By ANN-MARIE MAY
THE Coffs Harbour Bypass, or lack thereof, is again behind the anger of many local residents.
The latest catalyst is the suggestions by the Northern Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) that the current Pacific Highway route should be upgraded to a split dual carriageway from Hexham to the Tweed.
Strongly opposed to this is Coffs Harbour community group, the Bypass Action Network (BAN), who believes NOROC has not given enough thought to social and environmental concerns that communities such as Coffs Harbour will face, with the current highway upgrades proposed through the middle of the city.
"At least Byron councillors are suggesting removing interstate trucks from the Pacific Highway, which makes sense," BAN spokesman Wayne Evans said.
"The current Pacific Highway is now a major tourism route as well as a commuter road for those communities without a proper bypass.
"To have them share the road with B-doubles travelling to ridiculous timetables will always court disaster, particularly as the volume of heavy vehicles is expected to double within 15 years."
BAN also believes environmental assets such as Moonee Creek and Hearns Lake, as well as coastal flood plains near Sandy and Emerald Beach, will be devalued if the current RTA proposals are implemented.
"The former minister for Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources, Craig Knowles, has only just refused two master plans for Hearns Lake in order to 'protect the very high ecological and environmental sensitivity of an area'," Mr Evans said.
"Despite this the RTA is currently proposing a large highway turnaround right near the northern buffer zone to Hearns Lake along with major bridge works over Double Crossing Creek, the large scale removal of vegetation of recognized ecological significance and a huge section of protected coastal floodplain to go to allow for the equivalent of six lanes of highway."
BAN believes the three-tiered approach of local, State and Federal Government that worked so well to solve funding issues for Hogbin Drive should be applied to get a proper motorway that bypasses Coffs Harbour and the Northern Beaches.