To hell with the highway
By BREE PRICE
NORTHERN RIVERS residents have started a revolt against the NSW Government, vowing to stop the upgrade of the Pacific Highway ripping through their properties.
Threats have been made to tear down a bridge upgrade during construction. One group has vowed to blockade the existing highway.
The tension over the highway upgrade has reached State parliament, with NSW Minister for Roads Michael Costa rejecting a request from Greens MLC Ian Cohen to visit residents affected by the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale and Woodburn to Ballina highway upgrades.
In Parliament on Thursday, Mr Cohen asked Mr Costa to attend a public meeting to listen to the 'fear, insecurity and depression' generated by the highway upgrade.
However, Mr Costa said the request was a stunt.
Coopers Shoot resident Jack Harper believes Mr Costa doesn't want to confront people devastated by the prospect of losing homes and properties.
Mr Harper, who is a member of the RTA Community Liaison Group for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade and the Coastal Environment Protection Society (CEPS), said residents affected agreed there was a need for the upgrade.
However, they would do everything they could to ensure the upgrade was built in the existing Pacific Highway corridor.
"We're putting as much pressure on the RTA as we can to keep the highway on the highway," he said.
"People who bought their property on the Pacific Highway bought it with the expectation of the upgrade and the price they paid reflected that."
The upgrade has spurred a series of public meetings throughout the region, with an RTA community information session at Broken Head Hall on Wednesday night turning into a fiery debate.
In a passionate speech, Byron Shire Councillor John Lazarus said the time for talking was over.
"I think it's time to take action.
"Let's shut down this bloody process," he said to applause.
"If you (the RTA) try and build a bridge over the Brunswick River, we will tear it down."
CEPS chairperson Bill Wheatley said his group was planning 'disruptive action', such as a blockade, to bring attention to their concerns.
The RTA didn't respond to inquiries from The Northern Star when contacted yesterday.