By DAVID MOASE
THE RTA's $900 million highway bypass plan for Coffs Harbour was finally released to the public yesterday, and there wasn't a smile to be seen.
Lobbyist Steve Moody described the RTA's preferred route as a 'tragedy for the people of the Coffs Coast'. Mr Moody was one of a number of unhappy locals who attended yesterday's announcement of the RTA's plan, which includes an inner bypass to the west of Coffs Harbour and a route around the outskirts of Woolgoolga.
The bypasses will be linked by upgraded dual carriageway between Korora and the southern outskirts of Woolgoolga (see story Page 3).
A member of the Woolgoolga Area Residents (WAR) Group, Mr Moody said the highway plans were completely unsuited to the transport and environmental needs of the local community.
"We have people coming to this area for agricultural purposes and tourism because of the topographical and natural environment and here we have a Government body that's quite prepared to put a swathe of major development through which is not in keeping with the local environment," he said.
"All the review processes we have gone through have been a sham."
Mr Moody said he would continue to pursue meetings with Premier Bob Carr and Roads Minister Carl Scully and is also considering legal action to try to force the RTA into a change of plans.
The chair of the Combined Lobby Group, Wilson Dale, said he agreed with the need to improve the highway between Sapphire and Woolgoolga but could see no sense in the routes around Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga.
"Anyone can see that this is not the right solution for this area," he said.
"What the RTA has produced is purely driven by dollars and is no long-term solution."
Coffs Harbour City Council mayor Cr Keith Rhoades yesterday described the RTA plan as a 'deviation' and said the council had 'rejected the routes'.
"The RTA has failed to answer any of the concerns the community has brought up in the years in which we've been a partner in this process," he said.
"They have not come up with any funding for the Hogbin Drive extension. This would cut congestion on the highway through the city hugely.
"Bearing in mind that there have also not been any time scales attached to the completion of the new routes, we can only assume that the residents of Coffs Harbour will continue to face the long-growing delays they already have to deal with on a daily basis."
Cr Rhoades cited a number of areas where the council was unhappy with the RTA's plan.
These included the lack of guarantees about when work will start, the removal from the plans of an interchange at Mastrocolas Road, and the effect on areas planned for future residential development.
"The route cuts right through (the planned North Boambee Valley development), completely obliterating whole swathes of land currently zoned for residential construction," Cr Rhoades said.