Support builds for an inland highway
By RACHEL SCOLLAY
CHAOS caused by plans for an upgraded Pacific Highway has spread west.
A proposal from Ballina MP Don Page to have the highway cut inland past Bangalow and Lismore before connecting with the Summerland Way south-east of Casino is being supported by prominent businessmen in the west.
Their views clash with those of Richmond Valley mayor Charlie Cox, who last week said the plan was a 'not in my backyard' ploy by those on the coast.
But the man behind the push to turn Casino into the industrial hub of the North Coast, Bruce Wright, and the head of one of the region's largest transport companies, Jack Hurley, say sending sending traffic west makes sense.
Mr Wright said everything was pointing towards Casino becoming an industrial hub and in that light there was obviously a need for the Lismore to Bangalow road to be upgraded.
Mr Wright wants to make Casino the industrial and distribution centre of the North Coast, with the proposed creation of a 48.5 hectare (120 acre) industrial estate north of Casino.
He would prefer an inland highway to skirt Casino to the north, rather than the south as Mr Page suggested.
Mr Hurley said the only thing preventing the Summerland Way being used more by trucks at the moment was the bridge at Grafton.
He said truckies would also favour an inland route.
"It would get them away from the tourist traffic. Trucks and cars don't really mix very well at all," he said.
"An inland highway would be better time-wise, provided the road bypassed Lismore. They would more or less have an open run. There's no big hills at all."
Cr Cox told The Northern Star last week the plan was a ploy to protect wealthy coastal property owners at the expense of the west's farmers.
He said agricultural land in the western parts was just as valuable as that on the coast.
Mr Page emphasised his inland proposal would bypass Bangalow and any other towns or villages.
A statement at a public meeting at Bangalow late last week that the option would see the highway go through the township was utter nonsense, he said.
Mr Page, along with Lismore MP Thomas George and Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, will meet with State Roads Minister Joe Tripodi on Thursday to discuss the inland route. The MPs want a feasibility study prepared on the option as a basis for comparison with the existing route options for the Pacific Highway.