Local, Politics

“By Pass process seems back to front” – Coffs Bypass Action Group

“We welcome the news from both Gurmesh Singh (pictured at the bottom of this article) and Michael McCormack, on his recent visit, that the EIS will include tunnels, a lower grade line and a quiet road surface.”

By Rod McKelvey

“It is great that both our MPs are working hard for the community and we are hoping the EIS will be the highly detailed plan we need, showing exactly how this project will be built, rather than the outline that was last September’s concept plan, especially given the time that has been taken to create it.

How the by pass with proper tunnels might look.

“We are somewhat perplexed by Michael McCormack’s comments. He seemed to suggest that the $971m set aside by the Federal Government was based on cuttings, however our understanding is that conversations ongoing with council at that time (May 2018) still included tunnels. The community were also expecting tunnels until shocked by the cuttings in the Preferred Concept Design released in September 2018”. How did they decide on this amount without detailed plans?

“We would also like to applaud Dr Sally Townley’s efforts to obtain the business case for this project which would help to solve the riddle of why cuttings were included in the first place. Were they designing to the dollars as opposed to finding the dollars for the right design?

Continuing negotiations through the courts are bringing this information closer to hand but the RMS’ continued stalling and lack of transparency makes us highly suspicious of the process and wondering if the EIS will indeed become reality for the people of Coffs Harbour and when? We note that the entire business plan for Westconnex is available online for all to see, but not our comparatively small project.

Rod McKelvey

“We are certainly talking to our MPs about a “Construct only” tender, as opposed to a “Design and Construct”. “The people of Toowoomba thought they were getting a tunnel but due to the design and construct style contract they have a very ugly concrete cutting.

This “design and construct” contract tendering seems to becoming more popular across a lot of areas with the feeling that it is faster and cheaper, however revelations that some of the buildings that people have been evacuated from in Sydney were built using that method have us concerned. We need to ensure that the contract for our bypass is watertight and that the successful builder cannot build anything than that specified in the tender.

“The EIS should be highly detailed and we are also looking forward to seeing how the interchanges have developed, based on the feedback from hundreds of Coffs Harbour residents during the submissions’ process late last year. The Englands Road interchange needed a redesign as it fed all heavy vehicles onto the existing Pacific Highway which is unworkable for any B-Doubles wanting to enter Isles Drive from the south because that would necessitate an illegal turn.

We understand the Coramba Interchange could be achieved with a much smaller footprint, assisting residents of Roselands Estate and the Korora Interchange included traffic lights to enter the on ramp for those heading north out of town – a peak hour nightmare.

Current state member Gurmesh Singh, center, with former member Andrew Fraser, right, and Deputy Premier John Barrilaro left.

Unfortunately, the machinations of the last 18 months have caused a complete loss of trust. It should not have taken the actions of our two new local members, the local council, the Aboriginal Land Council and community groups like ourselves to get to this point.

Given this will be the people of Coffs Harbour’s last opportunity to comment on this project, we are very much looking forward to sufficient detail to enable us to see with confidence what we are getting.

This should then be backed up by a construct only contract such that we have certainty that what has been designed will actually be built.


  1. Does the Coffs Harbour community fully understand the ramifications of this proposal? Coramba interchange? Korora interchange? Nth Boambee Valley no access? Isles Drive no access? McKay’s Rd. No access. Has a cost benefit analysis on the basis of both economic and social value to the Coffs Harbour community been undertaken on this project? At the moment I am failing to see the value at all. When the B-triples are begin to traverse the pacific highway between Sydney and Brisbane Coffs will be the only place over that 950km highway where they will be running through people’s back yards.

    • “When the B-triples are begin to traverse the pacific highway between Sydney and Brisbane Coffs will be the only place over that 950km highway where they will be running through people’s back yards. ”

      Don’t know when the time frame for B Triples but currently and allowing for the planned Bypass from Black Hill to Heatherbrae, No. The Highway still goes through the township of Coolongolook which will be the only section of the Highway reduced to 80km/h. The Highway also dissects other townships like Nabiac. Further the Coffs Coast from Bonville to Corindi Beach the geography is similar to the Gold Coast which also has the Highway and all it’s upgrades still going through people’s back yards.

    • The alignment of the bypass is mainly through rural residential areas with sparse housing on acreage, much as it is for many, many sections of its length.

      Where the bypass comes closest to suburbia at the Roselands Estate, it’s similar to how it passes residential areas at Moonee Beach, and impacts far fewer properties than at Banora Point/Tweed Heads.

      Given that Coffs Harbour is the closest the Great Dividing Range comes to the coast in all of NSW, the bypass route is actually a very impressive response to difficult geographic constraints in terms of staying clear of dense residential development. Imagine if the RMS has proceeded with the originally reserved bypass corridor (largely now Hogbin Drive).

  2. Frank Kinninmont

    RE DEPUTY PM VISIT. Further to Michael McCormack’s comments that seemed to suggest that the $971 Million was set aside for the Bypass with Cuttings is arguable. Going through his mind may have been “How much extra is it going to cost for Tunnels that we have promised”. It does raise some questions. (1) What is the cost with Cuttings and what would it cost with Tunnels? (2) When would the extra costing for the Tunnels be available? (3) Will it extend the starting date of the Bypass construction? (4) Is it possible that the higher costs for Tunnels put them out of the Question?

    • The Connell Wagner report that compared the two options assessed the tunnel option as adding between 1% and 3% to the project cost, but noted that there was uncertainty about whether there would be extra costs for the cutting options given the hardness of the rock. Given that the cuttings option requires the processing of 5 million tonnes more rock than the tunnels option, if the rock is even a little harder than expected, there’s a risk that costs could increase and make cuttings more expensive than tunnels.

      It should also be noted that at the time that the $971 was allocated, the project was expected to include tunnels. The cuttings option did not become the preferred option until four moths later.

      There’s been a lot of talk about how tunnels would significantly increase the cost of the project, but the only costings of the two options that have been published show that the cuttings would be almost as expensive as tunnels – they would be massive engineering jobs in their own right requiring around 200,000 extra truck movements within the worksite (equivalent to around 200 50-tonne truck movements per day every day for three years to move 5 million extra tonnes of fill to the crushers, and then again to place it), as well as adding other costs such as doubling the height of the viaduct over the North Coast Railway.

      People who claim that tunnels would be far more expensive need to show their working out, and explain where their calculations differ from the currently published costings that show costs for the two options differing by only $8m to $30m in a $1.5b project. Simply assuming that tunnels would add large costs to the project is not justified, given that the only available costings show that that they would not do so.

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