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THE COFFS HARBOUR BYPASS “PREFERRED CONCEPT DESIGN” IS TOTALLY FLAWED AND SHOULD BE TRASHED

The Coffs Harbour Bypass “Preferred concept design” released by the federal and state governments this week is totally flawed and should be trashed. Both governments should await further investigations on the impact of noise impacts on up to 1,000 properties; the impact on Aboriginal heritage; the impact on the natural environment and robust community consultation before putting forward a revised “Preferred concept design”.

Labor supports the bypass of the CBD but is strongly opposed to the trenches. NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) should be told by the federal and state governments to go back to the drawing board and come back with a design featuring three tunnels within the $1.2 billion budget.

The governments are claiming that tunnels have been ditched as to remove “dangerous goods vehicles” from the Coffs Harbour CBD. This is totally spurious. I have made other statements in relation to this (www.coffsbypass.com). The NSW Government also claimed on Monday that there would be two tunnels. This too is totally spurious. It is time to stop the spin and get to the heart of the matter. This is a shambles.

Noise

The removal of tunnels means there will be significant changes to noise impacts in west Coffs Harbour. The community needs time to review the “noise impact assessment” being prepared for inclusion in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). I would have thought it prudent to have done these assessments before releasing a “Preferred concept design”. Page 22 of the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) report released Monday says a “noise model is currently being developed”. They’re pretty much saying, screw the impact on residents, the route is the route, irrespective of the noise. This is disgraceful.

It understood the number of homes impacted by noise will rise from 120 in the original design with tunnels to close to one thousand properties in the tunnel-less design requiring significant noise treatment works. These treatment works are estimated to cost $50,000 per house at a total cost of $50 million dollars. This is outrageous and so far undisclosed.

Aboriginal heritage

The RMS is totally disregarding Aboriginal heritage. “A detailed cultural assessment of the project is being done which will identify areas of importance to the Aboriginal community”. How can the governments release a “Preferred concept design” before receiving the results of this assessment? Again, the governments are pretty much saying, screw the impact on Aboriginal heritage, the route is the route, irrespective of the impact on Aboriginal heritage. This is disgraceful.

Natural environment

It is understood that RMS has not disclosed in the “Preferred concept design” the full impact of the design on flora, fauna, ecosystems and habitats in the area. Why have they not disclosed that some of the cuttings are the size of several football fields?

Community research

Then there are questions about the “community engagement”. The governments say they conducted a “business and community survey” in June 2018. But did they disclose that they were ditching the tunnels and instead of going for trenches? I bet not. They need to do fresh community research on the whatever they come up with to make it legitimate and tell people if it does or doesn’t include tunnels or trenches.

Community Consultation

The community has been given too little time to respond to the federal and state governments “Preferred concept design” for the Coffs Harbour Bypass. The community has been given until 26 October 2018 to comment. This is not long enough, particularly with school holidays falling right in the middle of the period.

Governments traditionally avoid school holiday periods for public consultation activities. Most governments would take this into account. Not these two. It looks like they forgot to check when the schools holidays run from 29 September 2018 to 14 October 2018.

Given the substantial changes to the design, if they don’t trash what they released Monday, the community should be given more time to consider, coalesce and respond. If the whole process isn’t trashed, I am calling on the governments to extend the comment period until mid-November – an extension of two to three weeks, if not more.

Environmental Impact Statement

Under the current timetable, I understand the Environmental Impact Statement will go on display at the beginning of December and submissions will close at the end of January. This timetable is unacceptable as NSW school holidays run from 22 December 2018 until 28 January 2019.

An EIS is a massive document and they often run to hundreds of pages. The community needs time to consider this important document. To ask them to consider it over the holiday period is totally unfair. Many people are away; many people are on holidays; many people are relaxing. Spending hours with the head buried in an EIS on Christmas Eve is pretty poor form. Merry Christmas from the National Party.

If they don’t ditch the flawed process, I am calling on both governments to delay the release of the EIS by two months to take into account the school holidays and Christmas New Year periods. They should be fair to the people of Coffs Harbour. The EIS should go on display at the start of February 2019 and submissions should close at the end of March 2019.

Conclusion

This is a shambles. Coffs deserves better.

THURSDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2018


Updated: 27 September 2018