Thursday, 27 September 2012


Following the 31st August public meeting on the threat the proposed Clarence Valley Pacific Highway upgrade will have to the Coastal Emu, John Edwards wrote to Bob Higgins on behalf of the Clarence Environment Centre. Bob Higgins is General Manager, Pacific Highway, Roads and Maritime Services of NSW (formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority).

Below is an edited extract from the letter which questions the RMS' plans for the proposed route for the highway through the Clarence Valley.

The North Coast Environment Council(NCEC), the Clarence Environment Centre (CEC), and other local  conservation groups, have always claimed that the 'motorway' concept for the Clarence Valley is 'over-kill'. The section of highway between Coffs Harbour and Ballina undeniably carries the lowest traffic volumes of anywhere along Highway One from Warrnambool in Victoria to Gympie in Queensland. So why a separate motorway?

We have always asserted that a simple addition of two more lanes to the current highway is all that is needed, and would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. There would need to be minor straightening, and diversions around South Grafton and the hamlets of Ulmarra and Tyndale. There are already two sections of divided road, at Shark Creek and Cowper, that are perfectly adequate for the amount of traffic using the highway for the foreseeable future, and provide the safety levels demanded by the public.

We also assert that if that course of action had been pursued, the section of highway upgrade from Wells Crossing to at least Maclean could now have been completed at minimal cost. We acknowledge that that route has flooding problems, something that is likely to worsen over time with predicted sea level rise. However, I point out that the preferred route is only flood-proofed to a one in twenty year flood level, which means traffic would sometimes need to transfer to the New England Highway for 2 or 3 days, as is already the case; hardly an insurmountable problem.

To support our argument even further, the RTA (now the RMS) has identified that 70% of Pacific Highway road-users in the Clarence Valley are local commuters that will continue to use the existing highway, and that the existing road will also be upgraded to 4 lane status for safety reasons, bypassing Ulmarra in the process. So where is the logic for building a totally separate, highly environmentally damaging motorway, to cater for just 30% of the total traffic volume?

We believe the current bypass plan will not only be a disaster for the Coastal Emu and the scores of other threatened species  that will be directly impacted  (See CVCC Blog on Coastal Emu) , but will also be disastrous for Grafton, with the longest off-ramps in the country (12km from the south, and a further 30km to the north).

Finally, we also believe it is not too late to reassess the entire Clarence Valley proposal.

        - John Edwards