While Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) and its partner Pacific Complete are holding regular community meetings about the Pacific Highway upgrade and updating the project’s progress online, trying to obtain answers to specific questions is not so easy.
Following a recent community information session held at the Harwood community hall, the Independent received an anonymous letter purporting to be written by “Concerned residents, Harwood Island”.
The Independent did not attend the meeting because it has routinely been told that its questions cannot be answered at various meetings discussing the highway’s progress.
When the newspaper attended a public meeting in January 2016 to discuss what might happen with the convent (on the eastern side of the Harwood bridge ramp), which was identified in the Maclean Shire Community Based Heritage Study as being part of the Harwood Conservation Area, both RMS and Pacific Complete representatives declined to answer any questions.
Instead, after subsequently making an enquiry through the RMS media unit, the Independent was sent a media release (which was written prior to the meeting) outlining issues that might be discussed.
Previously, when the Independent attempted to write a ‘good news’ story about the number of people being employed from the local area, the RMS regarded this as commercial in confidence and, instead, sent links to tender procurement guidelines.
The Independent was also excluded from a meeting between the Maclean Chamber of Commerce and highway construction and TAFE representatives on the grounds that it wasn’t a public meeting, despite the chamber’s invitation to attend the meeting so the wider public could be informed.
In an effort to address specific questions from the ‘concerned’ Harwood residents, the Independent sent the following email to the RMS media unit: I have received information (anonymously) from “concerned residents” at Harwood.
So, to keep the enquiry precise with their concerns, these are the questions that they would like answered:
Harwood Village RMS Mega Factory
The factory for producing the beams and concrete for the Harwood Bridge is believed to be approved for building next to the Harwood Bridge in the middle of the Harwood village on RMS land.
• Is this true?
• What benefits are there to the residents to Harwood from now until 2020 when the bridge is finished?
• What is the long term benefit to the Harwood Residents?
• What facility is planned?
• What is the cost of this facility?
• How much to demolish it?
• How will a concrete plant with dust, noise, lights and traffic effect the local school next door and village residents?
• What about flooding from the elevated site next to the bridge?
• Who will pay for any flood damage to residents?
• Why have not locals been notified if it is being considered or actually approved?
These are just some of the questions that need answers.
Concerned residents Harwood Island.
The RMS responded: “The new Harwood Bridge forms an integral component of the Australian and NSW governments jointly funded $4.36 billion Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.
“The site on the corner of Watts Lane and the existing Pacific Highway is one of the proposed sites that is [sic] currently being considered.
“Roads and Maritime is committed to engaging the community during the development of the bridges design and building. Roads and Maritime will keep the community informed as the project progresses.”
Meanwhile, on Community involvement, the RMS states in one of its August updates that it “is committed to keeping the community informed and involved in the project through the following means: Community meetings, Information sessions, Newsletters, Advertisements in local newspapers; Website updates; and, community members can also contact the project team or visit the project website to obtain current information about the project”: 1800 778 900, or: [email protected]
For general updates go to: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/northern-nsw/woolgoolga-to-ballina/