Local, Politics

ALP claims “National Party’s Coffs Harbour bypass ‘sham’ exposed.”

The National Party’s Coffs Harbour Bypass project has been revealed as being a sham with the NSW Government confirming that no actual “Preferred Concept Design Report” exists says ALP candidate for Cowper, Andrew Woodward..

Labor has obtained evidence via Government Information Public Access (previously known as Freedom of Information) that the “Summary Report” recently released on the “Preferred Concept Design” is based on a report that doesn’t exist.

Mr Woodward states that “it is now clear:

  • The announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister and NSW Minister for Roads on 24 September 2018 in Coffs Harbour was a fake announcement.
  • The public consultation displays and call for public submissions was a fake PR exercise.
  • The 24 page “Coffs Harbour Bypass Preferred Concept Design Summary Report” was a fake document.
  • The three scale models of the trenches that they had made at the cost of more than $100,000 were based on a report that doesn’t exist (and the models mysteriously disappeared after the first public display).

The people of Coffs and the Mid-North Coast have been lied to. They have been misinformed. They have been misled. Their time has been wasted. They have been hoodwinked.

An artists impression of what the bypass would look like with tunnels.

The chaos created by the National Party governments over this announcement has caused untold stress and division in the community and impacted property prices.

We already knew much of the work important work hadn’t been done, including reports on impacts concerning noise on residents, Aboriginal heritage, the natural environment and the built environment.

We have now learned the overarching piece of work hasn’t been done either – an actual report.

There is no “Coffs Harbour Bypass Preferred Concept Design Report” that the “Summary Report”, released as a glossy brochure on 24 September 2018, was based on.

We know this thanks to a GIPA application submitted by me to the NSW Government. GIPA is “Government Information Public Access”, more commonly known under its previous working name – Freedom of Information. I asked:

“On 24 September 2018, the Minister for Roads released the “Coffs Harbour Bypass preferred concept design summary report September 2018”. It is the first one listed on this page: https://www.pacifichighway.nsw.gov.au/document-library/coffs-harbour-bypass- preferred-concept-design-report. A previous “Concept Design Report” was released in 2008, and it ran 99 pages. The Summary Report released in 2018 runs only 24 pages. I would like to see the full report from 2018, that is, a copy of the full report that the “Summary Report” is based on.”

On Monday, 17 December 2019, Roads and Maritime Services head office in Sydney responded it had asked the RMS Northern Regional Office (based in Grafton) for the full report. The Grafton RMS Office is responsible for the Pacific Highway project. A senior RMS official in Sydney responded:

“I decided under section 58(1)(b) of the GIPA Act that the requested information is not held by Roads and Maritime Services. The Northern Regional Office advise me that there is no other report. The 2018 summary report was drafted to provide the community with more information about the design and the project; information that could not be included in a community update. It is not based on another report and is not a ‘summary’ of another report.”

(Emphasis added)

The final sentence is damning – the Summary Report “is not based on another report and is not a ‘summary’ of another report”.

In other words – it was all just a fake PR exercise to get the National Party to the election.

The 2008 Report contained three tunnels in the design. In the 2018 “Summary Report”, the tunnels disappeared without credible explanation of who made the decision, when and why. Instead, they inserted three higher, noisier, uglier and dirtier trenches that will leave a social, environmental and economic scar on Coffs Harbour forever.

The truth is that this project was 12 months off being ready for release. It was rushed forward in the May budget this year for a possible federal election in August. When that passed, the PR sham continued in an effort to gear up for PR announcements leading up to the federal and NSW elections in the first half of 2019.

The National Party owes the people of Coffs Harbour and the Mid-North Coast an explanation and an apology.

“The National Party should stop bypassing the truth and be honest with the people of Coffs Harbour and the Mid-North Coast” Mr Woodward said..

The above is an ALP Press Release – 15 December 2018.

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