Mayors hit inland plan

By ALEX EASTON

aeaston@northernstar.com.au

NORTHERN Rivers mayors have refused to join a push by local National MPs to move the Pacific Highway inland.

Ballina MP Don Page and Lismore MP Thomas George pitched the plan to mayors from Ballina, Lismore, Tweed, Richmond Valley and Kyogle councils at a meeting of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils at Goonellabah yesterday.

If the mayors backed the plan and won the support of the Pacific Highway Taskforce, a coalition of 26 North Coast councils and the NRMA that represents about three million people, it could give the plan a powerful boost.

However, NOROC chair and Kyogle Mayor Ernie Bennett said after the meeting that the taskforce could not dilute its push to fast-track the highway by joining the debate over routes.

"If we become fragmented and start selecting routes, each different mayor might have a different view ... it could create a split," Cr Bennett said.

Roads Minister Joe Tripodi warned the 26 mayors must be united to remain relevant.

"I can't over-emphasise the challenge that would exist with the taskforce to speak with one voice," Mr Tripodi said.

"I congratulate them for forming the organisation and trying to achieve that.

"If the taskforce remains united ... we'll not only have dialogue, I'll embrace it; I'll welcome it."

Mr Page said he and Mr George were given a good hearing at the meeting, but had not expected NOROC to throw its weight behind the plan.



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