Residents want input on road realignment

THE realignment of Waterfall Way at Cameron's Corner is creating waves in the Bellingen Shire with concerned residents claiming the RTA is refusing to consult openly with them about sensitive wetlands, which lie directly in the path of the proposed $9.4 million upgrade of the scenic link road.

Speaking on behalf of a number of the shire's environment and tourism groups Bellingen resident, Tim Cadman, said there were two recognised endangered communities on the site but discussions with the RTA requesting input into the environmental evaluation process had been rejected.

"Now the council is the only voice that the community has with the RTA  and they shouldn't be neutralised on this," Mr Cadman said.

Responding in writing to a request for input into a new Review of Environmental Factors (REF), the council's director of planning and environment, Charlie Hannavy, noted that two endangered ecological communities, Swamp Sclerophyll Forest and Freshwater Wetlands on Coastal Floodplains, were 'highly likely to occur on the site, in addition to numerous other threatened species'.

Mr Hannavy said since the preparation of the original REF four years ago these communities had been added to the listings of endangered ecological communities.

"Under the current legislation the RTA would have to take these into consideration," Mr Hannavy said.

"We are just highlighting what they should already be aware of."

On September 23, community groups and the council met with the RTA to discuss the proposed route.

Following the meeting Mr Cadman described the RTA's community consultation process as 'phoney'.

"The RTA told us we could have no input and would be informed in November of the outcome of the REF and the chosen route.

"Only then would there be a three week period for public comment  this is not consultation."

An RTA spokeswoman said the road designs would be presented to Bellingen Shire Council before being released to the community.

"The community will have an opportunity to comment on the designs at advertised local information sessions," she said.

"The RTA will continue to keep the community informed of the progress of the project to ensure all issues are considered."

There will be a meeting for all concerned residents at the Bellingen CWA Rooms this Wednesday evening, October 22, from 7pm.

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