For over a decade, the RTA (now RMS) has been involved in consultation and design of the Woodburn to Ballina Highway Upgrade, a critical and dangerous part of the national highway system that needs duplication as a priority, unfortunately there are some minority groups that are keen to delay or stop construction all together.
This minority group led by Cr Jeff Johnson(Greens) believes that a “Nationally Significant” population of koalas exist right in the path of the new highway and they believe the population will become extinct if the highway is built. The RMS has brought in some of the best scientists available to assess the environmental issues and particularly issues around the Koala.
The highway has some of the most stringent environmental conditions put on it, arguably some of the toughest in the country for any part of the Pacific Highway upgrade thus far. The most recent data based on Genetic sampling of the Koalas found at the site doesn’t suggest the population is a major population source of the region and isn’t a nationally significant population (http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/projects/northern-nsw/woolgoolga-to-ballina/ballina-koala-plan-appendix-3.pdf),
Despite this, The save the koalas group led by Jeff Johnson continues to ignore the data and continues to make claims now that are not supported by any data or the peer review of evidence.
It needs to be made clear, Highway Duplication and the Bypassing of Wardell is absolutely critical to the people or Wardell and future prosperity of the area.
Ballina Shire Council has recently produced a Wardell strategic plan, Wardell has a bright future, but the most critical ingredient to Wardell’s growth and success as a town will be the new pacific highway bypass.
It’s disappointing that some Councillors view Wardell as insignificant and have no problem proposing alternative highway routes that would run straight through or beside the town, routes that would cost the federal government well over 4 times the amount budgeted, and routes, with much larger environmental issues.
I’ve been extremely active in the campaign, it was important that someone step up and take control at council level as there was a lot of misinformation being spread and it needed to be clear that there was a counter argument backed by facts and data. In my position as C ward Councillor, I’ve worked with the Wardell Progression Association and the locals of Wardell to get that message out there.
We produced signage(To counter the “Save the koala” signage) and have produced a website http://www.savethewardellbypass.com.au/ Containing all of the factual data on the subject of the Woodburn to Ballina highway upgrade.
It’s time for the Minister of Environment, MP Greg Hunt to finalise the approval, put the issue to rest and give Wardell the bypass it deserves.