Fed up Mayors unite over road toll
COUNCILLOR Keith Rhoades is sickened by the carnage on the Pacific Highway and so are his North Coast mayoral colleagues.
Fed up with State Government inaction, the mayors have joined forces to invite Premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell on a joint inspection of the highway from Coffs Harbour to Ballina.
“This section of road seems to us to be the forgotten section of the Pacific Highway,” said Cr Rhoades.
“We’re trying to ramp up the interest from the Federal and State governments in funding to be able to move this section of highway forward.”
Cr Rhoades acknowledged projects already completed and those underway but he claims scant attention has been paid to the Woolgoolga to Ballina stretch.
He and his fellow ‘Pacific Highway Taskforce’ mayors – Richie Williamson (Clarence Valley), Col Sullivan (Richmond Valley) and Phil Silver (Ballina) – decided inviting the key State politicians to tour the 200km stretch of road was the best way to get things moving.
“Every year this section of highway is not upgraded, on average another 20 people will lose their lives, many of them local citizens of our council areas,” the invitational letter says.
“This would mean we would lose another 200 lives and have many hundreds of other lives altered forever by the time we could expect any upgrade of this section of highway to be completed by 2020.
“This is clearly not acceptable.”
Cr Rhoades knows all too well the devastating impact of fatalities have on families and friends not only in his role as a civic leader but also as a firefighter who regularly attends crashes.
“I’ve been through some pretty horrific scenes over the past 36 years with NSW Fire Brigades,” he said yesterday.
“The sooner the highway is upgraded, the better.”
Cr Rhoades said it was the role of the mayors to keep pestering politicians to ensure ‘the issue is before their faces and minds’.
The impetus for the mayors’ campaign was news in December that the section of highway running through their local government areas was placed last on the upgrade priority list and was one of the most deadly in the nation.
The mayors say the population between Coffs Harbour and Ballina is forecast to grow by more than 50,000 in the next 20 years and the area from Hexham to the Queensland border by 150,000, leading to a major increase in the use of the highway.
Cr Rhoades will lobby Mr O’Farrell about the atter at the next NSW Country Mayors Association meeting.