By BELINDA F SCOTT
BRIAN Read spent 40 years working in the desert dreaming of a big house by the sea for his family.
When he moved to Coffs Harbour, he thought those dreams had come true.
That was until the RTA came calling and he found himself a victim of the Pacific Highway, with a view which is literally priceless.
Brian and Leeanne Read's Sapphire home is in the middle of the planned Sapphire to Woolgoolga highway upgrade route and will be demolished to make way for the new road, but they can't get the RTA to pay for it.
"My life has been on hold for five years," Mr Read said.
He said the RTA kept telling him there was no money to buy his house, although the NSW Government had given them $22 million in July to buy properties on the highway.
Mr Read said he was being pushed to apply under the hardship provisions of the Just Compensation Act, which meant he would not be compensated for his removal costs or solicitors' fees and which he said was under-valuing the houses acquired.
Not only has his life been on hold, Mr Read feels victimised.
His property recorded one of the highest readings in a highway noise study more than two years ago.
While the RTA paid to soundproof 29 of his neighbours' houses, the Reads' house was removed from the soundproofing program, with no explanation.
When the Reads protested, the RTA made them sign a clause agreeing to repay the cost of any soundproofing work done when they were paid for the house.
But two years later they are still waiting for their soundproofing.
And none of his neighbours have been asked to repay the money even though, unlike the Reads, they are free to sell their soundproofed homes on the open market.
Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser, who has raised the Reads' case in the NSW Parliament, said hardship provision valuations by the RTA were often well below 'unblighted' market value.
He said sellers were also 'bullied' into signing confidentiality clauses so settlement details could not be revealed to him or to the media.
The RTA's Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins said on Friday that compensation was offered to people who were forced to sell once the highway had been approved, but sales before that point were treated differently.
He said each valuation was based on the sale price of nearby properties and the RTA made a price that was fair and equitable.
A free Highway Compensation Symposium organised by the Community Alliance for Road Sustainability and the Northern Star newspaper will be held at Newrybar on February 15 with experts in compensation law, planning and valuation.
Is your property affected by Pacific Highway planning? Contact email@example.com