Hundreds attend Ballina highway protest
By NERIDA BLOK
KELLY MARTIN has waited 21 years for someone to fix the highway that claimed the life of her mum.
The Ballina woman joined a rally of more than 400 people in her home town yesterday protesting against lack of progress on the Pacific Highway upgrade.
Ms Martin, 35, said her mother Janice Martin was killed when hit by a truck near Ross Lane, Tintenbar, in 1984.
"I'm here to stop all the killing on the roads and to move the trucks on to the New England Highway," she said.
"My three kids don't have a grandmother, the trucks have taken that away."
Yesterday's rally, organised by the Ballina Bypass Action Group, was designed to draw political attention to today's Ballina hearings of the parliamentary highway inquiry. The rally started at 10am opposite the Ampol Service Station in Kerr Street.
After speeches by Ballina MP Don Page, Greens MLC Ian Cohen and Ballina mayor Phil Silver, protesters walked north to the traffic lights, where they crossed the highway and blocked traffic in both directions for some minutes.
Rally facilitator and Ballina Action Bypass Group member Jack Harper said safety on the highway was the major reason for the rally. "Particularly the safety issue of the Tintenbar black spot," he said.
"The Ballina bypass needs to happen now."
Mr Harper said the bypass would cost $125 million, with funding to be split between the State and Federal governments.
He said the Federal Government had put its half of the money on the table and was waiting for direction from the NSW Government. All studies for the Ballina bypass had been completed in 1998 and it was promised by then Roads Minister Carl Scully in 2002.
"In 2005 we're still waiting and in the meantime there have been eight people killed," he said.
"How many more do we have to have before Minister Tripodi tells the RTA to get on with it?"
Cr Silver agreed. "All the ducks are lined up. Our job now is to convince Macquarie Street," he said.
Truck driver Robert Nowlan's journey from Brisbane to Sydney was stalled briefly by the protesters as they crossed the highway.
Mr Nowlan, formerly of Lismore, agreed the Ballina bypass was a good idea.
However, he said removing trucks from the Pacific Highway was ridiculous. "How does Lismore get their food, how does Ballina, Grafton?" he asked.