VIEW FROM ABOVE: The Maclean interchange on the Pacific Highway upgrade is a work in progress.
VIEW FROM ABOVE: The Maclean interchange on the Pacific Highway upgrade is a work in progress.

LASTING REMINDER: A sting in the tale of Cowper

THIRTY years ago the Cowper bus disaster made international headlines.

But as time unfolded this tragic story has been quietly slipping from the nation's consciousness.

However, thanks to The Daily Examiner's six-part podcast series Cowper, one of Australia's worst road disasters will never be forgotten.

Coronial inquests into Cowper and the Clybucca bus crash two months later determined that these two disasters were not isolated events but simply the tip of the iceberg of hundreds of fatal incidents, symptomatic of a Pacific Highway not built for the volume of traffic it served.

NSW State Coroner Kevin Waller recommended the nation's busiest road be converted into dual-carriageway to negate head-on collisions.

What would you have done if you were in a position of political power when these recommendations were made?

Would you have denied a two cent price rise in petrol in return for protecting your life on a road most Australians will use at some stage in their lives.

Could you live with the conscience that you played political tug of war at the expense of at times 50 or more lives being lost every year there was inaction?

Those who listened to the first five episodes of this podcast would naturally be appalled to discover in the sixth episode that 21 years of inaction followed for this particular stretch of the highway.

Of course, thanks to the courage of more than 30 people, determined to preserve the memory of those lost and acknowledge those involved, we have the advantage of having heard the full story for the first time.

Evidently, the leaders at the time could choose to remove themselves from the human element and focus, as usual, on the short term bottom line. And as the noise died down, it became easier to ignore.

The final episode, titled Never Forget Us, explores the inexplicable inaction of governments for two decades, before common sense finally did prevail from 2011.

The end result is the scheduled opening of the last section of dual carriageway - ironically right here in the Clarence Valley - some time next year.

Better late than never, hey?



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