The following is from the Legislative Assembly Hansard – 25 October 2018 – Proof of speech by Andrew Fraser MLH for Coffs Harbour electorate (pictured).
COFFS HARBOUR BYPASS
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) (17:39): Tonight I speak on an issue that relates to my electorate and that I have spoken about in this House recently—the Coffs Harbour Bypass. The concept has been around since 2004 when the route was chosen. On 11 October a public meeting was called. A number of members of council attended that meeting. At the same time, councillors had come out en masse to say that they did not agree with the proposal put forward by Roads and Maritime Services [RMS] that called for tunnels and for covering over the top of cuttings, et cetera.
The people who attended that meeting clearly decided that they wanted a western bypass, but unfortunately that is not possible. It would cost somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion. It is the dearest section on the Pacific Highway and will cost more than $100 million per kilometre. As the result of that meeting I agreed—now with confirmation from the Minister’s office and from RMS—that we would extend the consultation period and not release the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] until the end of January. With that in mind, and given council’s obvious interest in this issue, I wrote to council the next day and said:
As discussed at last night’s meeting Roads and Maritime Services indicated that they would like an opportunity to have a permanent display of the route in the foyer of Coffs Harbour City Council Chambers until such time as the Environmental Impact Statement is completed.
As Council has shown an interest in this matter, I would be most grateful if you would agree to this request and additionally, also have a copy of the consultation documents in the foyer.
I received this response on the same day from the general manager:
Thanks for the letter. I have requested that our Group Leader Customer Service make contact with Adam Cameron to facilitate the display if at all possible.
I still have not heard from them, but the local media came to me on 18 October and said the response it had had from council was:
… as the Highway is not our road—it is the NSW Government’s, specifically the responsibility of the RMS—we won’t be creating a display as we don’t have the concept designs, plans, reports etc.
This is despite the fact that I have specifically offered to make those documents available to council. This has got to a stage where RMS has dropped documents in to the council. Council obviously just wants to play a political game on this, but the reality is that the majority of the 360-odd people at that meeting on 11 October have bought land and built homes next to the proposed route post-2004. It is interesting to note that the council authorised those subdivisions after 2004, knowing full well that the route would interfere with these people’s lifestyles. It will. As the member for Tweed would appreciate, all bypasses or roads affect the community in some way, shape or form, but the majority of those concerns can be met.
I attended another public display held on Saturday two weeks ago at the golf club. I spoke to a lot of people and a lot of them had their questions answered. Yes, they do have concerns, but those concerns can be answered by the EIS. As council appears not to want to assist RMS in this important decision-making process, I now call on the Minister’s office and RMS to find a suitable premises in Coffs Harbour and have a permanent display there from now until the end of December. I ask for the EIS not to be released until the end of January and for public consultation to continue up until the Christmas break.
I have spoken to the Minister and her staff and to the RMS, and they are quite happy to find a suitable space to have this permanent display. Unfortunately, as I said, the council does not want to play ball, as it were. That means the only thing we can do to address the concerns of the people of Coffs Harbour in relation to the bypass is to hire space in an office or a shopping centre for a display so that people have the opportunity to continue to comment, raise their concerns and seek assistance from the RMS as the route goes ahead. I hope that by early next week we will have found premises to house the display to assist the people of the Coffs Harbour area.