Residents protest highway changes
By RACHEL SCOLLAY
LOCAL residents are rallying against last week's announcement that the RTA would also be looking at their properties when choosing a route for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade.
Bill Wheatley, of Old Byron Bay Road, said extending the study area was 'universally unpopular'.
The announcement has certainly mobilised people, with hundreds turning out to two RTA information meetings this week and a reported 150 people meeting on Tuesday night at Newrybar Hall as part of the newly-formed Coastal Escarpment Protection Society.
A further meeting is scheduled for 7pm next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, farmers with property in the expanded study area have clubbed together to fund a full-page ad in today's Northern Star.
The ad comes after a series of prior advertisements advocating a more direct coastal plain option for the highway upgrade.
Geoff Dorey said they wanted to raise community awareness.
"It's clear to us the RTA has extended the study area largely due to public pressure and the ads that were in the paper," he said.
"They thought they had a lot of people lobbying on the original study area. So they looked down on the cane flats and thought: 'There's no people, no houses, just a few farmers'.
"And that couldn't be further from the truth.
"It's a much wider community that's affected now."
Mr Wheatley said the proposal was not an upgrade, but a whole new highway.
"The idea doesn't make any sense," he said.
"They should just walk away from it and admit they made a big mistake."
Mr Wheatley said every- body who bought land on the escarpment paid a premium for a sea view.
"If you wanted to pay a third of the price you could get a house next to the highway.
"To suddenly foist the highway on us, it's not fair."
Newrybar resident John Crump said he had a foot in both camps, with eight hectares of farmland in the old study area while his home, three kilometres away, now now fell into the expanded study area.
"I bought my tree farm knowing that road was there, and understanding that my property could be affected," he said.
"However, I bought my house never contemplating that such a ridiculous idea would be proposed.
"The escarpment is too precious to be destroyed. It can't be replaced. My farm can be replaced if I have to."
The RTA said in recognition of the uncertainty faced by landowners it had committed to deciding a route by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile nominations for the new Community Liaison Group close on April 28.