Ecologist raises concerns about hwy upgrade impact

A NORTHERN Rivers ecologist has raised concerns about the environmental impact of the Ballina to Woolgoolga section of the Pacific Hwy upgrade.

After the recent release of the environmental impact statement on the 167km section of the upgrade, Dr Greg Clancy said if the highway duplication was constructed as close as possible to the existing highway it would alleviate serious environmental concerns.

Dr Clancy said he will be making submissions on concerns he has about the impact of the upgrade on the endangered coastal emu, the removal of an environmentally sensitive habitat, the impact on 82 species of endangered flora and fauna and the impact on floodplains and catchments.

"As a general principal the highway is going to do a lot of damage no matter where you put it but if you have already got an existing corridor then you are better off extending that corridor than opening up a brand new corridor through almost untouched country," he said.

"They couldn't have picked a worse route than what they have; I understand why they did it but the problem is they have chosen the foothills to keep it above the floodway, but those foothills are adjacent to wetlands and the route also contains a lot of old growth forest."

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese encouraged the community to have their say on the upgrade.

"The EIS provides the most detailed description to date of the construction work needed to build the proposed upgrade and how the highway would function once it is built," he said.

Mr Albanese said as well as improving road safety, the proposed alignment of this section of the highway will shorten the driving distance between the two towns from 180 kilometres to 167 kilometres - reducing travel times for the 10,000 motorists who use this road every day."

The EIS covers issues such as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage, flooding, soils, sediment and water quality, and land use, and property effects.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said 40 public displays had been set up along the route, including Woodburn, Broadwater Corindi, Grafton and Maclean.

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