Last night’s public meeting on the Coffs Harbour Bypass was unanimous in opposition to the design released by the government. The clear preference was for tunnels. Labor wants tunnels and not trenches, as previously promised by governments. The governments must deliver. This is not negotiable. 

There was also strong support at the meeting for the governments to ditch the route and design altogether and to immediately build a ‘western’ or ‘inland’ route. I believe we need a major road on the current route corridor, but with tunnels, as a part an overall traffic management system for Coffs. 

Overall, we need to get traffic both around and through Coffs. Thus, we need to start work soon on planning this inland or western route and for it be up and running well before the middle of the century. In my opinion, we don’t need one or the other, we need both. This is something we as a community must start thinking about. If we start work now, we will avoid the litany of errors made in this process. If elected, this will be a priority of mine. 

To be clear, Labor’s focus is on getting the best design on the route before us and built to the current schedule. 

Port Macquarie has a similar issue. It will need a ring road system progressively built over a decade at a cost today of about $1 billion. The point is, we don’t just need a ‘bypass’ of cities, we need better roads within our major regional cities, particularly as we don’t have the populations to support light or heavy rail. Obtaining consensus on a ring road in Port Macquarie will be a priority for me as well if elected.

The state Labor candidate, Tony Judge, and I said on Monday, the governments need to reach consensus with the community on the design on the route before us. If they can’t reach consensus on the route and design through credible and robust public consultation then they must come up with proposals that will. 

As part of reaching consensus, Labor calls on the governments to extend the period for public submissions from the end of October until the end of December. The governments must also immediately release studies on the impact of noise, Aboriginal heritage, flora, fauna and ecosystems. By immediately, I mean by the end of October. 

I was pleased that the State Government last night announced the Environmental Impact Statement wouldn’t be released over the December and January school holiday period. That’s a positive. 

Labor urges people to inspect the route and design at the RMS displays at Coffs Golf Club this Saturday between 9 am and 12 pm and on Thursday between 4 pm and 7 pm. 

We need consensus.