RSL appalled as Woodburn Anzac Day march cancelled
By MARY MANN
JOHN SAUNDERS' face was a picture of disgust yesterday afternoon when he emerged from a meeting to decide the fate of Woodburn's Anzac Day march.
A decision to charge the RSL sub-branch $10,000 to divert traffic off the Pacific Highway march route for an hour was upheld at the meeting by the Roads and Traffic Authority and Richmond Valley Council ? a decision the sub-branch said it found insulting.
It will mean the march, which has been held in Woodburn for the past 60 years, will now not go ahead.
Instead it will be held at Evans Head this year.
Mr Saunders, the WoodburnEvans Head RSL sub-branch secretary, said no one should be charged for road closures on Anzac Day, as it was 'the most important day of the year for service men and women'.
The debate hotted up last week when radio star John Laws lashed Richmond Valley Council over the decision to charge Diggers $10,000 to mark the day.
Mr Laws described the council and its mayor, Charlie Cox, as naive and accused them of failing to understand the importance of Anzac Day.
He and the Australian Workers Union had offered to put up the $10,000, however the RSL sub-branch did not accept the offer, saying they were grateful but did not want to set a precedent.
After the meeting yesterday, Cr Cox said he was disappointed the sub-branch did not take up the alternatives offered.
He said an alternative was to have the highway closed for 10 minutes, at no cost, which would involve 'encouraging traffic to move slowly and quietly by the site'.
However Mr Saunders said it was not good enough.
"In 2006 we had traffic thundering by during our service because the road was only closed for 10 minutes for the march. It's a disgrace, and we are not prepared to have it happen again," he said.
Cr Cox said during the meet- ing he had told sub-branch members the cost of closing the road for an hour had to be met by someone, in order to meet RTA requirements, but that the council had no budget for it.
"Normally the costs would be met by the applicant, and in this case that is the RSL subbranch, not the council," he said.
Cr Cox said he was hopeful there would be a move to something 'much more acceptable' in the future.
State member for the Clar- ence Steve Cansdell, who attended the meeting, said he was appalled at the 'bureaucratic mess' and that if he was successful at the next State election he would make sure the RTA would cover all costs for Anzac Day road closures until the Pacific Highway up- grade was complete.