Opinion/Comment, Politics

The election and the by-pass; Conversations, ‘scuttlebutt’ and more questions

The Coffs Coast Outlook recently had another discussion with several civil engineers and quantity surveyors both retired and currently working about what they thought was driving decisions on the proposed Coffs Harbour bypass.

By The Editor

And surprise, surprise it came down to money! 

Not vast differentials of money mind you. But budget constraints due to arbitrary figures that don’t take into account the cost of moving many, many tonnes of rock for trenches as wide as 350 meters in place. See below for more on this.

Kevin Hogan’s flyers in Page say that he and fellow National state members have secured $1.2bn to ensure tunnels are included

What transpired was that these professionals were very much of the view that the Connell Wagner 2008 bypass report was an extremely comprehensive and thoroughly expert document prepared by a highly professional organisation which came up with a figure of tunnels costing $100m more.

This seems to equate with a figure from the ALP’s shadow spokesperson on Infrastructure Anthony Albanese’s office that we are aware of. The figure from that source is that three tunnels equates to $300m in 2019 figures.

Gurmesh Singh ran in the recent state election on a promise of tunnels for the bypass

We have been told that Connell Wagner would have taken into consideration the cost of materials and the costs of transporting those materials, the costs of maintenance and the costs associated with actually also building the three tunnel design as opposed to the cuttings, or trenches,  concept.  

The sources spoken to for this story believe that the RMS would’ve discovered by now that Connell Wagner were correct. The costs of moving and processing millions of tonnes of rock from those unsightly cuttings, to be used on the job are astronomical.

But those spoken to also believe everything pertaining to the bypass is being driven by a figure arguably “plucked out of the air”.  A figure the sources spoken to believe was done without a real empirical study, or deep reference to and understanding of, Connell Wagner’s report.  

It’s a figure probably produced by a ‘bean counter’ in State Treasury. This figure is believed to be $1.2 billion by those spoken to for this article.

So as a result the RMS are probably having trouble meeting the $1.2B budget. With one engineer believing that the RMS couldn’t get it below $1.4B.

Connell Wagner are highly unlikely to be wrong. The tunnels and a lower grade line that the electors of Cowper were originally promised only cost $100m dollars more according to the Connell Wagner 2008 CH Bypass Report.

And what’s happened since Connell Wagner did their peer reviewed estimates? Not much, except for CPI increases.  Which may, in turn, explain Mr Albanese’s figure.

So according to those spoken to for this story the tunnel costs shouldn’t be as extreme as some with possible unexplained ulterior motives are currently suggesting.   

The cost of the tunnels really shouldn’t be an issue is what is being inferred here.

Election/bypass questions and ‘scuttlebutt’?

  • Is it true that the RMS has very quietly purchased land near Gately’s Road for the bypass?  And is it also true that this is where a 350m wide trench is being planned to be blasted through the countryside in spite of electors being told that the money is there for tunnels by the National Party candidate’s  for Cowper and Page? (See links below)
Did Deputy PM’s mixed messages about not being able to guarantee tunnels cause deep unease among local National Party members?
  • Is it true that the mixed messages  being sent by local National Party candidates conflict with the lack of commitment given by Deputy PM Michael McCormack on the Coffs Coast last week?  Is it also true Mr McCormack’s ambivalence has caused deep unease and dissatisfaction among local National Party members?  Is it also the case that these members have asked the Prime Minister to clarify issues around the bypass before the election as a result?
Things don’t seem to align between what Mr McCormack is saying and what local National Party candidates are saying
  • Is it true polling in the seat of Page shows the bypass issue to be gaining resonance around the Northern Beaches of Coffs Harbour and in the Orara Valley too?
  • Does internal polling of Cowper by the major parties show that on a two party preferred basis that there is currently nothing but a ‘statistical margin of error’ between Pat Conaghan (National) and Rob Oakeshott (Independent)?    Mr Oakeshott has tweeted as recently as Monday 6 May that the bypass issue is being raised time and again by voters in Cowper at door stops and at pre-polling.


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Details about the editor, staffing and the background and aims of the Coffs Coast Outlook can be found here.

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