Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson (front) with Richmond Valley mayor Col Sullivan.
Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson (front) with Richmond Valley mayor Col Sullivan.

Premier's snub not good enough

PREMIER Kristina Keneally is effectively disrespecting the families of Pacific Highway road victims by declining an invitation to drive the dangerous stretch of road between Coffs Harbour and Ballina, said two of the four mayors who prepared the invitation last week.

Speaking outside the Local Government Shires Association Division-A meeting in Grafton yesterday, Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson and Richmond Valley Mayor Col Sullivan slammed the snub.

They said the compromise on offer, a 15-minute meeting with Minister for State and Regional Development Ian Macdonald at Coffs Harbour, was far from adequate and did not recognise the importance of the issue.

“With all due respect to the Minister, he does know this area well, we really wanted the Premier to take this to COAG (Council of Australian Government) and make representations to the Prime Minister for urgent funding for this section of highway,” Cr Williamson said.

“This is a life and death situation here and it is a bitter disappointment to the four mayors involved. That the Premier is unable to find time between now and the State election (March 2011) to join us to travel this deadly stretch of highway is not good enough.

“She owes that to the people who’ve lost their lives and to the families of those killed on the highway. She also should say thank you to the emergency service personnel and the volunteers who are continually called to the highway to deal with these catastrophic events.”

Cr Sullivan said it was the first time in his 35 years on a council he had seen four councils so closely united on an issue.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades said he was disappointed the Premier ‘can’t find a day’.

“She has the opportunity to save the lives of potentially 200 people, many of them North Coast residents,” Cr Rhoades said.

Mayors from Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley sent letters to Ms Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, inviting them to see for themselves the poor condition of highway where an average of 20 lives are claimed every year.

The Daily Examiner received a statement from Ms Keneally’s office last night.

“The Premier has made it a priority to listen to the concerns of regional NSW during her time in office,” the statement read.

“She has visited eight different regional towns since becoming Premier in December 2009, including Tweed Heads twice. Minister for State and Regional Development, Ian Macdonald, is the Duty MLC for Coffs Harbour in the Upper House. He is well aware of local issues and he is aware of community concerns regarding the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina. The Premier has absolute faith in Minister Macdonald and greatly values his opinion – which is why she is also sending him to represent her in India and the Middle East in early March. The Premier looks forward to hearing back from Minister Macdonald on this important issue.”

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