The federal and state National Party governments have been humiliated over the Coffs Harbour Bypass with news today that key decisions on the project will be put off until after elections next year.

The National Party had set the whole bypass project up as a PR festival pre the 23 March 2019 state election and the federal election due by mid-May 2019. Today the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) stood up to their political masters and said enough-is-enough.

The Nationals short circuited a legitimate process by ordering RMS to come out with a Preferred Concept Design without completing work on essential components such as the impact of their plans on residents through noise, Aboriginal heritage, the natural environment and on farms, jobs, property prices and the local economy.

According to the Coffs Harbour Advocate online this afternoon:

“The (RMS) team revealed that the EIS would be completed and shown to the public around the middle of next year and this would include the reports many have been calling on such as noise, flora and fauna and indigenous heritage impacts.

“Once these reports are released along with the EIS a second round of consultation will take place. A three dimensional representation will also be released along with the EIS.”

The state National Party Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, told State Parliament on 25 October 2018 that the RMS would “not release the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] until the end of January”. Today we learned that’s now been put back until the “middle of next year”. 

Labor said all along that they could not credibly release a realistic proposal without doing this work. Today’s news vindicates our position.  They need to do the key reports; release a revised Preferred Concept Design and, then go to an Environmental Impact Statement.

The good news today is that RMS now appears to have pushed back at the bullying from the National Party. It is now doing the project logically with a realistic timeframe, which isn’t built around election PR stunts.

Nonetheless, today’s comments by the RMS shed no light on what happened to the three long promised tunnels; when they were removed; by whom and why.

What we did learn from today’s Coffs Coast Advocate Story was the Nationals have been misleading the community on the reasons for removing the tunnels.

RMS executive, John Alexander, is quoted as saying “cost is an issue” in relation to the tunnels. This is the first time anyone has said this from the governments’ side since their ill-fated and clumsy announcement on 24 September 2018.

Since then, it has all been about dangerous goods heavy vehicles with no mention of cost.

Indeed, the NSW Minister for Roads, Melinda Pavey, said the Bypass as announced on 24 September was “gold plated”. As I said at the time, this was fools’ gold. I was right.

Today we have an outbreak of honesty from RMS which is a good thing.

The National Party needs to stop the truth bypass and tell people why “cost is an issue”; why they didn’t budget for it; why they didn’t get the necessary funds, and why they didn’t tell us any of this.

Today the Nationals have been humiliated for their shameful disregard for the truth.