Copy of News Release 800

LABOR RELEASES ITS SUBMISSION ON THE COFFS HARBOUR BYPASS

Labor today released its submission on the Coffs Harbour Bypass as a part of the public consultation process, currently scheduled to conclude on Friday, 26 October 2018.

The full ten-page submission is here: LINK

WEDNESDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2018


EXCERPT

Introduction

In short, the Australian Labor Party and Country Labor (Labor) believes the Preferred Concept Design from RMS is totally unsatisfactory. Labor, in supporting the project in principle, calls on the federal and state governments to provide all of the missing reports; answer all critical unanswered questions and come up a revised Preferred Concept Design which ultimately features full-length tunnels and not trenches (cuttings and land bridges). 

Labor believes:

  1. There is no consensus in the community for the route and design proposed by the governments. The majority view supports tunnels and not trenches. 
  2. This design is higher, uglier, noisier and dirtier than the promised tunnels, impacting lifestyle and amenity, property prices, Aboriginal heritage, nature, farms and the local economy, including jobs negatively. It also breaches NSW Government’s North Coast Regional Plan 2036 by violating three of the four objectives of the plan. 
  3. The design on the route is flawed. The work required to come up with a credible design has not been done, including reports on the impacts on Aboriginal heritage; residents through noise, unsightliness and loss of property value; the natural environment; farms, and the local economy.
  4. The previous and current public consultation processes are flawed.
  5. The governments have misled the community about the trenches on the route, in calling ‘land bridges’ “tunnels”. 
  6. The governments have misled the community about the need for trenches as to cater for dangerous goods vehicles. 
  7. The governments have not answered basic questions during the public consultation process which are central to the public understanding of the project and giving it due consideration. 
  8. The process is being unnecessarily rushed to meet the political and publicity needs of the National Party for a federal election in February or May and the state election on in March.
  9. Ministers requested and governments allocated insufficient funding for this project. 
  10. Governments should scrap the current design and release a revised Preferred Concept Design in the first quarter of 2019. 

Labor supports the need for the bypassing of the Coffs Harbour CBD. We support in principle the route in the PCD Summary Report. We do not support the trenches or cuttings and land bridges design. These three trenches will be 30 to 50 per cent bigger than the ocean liner the QE2. We believe the design put forward by the governments is higher, noisier, uglier and dirtier than the design proposed between 2008 and 2018 with two or three ‘real’ tunnels. Should both governments not be able to obtain consensus on the route and the design, they must come up with alternatives before proceeding any further. This design on this route is not good enough. 

The decision on the route and design for the Coffs Harbour Bypass is a huge one. It shouldn’t be held hostage to the National Party’s political and publicity agendas. These are the decisions we as a community will have to live with the consequences of for a century. We need it done once; we need it done right; we need it done now. But if ‘now’ takes a few months longer, then so be it. 

This document was prepared for the 26 October 2018 public consultation process deadline. However, it is understood that the deadline has been extended. In Labor’s view, if the current PCD is not scrapped immediately, public consultation should conclude no earlier than one month after all reports that feed into a PCD are released and available to the public for scrutiny.

The report then expands on the ten points.

Conclusion

The Coffs Harbour Bypass is the single largest infrastructure project ever on the Mid-North Coast. To date, it has been bungled by the National Party governments in Sydney and Canberra and by the federal Member for Cowper and state Member for Coffs Harbour. Interestingly, both local members aren’t recontesting their seats at upcoming elections. We now know why. 

We can do better by removing the veil of politics and election dates from the process. Both governments can repair the damage they have done and the mess they have created. We need a process with integrity that delivers a robust route, design and community consensus on both. We are far from that point at this time. Labor supports the bypassing of Coffs Harbour but not with this design. 

Labor also supports a big picture approach to addressing the long-term transportation infrastructure needs of the area. We need to bypass the Coffs Harbour CBD sooner rather than later. Also, we need the much talked about “western bypass” well before the middle of the century. We need a route for the High-Speed Rail link between Sydney and Brisbane – a project on Labor’s agenda. In the second half of the century, we will need a location for a new regional airport in the area as the current location will be subject to inundation through rising sea levels brought about by climate change, which the Nationals are actively worsening. 

The only things being bypassed by the National Party governments at this time are truth, transparency and credibility. As we say, it defies belief at every turn. We deserve better.


Updated: 24 October 2018