Residents 'ignored' by RTA in highway plans

'NOWHERE is safe' was the message conveyed by angry protesters at Saturday's Pacific Highway Protest March at Macksville, which attracted fewer people than expected.

This was a protest not about the accidents on the existing highway, but about the damage to the hopes and dreams of residents in the path of the proposed new Pacific Highway through the Nambucca Valley.

The long-awaited planned new route for the new Warrell Creek section of the highway and the route to Urunga goes on public display today and will remain on display until August 8. But residents remain unappeased.

Progressive changes to planned routes for the highway have led to widespread insecurity.

Roads and Traffic Authority spokespeople have said earlier plans were changed because new studies showed other routes would be better.

An estimated 200 people gathered in Macksville on Saturday and marched across the Macksville Pacific Highway bridge over the Nambucca River to Lions Park carrying signs and placards.

Organiser Joy Sheather said police intervention saw their original permission to block the highway at the narrow Macksville bridge withdrawn and the marchers used the footpath.

Police reported no incidents, but there were some impassioned speeches.

“We have had enough of the decades of planning chaos and bullying by the autocratic non co-operative government departments,” farmer Greg Clarke said.

He spoke of the 'manipulation and lies' used to give these departments their desired outcomes and said residents had been ignored and were deeply upset.

Among points raised by Mr Clarke were that the present system meant many residents received no compensation at all for noise or the loss of enjoyment of their homes and their lives; others could not move when they wished or had their lives 'put on hold' and still others spent money researching properties they wanted to buy, only to find out later the land now could be affected by new highway plans.

Mr Clarke said the RTA wanted to drive new motorways through rural residential and town area against the guidelines of their own departments.

He questioned why a corridor for a highway had not been reserved 40 years ago, meaning that people had unknowingly built in the path of what will become a highway. “Preferred routes can change like the tide,” he said.

Five politicians were among those at the protest group, with Greens MPs Ian Cohen and Lee Rhiannon, the Greens Transport spokesperson, joining The Nationals Andrew Stoner, Andrew Fraser and Luke Hartsuyker.

Nambucca Shire Council Mayor George Hicks called for the RTA to fast-track compensation to affected landowners while Deputy Mayor Cr Rhonda Hoban asked other Shire residents to provide support for those directly affected.

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