The Greens and the ALP have lashed out at comments by retiring National Party Ballina MP Don Page that moving the route of the Pacific Highway away from an endangered koala colony would cost human lives.
Earlier today Mr Page told ABC radio the change would delay the project for two years and implied the Greens and opposition would have blood on their hands if they successfully pressed for a route change.
‘At the moment there are 28 people on average dying on the Pacific Highway, plus numerous injuries. So there would be about 56 additional deaths with a two year delay,’ he said.
‘So let’s think about the people who will die on that highway as well as any impact it will have on koalas,’ Mr Page added.
Greens Ballina candidate Tamara Smith told Echonetdaily today, ‘Don’s comments on radio this morning beggar belief’.
‘I’m shocked that he’s making off-hand comments about fatalities on the Pacific Highway to score political points.
‘It seems he’s using statistics that refer to fatalities on the whole highway to sensationalise the complex issues that surround the route of one section of the highway.
‘The government and the RMS have had years to consider alternative routes in the face of longstanding community opposition. To turn around now to blame the community for any delays is unbelievable.’
‘The outrageous implication is that if you are supporting the alternative route you are supporting deaths on our roads.’
Mr Page also indicated that the current planned route was cheaper and easier than the other option.
‘The alternative route that they’re proposing will cost 60 per cent more than what has been approved… and that’s because you’re going through soft soils because you would be building the road in the flood plain – and that’s very expensive,’ Mr Page said.
ALP also oppose
ALP candidate Paul Spooner echoed Ms Smith’s comments, describing Mr Page’s remarks as ‘shameful scare tactics’.
‘We’re talking about getting the best outcome for a small section of the highway, which is only about 13 kilometres long,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘The identified route that the government has agreed upon is longer than the existing highway corridor and, because it goes through the Blackwall Ranges, is causing all kinds of environmental issues,’ he said.
‘Federal environment minister Greg Hunt has put 26 conditions on this section, a number of which have nothing to do with koalas. We may be bogged down in the environmental issues for a long time if the government has to satisfy these before the RMS can commence work.
‘What is being asked by Labor is to have a costing done on upgrading th eexisting highway to a standard that would match the rest of the upgrade. That hasn’t been done yet and, when it is, we may find we can get something done quicker and for a cheaper cost than what they are currently proposing,’ Mr Spooner said.