The public consultation period for the Coffs Harbour Bypass officially closes tomorrow, Friday, 30 November 2018, signalling a premature milestone in a highly flawed process.

The conclusion of the public consultation period comes when crucial reports on the impacts of noise, Aboriginal heritage, the natural environment, the built environment, farms, employment, property prices and the local economy remain incomplete or secret.

The governments should not have concluded the public consultation period until these reports had been released and the public is given time to consider them.

The shambles that is the Coffs Harbour Bypass Project is a symbol of the chaos that has enveloped the federal government this year.

Coffs needs to be bypassed and we support the project in principle. But it needs tunnels and not trenches.  The current design is higher, noisier, uglier and dirtier than the previously proposed design with three tunnels.

The project remains cloaked in secrecy. First, they planned to release the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at the start of December and wrap it up at the end of January. Then after howls of protest from Labor and the community, the EIS process was put back until the start of February. Then we learned via a media report that the EIS is coming out “mid-year” and after the state and federal elections. How convenient for the Nationals!

The only thing that happened during the public consultation process was that the governments hid over $100,000 worth of scale models. Then they spent thousands more on a fancy new project website which doesn’t even mention their main and false justification for the removal of tunnels (the dangerous goods argument).

More than two months on from the announcement by the Federal Government on 24 September 2018, we still don’t know:

  • Who the “concept design” is “preferred” by.
  • Who made the decision to remove the tunnels.
  • When the decision to remove the tunnels was made.
  • Why the decision was made to remove the tunnels when three of them were in the plans for ten years.
  • How they could come up with a “preferred concept design” when key reports hadn’t be completed or released.
  • Why they haven’t released the full “Preferred Concept Design Report”. To date, they have only released the “Summary Report”.

We also need Coffs Harbour City Council to release “a Technical Staff Review” that provided “feedback on the preferred bypass concept as mentioned in Council papers on 2 November 2018.

I remain deeply concerned at the process undertaken by the Liberal-National federal government to deliver this project. There are too many concerns about integrity associated with the process to be ignored.

Should myself and Labor be elected to government, I will ask Labor’s new National Integrity Commission or the Australian National Audit Office to look into the handling of this project.

There’s too much secrecy and too many unanswered questions for anyone to have confidence in the process. 

The National Party has to stop the truth bypass.