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Asphalt site decision a win for the people

Geoff Helisma |

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has, in its words, “after extensive community consultation, announced a site at Mororo as the location for a temporary batch plant to supply asphalt between Maclean and Devils Pulpit for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade”.

But the outcome would have been different if not for the objections of those who perceived they would be negatively affected.

In July this year, the Woombah Residents Association was motivated to action when its members discovered that RMS was planning to locate the plant just north of the Iluka turnoff and near the village.

“This has been thrust upon the community under the NSW Government Significant Infrastructure laws … with no community consultation, no evidence of environmental impact studies and no consideration for locals already struggling with dangerous traffic conditions,” the residents contended.

Following a public meeting between residents and RMS and Pacific Complete representatives, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis took an interest in the issue.

“Roads and Maritime normally does community consultation pretty well, but this time they kind of dropped the ball, so it is back to the drawing board,” he declared in a media release.

Another more broad community consultation resulted, with consideration given to other sites at Harwood and Mororo.

The residents association did not rest on its laurels, though; it issued a media release detailing the pitfalls, as they saw them for the Woombah site.

Speaking about the RMS’s selection of the Mororo site, the association’s president, Kerry Wilsmore, said it was the “site that had the least impact on people and communities”.

However, Mr Wilsmore did not necessarily see the outcome as a ‘win’ for his association.

“To me, I consider once they [RMS] decided to do the proper process, which they didn’t do in the first place – once they did that they came up with a logical decision,” he said.

Apart from the environmental and amenity issues raised by the residents association, the additional heavy vehicle traffic and the perceived safety conflicts that could have resulted on Iluka Road were significant concerns.

“I also think the traffic issue was important for Woombah and Iluka residents because, if you’re talking about ‘Iluka Naturally’, we should try and preserve that,” Mr Wilsmore said.

The RMS’s media release stated: “On balance, the Mororo site was found to best meet with the technical, environment, community and traffic requirements, with any potential impacts able to be mitigated.

“…Feedback was received from 126 people and organisations, raising 162 individual comments about 26 different topics. Key topics raised by the community included local traffic impacts, air quality, noise, impacts to flora and fauna and management of groundwater, including during floods.

“…Environmental assessments have found the Mororo site has adequate flood immunity and temporary fencing is already in place to manage impacts on native fauna.

“Additional measures will be implemented to manage and monitor noise and air quality, while hazardous materials will be stored and managed in line with Australian standards.

“The Mororo site is located in a more sparsely populated area than the other proposed sites, and local residents can use an alternative access to the Pacific Highway to minimise interactions with project vehicles.

“This site also provides direct access to the Pacific Highway for heavy and light vehicles.”

Construction is expected to commence in December.

“Early work will involve installing environmental controls, including water treatment facilities and air quality gauges, and building temporary foundations and hard stand areas,” the media release stated.

“Asphalt will be supplied from the temporary batch plant from January 2019 and will operate until 2020.

“Once the project is complete, the batch plant will be removed and the site will be restored to its original condition.”

Meanwhile, a similar process is underway to locate two temporary batch plants between Glenugie and Maclean in the first quarter of 2019.