Lynne Mowbray |
To mark the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication from Hexham to the Queensland border, a special event was held at the New Italy Rest Area, on Thursday, 17 December 2020.
New Italy was the final stage of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade, to be opened to traffic.
The event which followed on from a special service of remembrance at the Cowper bus crash Memorial earlier in the morning, was attended by members of the National Party past and present including several NSW National MPs who were undertaking a tour of the upgraded Pacific Highway.
Clarence Valley councillor Richie Williamson was MC at the event at New Italy, which was also attended by The Hon John Barilaro, MP – NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade and The Hon Paul Toole, MP – Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, who also unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion, with the assistance from the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis MP.
Clarence Valley’s Rob Imeson and family performed a song which was written by Rob about the New Pacific Highway – ‘I am the road that will carry you home’, which received a standing ovation.
Entertainment at the close of the event was provided by the popular Grafton ex-pats The McClymonts who were joined by Adam Eckersley (husband of Brooke McClymont). Their music was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended and had the crowd singing and clapping along in between grabbing plenty of photos, to remember this special event.
Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said that Thursday’s event at New Italy was to celebrate the completion of the dual carriageway with the Pacific Highway.
“On Wednesday 16 we turned the first sod on the Coffs Harbour by-pass which is a great project,” Mr Singh said.
“It will deliver enormous time savings and essentially cut out 12 minutes of travel time 12 sets of traffic lights and I believe 12,000 vehicles a day will go around our by-pass, instead of going through the centre of Coffs Harbour.
“So, it’s a very exciting project which started on Wednesday and we expect completion within about five years – weather dependant.
The Independent asked former Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser what he had to say about the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication and the start of work on the new Coffs Harbour by-pass.
“I want to say, thank God,” Mr Fraser said.
“I’ve seen too many people that I’ve known, killed on this road.
“I know people who have lost loved ones on this road and finally it’s open,” he said.
“Coffs Harbour by-pass is next.
“We can’t help bad driving, so I guess there will still be deaths on the highway, but I think the last year that I looked at it, it was 51 deaths and we’re down below 20 or something now and that is fantastic. It’s a credit to everyone involved.
Mr Fraser said that he was in Parliament for 28½ years; I pushed this highway from day one and in 1989 was the year before I got elected, so I saw the carnage, I knew what it was like – I’d driven it daily and I’ve got to say now, to see this finished to me is just 28½ years of Parliament and another couple of years – thirty odd years.
“It’s fantastic to see it done,” he said.