Today’s announcement on the Coffs Harbour Bypass is a humiliating and embarrassing backdown by the federal and state Liberal-National Party governments.

The National Party has been shamed into today’s announcement.

The National Party botched this; mislead the people; divided the community; caused much anger and again delayed this critical project.

Labor and the community won – we were for tunnels and not trenches since day one.

The National Party’s first go at a Coffs Harbour Bypass design was higher, noisier, uglier and dirtier than the widely supported; multi-tunnel design devised under Labor Governments in 2008.

Let’s hope the National Party gets it right on their second go. My level of trust with the Nationals is pretty low.

Any announcement by the National Party is like a bucket of prawns. They can look good and smell good on day one but then after a few days of exposure they go off and stink. You simply can’t trust them.

In committing to tunnels, they’re announcing today what should have been done all along. Instead, we’ve lost four valuable months.

While today’s announcement looks promising, there are too many unanswered questions:

  • They don’t say how many “tunnels” there will be. The original plan was for three. Is it two, or three, or more?
  • They haven’t disclosed whether the budget remains the same ($1.17 billion) or if the tunnels will cost extra.
  • They don’t say whether they’re real tunnels (like St Helena up near Byron Bay) or ‘pretend’ tunnels (cut and cover or land bridges).
  • How many homes will require insulation under this new design and at what cost?
  • They’ve formed a ‘consultative committee’ to agree on a new design. If we have a new design with tunnels already agreed, what is the role of the committee? And they’ve just got 700 items of community feedback? What don’t they know? It sounds like a bit of the usual PR spin from the National Party.
  • We don’t know when this committee will conclude its work.
  • What is the new timetable for delivery of this project? Start 2020/21 and finish 2024/25?
  • When do we see the Environmental Impact Statement? What’s the plan? A revised preferred concept design (as I called for), then community consultation, then an EIS?

While supportive of the process, I want it expedited and for work to start on the bypass ASAP.

15 JANUARY 2019