TRAPPED IN PARADISE
PLANNING for the Pacific Highway upgrade has stripped nearly $500 million from the local real estate market and left about 6000 property owners in limbo.
Residents in the path of the proposed highway and real estate agents are calling for the State Government to settle on a route quickly to end the uncertainty they say is crippling the area.
Among them is former Sydneysider Tony Gilding, spokesman for the residents'action group Community Alliance for Road Sustainability (CARS), and his wife Rie, who spent eight years planning their move to the Northern Rivers only to find themselves trapped in paradise.
In late 2004, the former media and publishing couple from Balmain sold everything, said their goodbyes and exchanged contracts on a 40-hectare property at Newrybar.
The Gildings bought into a nightmare that is costing Northern Rivers property owners hundreds of millions of dollars in lowered property values.
In between the Gildings exchanging contracts in 2004 and settling on their new million-dollar property with panoramic views of the Lennox Head coastline in 2005, the RTA announced new study areas into the routes for the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar and the Woodburn to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrades.
The Gildings now face the possibility of having a sixlane highway cut through their new dream property, which sits within the RTA Ewingsdale to Tintenbar study zone.
The Gildings' plans for eco-tourist cabins on their land are now on hold while they, and thousands of others, wait for the RTA to decide on highway routes.
"It's the uncertainty that is the killer. We sold all of our assets to do this. This is all of our life savings. It was supposed to be our superannuation and fund our retirement," he said.
Mr Gilding said a survey of agents by CARS showed house values in the study zone were down by at least 20 per cent. Assuming an average value of about $400,000, the uncertainty had stripped at least $480 million from the estimated 6000 homes in the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar zone.
However, the true figure could be much worse, with agents saying they had been unable to sell any properties in the zone.
Properties in the Woodburn to Ballina zone are just as badly off, with agents saying they had become impossible to sell.
Mr Gilding says he would never have bought his property had he known it would fall into the new highway study zone and current property buyers are reacting the same way.
Principal of Bangalow's George and Fuhrmann real estate agency Brian Grant said he had not sold a property within the Ewingsdale to Tintenbar study zone, which normally accounted for a third of his sales, since the RTA announced the study last November. The problem deepened when the zone was expanded in April.
Another Bangalow agent, Reg Miller of Millers Real Estate, said things would improve when the RTA settled on a route.
An RTA spokesperson said the RTA would start mapping out specific route options between Ewingsdale and Tintenbar this year.
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