BYPASS BATTLE: Another deadline comes and goes
THE Coffs Harbour community has waited decades for a bypass and the waiting game looks set to continue as we approach the promised mid-year release date for the all-important EIS.
Coffs Harbour is the last city left to be bypassed on the Pacific Highway with holiday traffic turning the CBD into one of the worst traffic bottlenecks between Newcastle and the Queensland border.
As July comes to a close and there is still no sign of the Environmental Impact Statement, a genuine 2020 start date could also be in jeopardy.
There has also been no sign of the new minister in charge of the project.
Paul Toole took on the newly created portfolio of Minister for Regional Transport and Roads following the March 23 State election.
Earlier this month he declined an interview with the Advocate and refused to answer a number of straight forward questions in relation to the project including 'have you visited the site of the bypass' and 'is it likely there will be a genuine 2020 start date and not just a ceremonial sod turning?'
The EIS should contain the design in full, with all the individual reports from noise and visual impacts through to Aboriginal cultural heritage and socio-economic impacts.
And the question on everybody's lips is 'will it be tunnels or cuttings'.
The Coffs Bypass Action Group (CBAG) and Coffs Harbour City Council have both taken up the fight to ensure tunnels will be included in the design and not open cuttings.
"As we await the arrival of the much anticipated EIS for the Coffs Harbour Bypass, everyone is expecting that, after both State and Federal Nationals MP committed to tunnels in their run for election, that the EIS will, indeed, include proper bored tunnels like the St Helena tunnels near Byron Bay," CBAG spokesman Rod McKelvey said.
He has also flagged the importance of ensuring that the contract put out for tender is a 'construct only' contract.
"Today some contracts are tendered using a 'design and construct format, allowing the builder to make changes to the design often just based on reducing costs.
"This concerns us greatly as the Toowoomba Bypass was created using a 'design and construct' contract and residents ended up with a very different bypass to that put forward with the EIS," Mr McKelvey said.
Coffs Harbour City Councillor Sally Townley has been watching the project closely for years and recently took the extraordinary step of taking the Roads and Maritime Service to court to force them to release documents in relation to the long awaited project.
She is growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of transparency.
Cr Townley had been promised a series of documents prior to the next court conciliation set down for July 30.
"It's getting a bit like a case of the dog ate my homework. with one excuse after another.
"They have either done it or they haven't, but it's the end of July and it's nowhere in sight."