VIDEO: Handshake plea over highway upgrade
RESIDENTS met with Roads and Maritime Services staff on at Meerschaum Vale Hall on Saturday for a tense two hour agenda taking in fears over dust, noise, vibration and water impacts expected by the incoming Pacific Highway Upgrade.
A moderator oversaw sixteen landowners pitch questions at senior roads planner at the meeting, also attended by Ballina MP Tamara Smith.
Meerschaum Vale home owners expressed their frustration at moving to the region for "quiet and peace" 30 years ago, only to have a four lane highway planned to cut through their rural town.
Some residents also expressed disappointment only eight land owners had been bought out by the RMS to make way for the highway.
"This highway is going to come right through our area and we know it's out of your control whether we get compensated," one resident said.
"You only bought out eight homes and they're sitting there dilapidated; the snakes have moved in, and we've been left to live with the consequences.
"So you have to work with us, you have to do something to mitigate it."
Project general manager Robert Higgins admitted the purchase of homes by the RMS were largely finalised.
"They can always (apply), that's their option, that's why that process has been put in place," Mr Higgins said.
"You have to remember that we've been through an extensive acquisition process and that is for special circumstances."
Mr Higgins said noise mitigating construction materials for the highway were finalised, but would be 'looked at'.
"On sections of the highway, where we get a cluster of community people, there, we make a decision to put down what we call a low noise wearing surface on the top," Mr Higgins said.
"And what they're (residents) are asking is can you come back and consider that for particular sections here.
"What I made a commitment to is to go away to look at it."
RMS project leaders committed to return to Meerschaum Vale to respond in more detail to residents' concerns.
The RMS will also will improve communication with residents with a further document and project timeline.
Ms Smith welcomed the move but said she was considering calling for an enquiry into the RMS for its lack of consultation with residents in the lead up to the project.
"The RMS and Pacific Complete has acknowledged that their standards for public consultation and communication really has not been very good and they made a commitment today to address that," Ms Smith said.
"In the world of private litigation you'd be able to address that, but because this is state significant infrastructure people feel powerless."
Ms Smith claimed an alternative route, to reduce the impact on residents and koala habitat, was possible.