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A graph outlining predicted traffic movements connected with the proposed asphalt batch plant. Image:

Debate heats up on proposed asphalt plant

Geoff Helisma |

Last week, the Independent reported that Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) had extended its consultation period for a proposed asphalt plant at Woombah to today July 18; however, following a drop in session on July 11 and a public meeting Woombah Park on Saturday July 14, many residents remain unhappy and confused.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and RMS manger of the highway upgrade Bob Higgins were key speakers at the meeting, which was attended by between 50 and 70 people.

Mr Higgins said the perception that the proposed site for the asphalt plant – the corner of the highway and where Iluka Road used to meet the highway – was already approved is incorrect.

“There is no approval at this stage,” he told those gathered.
“We’re at the point of getting community feedback.
“I get it in terms of no one wants these things near their house, but, yes, they want the highway upgraded.
“…At some time we have to find a place to put these sorts of facilities.”
He said other communities where the plants have been constructed south of Macksville were “very touchy”; however, once they were operating he said the RMS received “very little complaint”.
Mr Higgins said increased traffic “is an issue” raised in community feedback.
“There’s a bit of work going on … we had a closer look at peak periods … and how they related to the highway’s construction program”.
A man asked: “Do you expect local traffic to give way to the trucks or let us go before you let them go?”
A spokesperson said that “a traffic study done on Iluka interchange” was underway.
“We haven’t got all that information yet,” he said. “…There are two stages … I need to get the highway traffic off the existing highway near the Mororo Bridge … [because] we’ve got to build three more bridges on the existing highway.”
Mr Gulaptis said: “No site has been determined, this is a consultation and this is what this is for.
“If the issues [odour, flood, drainage, etcetera] cannot be addressed, it’s not a suitable site – wherever the plant goes, it has to meet the [EPA] guidelines.”

Mr Gulaptis had more to say in a subsequent media release.

“More consultation with the community is needed,” he said.
“Roads and Maritime Services argued the intersection … was the best location for the temporary plant.
“However, there had been a distinct breakdown in the consultation process and the community had a right to feel let down.
“Community opinion in relation to such decisions must carry equal weight, along with economic and environmental considerations.
“The RMS needs to give due consideration to the community objections to this site and look to alternate sites for the plant.
“I would urge any community members who have concerns about the location of the asphalt plant to express their concerns to the RMS in writing and to send a copy to my office.”
President of the Woombah Residents Association Kerry Wilsmore describe the meeting as a “pointless exercise”.
“They have not done a study into the completed traffic flow situation, environmental data is short to say the least and there is no analysis of any other site investigated.”
He said it would be more appropriate to conduct a public consultation “after all the data has been put together”.