highway.

What they're not happy about is an asphalt batching plant being built right near their houses, using their only connecting road to the villages.

"We want the highway, and we want the asphalt plant to be somewhere, but we want it to be away from our communities where it won't impact on our health and safety,” Woombah resident David Wilson said.

According to an RMS notification, the proposed temporary asphalt site is due to start being built this month, with residents saying they have had two weeks' notice of the build, with the consultation period scheduled to end today.

"We live within one kilometre of the plant and we found out two weeks ago by letterbox drop,” Mr Wilson said.

"We found out last Wednesday they didn't tell anyone else.

"We've been around to other residents who are just outside the area and they had no idea the plant was coming at all.”

The plant will add a reported 500 truck moments and 100 car movements per day at peak, or one every minute, and residents are concerned the additional traffic will create safety problems, and a bottleneck at their intersection, which they already describe as "tight” after it was temporarily re-routed.

They also cite concerns over possible health affects the dust may cause for nearby residents.

"We have residents as close as 450 metres from the plant who are suffering from lung cancer,” Mr Wilson said.

"Although Pacific Complete have been made aware of this, since they were first told they have failed to take action to acknowledge her.”

Mr Wilson said that with 155km of highway being built, there was plenty of room for the asphalt plant to go, and said that a move to the western side of the highway would improve the plan.

In order to build the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade, Roads and Maritime and its contract partners need to build a number of batch plants close to the project to produce concrete and asphalt for the remaining 126 kilometres of new dual carriageway.

A Roads and Maritime spokesperson said given the issues being raised by the local community, they are extending the period for community feedback on the proposal by two weeks to Wednesday July 18.

"The proposal is not approved and is currently undergoing environmental assessment including the assessment of any potential impacts such as traffic, noise and air quality,” they said.

In addition, the project team plan to hold a drop-in information session for the community to become better informed about the proposal, explain how the impacts will be mitigated and answer any questions about the operation of the temporary plant. Details about the drop in session will be advised to the community shortly.

"Community feedback will be one of a number of considerations in deciding the location and design of the plant,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the batch plant, which is currently planned to be on the eastern side of the existing highway about 700 metres north of the former Iluka Road turnoff, would only be used until mid 2020 and then be demobilised and removed.



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