New highway a tourism boost
By Sonia Caeiro and Emma O'Neill
BANGALOW residents will be unable to drive north on to the upgraded Pacific Highway, and Newrybar residents will not have direct access the new road at all, under new plans released yesterday.
However, residents of both villages yesterday applauded the plan, saying it would only add to the appeal of their communities to the valuable tourist market.
Under the new plan released by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority yesterday, the upgraded Ewingsdale to Tintenbar section of the highway would come with four access points, twice as many as originally proposed in 2006.
The plan provides for full traffic interchanges at Ewingsdale which was built during the Ewingsdale to Brunswick Heads upgrade and Ross Lane; and half-interchanges at Bangalow and Ivy Lane, about halfway between Newrybar and Knockrow. The Bangalow half-interchange would come with only south-facing on and off ramps, while Ivy Lane would come with only north-facing ramps.
Tony Gilding, the owner of Knockrow's Macadamia Castle and a spokesperson for the Community Alliance for Road Sustainability, which has been critical of the upgrade's planning process, said the new strategy was appropriate.
"The original plan had no exits for 22km and the subsequent community consultation has improved that situation," he said. "This will benefit many people along the route. It can be good for everyone residents, business and tourist operators."
However, Mr Gilding warned that councils would need to work to prevent small tourist communities being lost.
"The success of the upgrade for the region depends on the promotion of the existing highway as a tourist route or scenic drive," he said.
"This is the time for councils to really work together on a promotional strategy for the area. We need to encourage motorists to step off the new highway to explore the wonderful villages in this region.
"If there is no strategy to implement this kind of awareness then it could be disastrous for the businesses in the small towns bypassed by the new carriageway."
Mr Gilding said the Ballina and Byron councils needed a combined campaign that included signage and promotion, while protecting views from scenic spots along the existing route.
Rebecca and Hamilton Du Lieu, who have operated Abracadabra at Bangalow for 27 years, were happy with the proposal.
"When the highway came through Bangalow it was horrendous and quite scary with all the trucks driving past," Ms Du Lieu said.
"Just because people pass through Bangalow doesn't mean they'll stop here. Bangalow has become a destination and people will travel here on purpose."
An RTA spokesperson said at least 55 per cent of Bangalow's south-bound traffic would utilise the new highway. The authority expects the drop in traffic volume and smaller vehicles on the existing highway to reduce accidents.
The plan is on display until February 29 at the Ballina Motor Registry, Newrybar Hall, Lismore Motor Registry, Ballina Shire Council and Byron Shire Council. For information call 1800 882 787 or go to www.rta.nsw.gov.au/pacific