Towns at a crossroads
A NEW era is dawning for the riverside towns of Woodburn, Broadwater and Wardell as construction of the highway bypass looms.
At a public meeting on Thursday night at Evans Head, residents were told that now was the time to start thinking about that future, even though the new bypass could be years away.
Bob Higgins from the Grafton office of Roads and Maritime Services told the assembled crowd of nearly 40 people that, based on history, the towns and villages that anticipated what business would be like after a new bypass generally fared better than those who left it up to fate.
"It is all about timing on how well you can capitalise from the bypass," he said.
Richmond Valley Council manager John Walker said his council was "open for business" and eager to play a part in promoting Woodburn, Broadwater, Coraki and Evans Head but needed ongoing, sustained interest from community drivers.
"We need strong chambers of commerce," he said.
"The message we are getting is that it is never too early to plan for a bypass."
Mr Higgins would not be drawn on when work would start, saying only that previous projects must be completed first - including Ballina to the border, Raleigh to Woolgoolga and Port Macquarie to Raleigh.
Current government funding includes $600 million set aside to prepare for the 155km Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade and Mr Higgins said that would be spent buying the remaining 200 properties that lie in the way, carrying out geotechnical surveys, baseline environmental studies and preloading soft soils.
Mr Higgins told the group businesses could expect a surge during construction and a downturn after.
With service centres planned for Ballina and Maclean, there would be no reason to stop for fuel at Woodburn, so the town had to reinvent itself, he said.