Coffs bypass impasse
THEY all agree on the urgent need to get heavy vehicles out of Coffs Harbour’s heart but the city’s political leaders are poles apart when it comes to the optimal route.
While the Federal member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, and the State member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, are both holding out for a far western bypass, the city’s mayor, Councillor Keith Rhoades, is adopting a much more pragmatic approach.
“I don’t want to give people false hope when it comes to a bypass of Coffs Harbour,” Cr Rhoades said.
“History has shown us that the bypass will go where the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) wants it to go, and right now it is intent on an inner bypass,” he said.
The mayor said he wasn’t admitting defeat, rather, he was just being a realist.
“I don’t know of any example where there have been major changes to a highway route arising from consultation between the RTA and the community,” Cr Rhoades said.
“As much as I would love to see a far western bypass, the reality is that is not going to happen in the foreseeable future regardless of which party is in power in Sydney or Canberra. What we need to do as a council and as a community is to use our local experience and work hard to ensure any problems associated with an inner bypass, such as noise, are mitigated as much as they can be.”
The mayor’s tacit acceptance of the inner bypass is in stark contrast to the stands being taken by Mr Hartsuyker and Mr Fraser.
Both said if they are elected to government they will push for a detailed cost-benefit analysis of a far western route which will veer west from England’s Road and through the Orara Valley to south of Grafton.
“Getting heavy vehicles out of the centre of Coffs Harbour and places like Urunga, Woolgoolga and Macksville, has to be the most urgent infrastructure priority in Australia,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“There is overwhelming support for a far western bypass because the inner bypass does not meet community expectations.”
Mr Fraser said the problem with the RTA’s inner bypass was that it was only a short-term solution. “It will still divide the city and sterilise land that could be developed for housing. It won’t cope with the predicted increases in traffic volumes,” he said.
But the mayor said both politicians were misusing some key points.
“All political parties are committed to a dual carriageway divided highway between Hexham and the border, and by and large that is exactly what we have got now through Coffs Harbour,” Cr Rhoades said.
“If we ignore the cost, engineering and time issues associated with a far western bypass and continue to reject the inner bypass, any government will be able to say it has fulfilled it’s obligations.
“I don’t particularly want an inner bypass but I want heavy vehicles out of the city centre as soon as possible and not in 30 or 40 years time.”