Port plan coal boon

A DEEP-CHANNEL shipping port at Yamba to complement a Moree to Yamba rail line should be given serious consideration and not dismissed out of hand by Clarence Valley leaders, says a well-known Clarence Valley transport worker.

Chris Blanchard writes for Big Rigs newspaper, drives prime movers across three states and is part of the Grafton family who operate Blanchard Transport.

He is concerned comments made by Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson regarding the proposed $6 billion rail line ("Tell 'em they're dreaming") earlier this month could stifle a potential boon for the valley.

Mr Blanchard said far from being pie in the sky the rail line was in the interests of coal-mining companies in north-west NSW, an industry which was already building large-scale infrastructure for itself.

Mr Blanchard's Facebook post on the Clarence Valley Ratepayers, Residents and Business Owners site, in which he labelled those jumping the gun against the proposal as NIMBYs (not in my back-yard), generated widespread debate recently with 209 comments all up.

Issues raised include concern about Yamba becoming another Gladstone harbour, where dredging and high rainfall have decimated the health of fish stocks.

He said the mouth of the Clarence had already been tampered with, with a rock wall, and had survived the change.

Like most people, Mr Blanchard said, he was concerned about the impacts of mining on the environment but the shipping port idea was a way the valley could "attach itself to the coat tails of mining without having mining in the valley". "It's not just coal, it's cotton and grain," he said.

Mr Blanchard also raised the idea of a freight airport in Grafton for the overnight export of fresh produce to Asia.

The Examiner tried to contact the Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council about a Native Title claim it has over sacred rocks at the head of the Clarence but a spokesperson was not available.

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