The federal and state governments need to immediately explain what’s happened to $100,000 worth of scale models of the trenches and road bridges associated with the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

At the first public exhibition of plans three weeks ago, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) were proudly displaying the three models, less than a metre by a metre in size, and boasting to members of the public that they cost more than $30,000 each.

But in the second public display, last Saturday and the third and final public display at the Coffs Harbour Golf Club, these models costing six figures in total had gone missing.

The governments are hugely embarrassed by the enormous public backlash against the trenches design for the Coffs Harbour Bypass and have now hidden the scale models.

The hiding of the models is an outrageous hijacking of the public consultation process for the governments. They’re embarrassed and are now attempting a cover-up. How can people make an informed decision without knowing the truth?

Scale models are expensive, as each piece is handmade, and there’s no question that they are an essential means to help the public understand projects.

They should be on display and not at the back of a broom closet.

The governments should have had these models on public display last Saturday and Thursday. Their hiding highlights the farce of the public consultation process for the bypass.

The Government announced the preferred concept design for the Coffs Harbour Bypass on 24 September 2018, just under four weeks ago.

Between 2008 and 2018, the community was told the bypass would incorporate two or three tunnels.

On 24 September this year, the Deputy Prime Minister Michel McCormack, and NSW Minister for Roads and Coffs Harbour native, Melinda Pavey, announced that the route wouldn’t have tunnels.

Since then, despite repeated requests, there has been no answer to simple questions such as:

  • When was the decision made to scrap the tunnels?
  • Why was this decision made?
  • Who made this decision?

Public submissions on the bypass close next Friday, 26 October 2018, and the community is without critical information to help it make informed decisions.

At this time, there are no reports available on the impact on:

  • Aboriginal heritage
  • Residents via noise
  • The natural environment
  • The economy through a loss of farms and devaluation of property prices

How can they come up with a preferred concept design and robust public consultation process without these critical reports? It is pathetic.

The nobbled public consultation period is merely an exercise to set the National Party up for the state and federal elections with sod-turnings and selfies.

The Coffs Harbour Bypass announcement and public consultation will go down as one of the greatest farces ever in the region’s history.

Labor again calls on the governments to extend the period for public submissions until the end of December and to immediately release all relevant reports on the impact on Aboriginal heritage, on residents through road noise, the natural environment, property prices and the broader economy.

The only things getting bypassed by these governments are truth, transparency and credibility.