Local mayors slam Premier's snub

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally is effectively disrespecting the families of Pacific Highway road victims by declining an invitation to drive the dangerous stretch of road between Coffs Harbour and Ballina, said two of the four mayors who prepared the invitation last week.

Speaking outside the Local Government Shires Association Division-A meeting in Grafton yesterday, Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson and Richmond Valley mayor Col Sullivan slammed the snub.

They said the offer of a 15-minute meeting with Minister for State and Regional Development Ian Macdonald at Coffs Harbour was far from adequate and did not recognise the importance of the issue.

“With all due respect to the Minister, he does know this area well. We really wanted the Premier to take this to COAG (the Council of Australian Government) and make representations to the Prime Minister for urgent funding for this section of highway,” Cr Williamson said.

“This is a life and death situation here and it is a bitter disappointment to the four mayors involved. That the Premier is unable to find time bet-ween now and the State election (March 2011) to join us to travel this deadly stretch of highway is not good enough.

“She owes that to the people who’ve lost their lives and to thefamilies of those killed on the highway. She also should say thank you to the emergency service personnel and the volunteers who are continually called to the highway to deal with these catastrophic events.”

Cr Sullivan said it was the first time in his 35 years on a council he had seen four councils so closelyunited on an issue.

Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades said he was disappointed the Premier ‘can’t find a day’.

“She has the opportunity to save the lives of potentially 200 people, many of them North Coast residents,” Cr Rhoades said.

Mayors from Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley sent letters to Ms Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, inviting them to see for themselves the poor condition of highway, where an average of 20 lives are claimed every year.

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