Now listen here, cane farmer warns the RTA
BROADWATER cane farmer Mark Byrne agrees with the findings of the parliamentary inquiry into the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's community consultations over the Pacific Highway upgrade ? but with one exception.
"Jenny Gardiner could have gone harder on them," said Mr Byrne, whose property will be cut in half by the highway if the RTA's preferred route goes ahead.
He was giving his opinion on the comment by Ms Gardiner, chairwoman of the inquiry committee, in which she said Far North Coast residents were especially critical of the RTA's community consultation process.
The parliamentary committee found:
The RTA had ignored many community concerns about the upgrade on the Far North Coast.
While there was strong support for the work, the community was anxious about the plan's scale and location.
The community believes the RTA decided its preferred route before the upgrade projects began, and the consultation processes were structured to ensure community views would not influence the final outcome.
A central complaint from residents was that the RTA was dismissive of community input and that community concerns had little weight in the RTA's decisionmaking processes.
Mr Byrne said: "What Jenny said was true, but she could have gone harder on them."
Mr Byrne is one of four brothers who own the family farm at Broadwater. The 68ha property is used for cane growing but also has areas of bushland.
He has been a strident critic of the RTA plan, and believes the only suitable option for the highway upgrade is to re-route heavy traffic on the suggested inland route.
Mr Byrne's family has strong historical links with the Broadwater farm and community.
His great-grand uncle, Dan Byrne, quit his job as a policeman in Ireland and settled on the Broadwater site in the early 1860s.
Dan Byrne returned to policing and sold the farm to his brother John, Mark Byrne's great-grandfather.
It has been in the family ever since. It was cane and dairy land until a cyclone in 1948 wiped out the Byrne's stock of cattle.
Since then it has been cane land, and Mr Byrne asks: "How can you compensate a family like ours. We've shed blood, sweat and tears over generations. I feel honoured to work the family farm."
Ironically, Mr Byrne's 'day job' is as a road gang worker with the RTA, and he has nothing but admiration for local officials.
"The local RTA officers are doing the best they can to make our roads safer," he said. "My argument is with the RTA hierarchy. The RTA is not listening to anyone."