Inland highway route blasted

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

THANKS, but no thanks.

Richmond Valley mayor Charlie Cox has rejected Nationals MP Don Page's push to send the Pacific Highway inland in a bid to protect the region's coastline.

Cr Cox described the plan as a 'not in my backyard' ploy to protect wealthy coastal property owners at the expense of the west's farmers.

"People think the land out west is not prime agricultural land, but I would contest that," Cr Cox said.

"Just because there seems to be more space doesn't mean it is any less valuable than the coast."

The region's cattle farmers and soybean producers would pay the price for the inland route, Cr Cox warned.

While Don Page and Lismore MP Thomas George will travel to Sydney next week to discuss

their inland highway idea with NSW Minister for Roads, Joe Tripodi, Charlie Cox has called for rail solutions to be the region's priority.

"Casino does have the potential to become a transport corridor, particularly through the Auslink agreement for freight rail," Mr Cox said. "Rail would be the way to ease congestion felt on the coast, but the Pacific Highway is well positioned where it is."

Meanwhile, Casino dairy farmer and NSW Farmers Association Dairy Committee board member Terry Toohey said he wasn't against the idea, however his farm lay 10km west of Casino and was unlikely to be affected.

"It's natural instinct to feel differently if it's your land the road goes through," he said. "If the road cuts a guy's farm in half it detracts from the land values, and then most likely it becomes uneconomic as an enterprise."

He said the merit of the proposal would depend on where the route went.

Land near the river was valuable dairy farm country, whereas land near the CMCA (Casino Village) Ltd was less so.

"Until they come out with an actual proposal we really can't comment," he said.

The idea of more heavy traffic in the area didn't faze him.

"When you're in the country you're using large, heavy machinery all the time. And we need those trucks to move our produce."

Meanwhile, Mr Tripodi has extended to December 2 the deadline for submissions into the upgrade of the Pacific Highway from Ewingsdale to Tintenbar.

n What do you think?

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