Pacific Hwy to cut through 150-year-old family farm

OVER-RUN: Broadwater cane farmer Mark Byrne is concerned by plans to run a highway through the middle of his cane plantation.
OVER-RUN: Broadwater cane farmer Mark Byrne is concerned by plans to run a highway through the middle of his cane plantation. Marc Stapelberg

BROADWATER cane grower Mark Byrne is still battling against the Pacific Highway upgrade route that will go straight through his 150-year old family farm.

For at least a decade Mr Byrne has stood against what he sees as short-sighted option by Roads and Maritime Services.

Mr Byrne's ancestors started the farm on the northern outskirts of Broadwater in the 1860s and, despite having sold off bits and pieces, it still covered more than 60 hectares.

Mr Byrne says Roads and Maritime Services' plan for the highway upgrade would run part of the new road through his property, damaging the viability of a working farm while unused blocks with "for sale" signs on them sat next door.

Mr Byrne said he had been offered compensation for the land, but said the figure was too low and failed to account for the family heritage of the farm or the fact that he didn't want to sell.

A spokesperson for Roads and Maritime Services said the organisation carried out extensive investigations of route options for the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade between 2004 and 2009.

The service's preferred route was chosen based on environmental, social and economic factors.

"Roads and Maritime understands Mr Byrnes' concerns but, regrettably, land is required from his property for the highway upgrade," the spokesperson said.

Save Ballina's Koalas campaigners also wanted the proposed highway route changed.

Where it travels north to the west of the current highway after crossing the Richmond River it will go through the Blackwall Range, a nationally significant population of koalas, Lorraine Vass, Save Ballina's Koalas president said.

"This koala population is very likely already in decline. The last thing it needs is a national highway running through it," she said.

The RMS spokesperson said the route was chosen and approved with strict conditions by the State and Federal Planning ministers because it avoided Jali Aboriginal Land Council land, wetlands and the Wardell Heath, which provided habitat for threatened species including the olongburra frog, koalas and grey-headed flying foxes.

"Rerouting the highway would also have significant impacts on cane land and floodplains and would delay major building work," the spokesperson said.

The planned route minimised overall ecological impacts compared to other feasible routes by reducing impact on regionally significant agricultural land and noise and visual impacts on Broadwater and Wardell resulting in better amenity for the local communities.

The planned route was designed to minimise flooding impacts and provide better value for money for taxpayers by taking the shortest possible route through flood affected areas.

Topics:  broadwater farmer pacific highway upgrade

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