The focus of the Pacific Highway upgrade is moving to the Woolgoolga to Ballina section despite concerns remaining over impacts on important koala habitat.
Tenders have been invited for the next stage of enabling works for the upgrade to examine flooding issues.
Page MP Kevin Hogan said the successful contractor would provide expert independent counsel on all hydrological matters including advice and services on project impacts and flooding outcomes.
“The hydrologist will be a vital resource for residents if they need assistance in understanding flood impacts on the area,’ Mr Hogan said.
‘They will also review concerns from local authorities, government agencies and stakeholders and negotiate mitigation measures,’ Mr Hogan said.
Meanwhile, pressure continues to build on governments to reconsider the chosen route for the section between Woodburn and Ballina because of the potential impacts on koala habitat and other threatened species.
NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has pledged to reconsider an alternative route for the contentious Wardell section of the upgrade, which doesn’t impact on koala habitat,
The Labor pledge, with an eye on the green vote for the upcoming state election, aims to firm up the environmental credentials of local ALP candidates in the Tweed, Lismore and Ballina electorates, seats all held by National Party MPs.
Mr Foley said the Wardell section was ‘mired in controversy’ because of the impact on koala habitat, and Labor would consider an alternative route.
He told Echonetdaily he had driven around the Blackwall Range through which the route would go and could not understand why the government’s preferred route took a 2.6 kilometre ‘dogleg’.
Nevertheless, upgrade plans for the controversial section are moving ahead now that other sections are underway or completed.
Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker said the call for tenders was ‘another milestone in delivering one of Australia’s largest regional road infrastructure projects’.
‘With 60 per cent of the Pacific Highway upgrade completed and all projects between Port Macquarie and Arrawarra now underway or complete, the focus is now on the remaining 155 kilometres between Woolgoolga and Ballina,’ Mr Hartsuyker said.
‘Significant progress has been made in recent months with the awarding of the construction contracts for Arrawarra to Glenugie.
‘The appointment of hydrological services will continue this progress.’
Ballina MP Don Page, who is retiring at the next election, said the project would be a great economic boost for the region.
‘This upgrade is expected to employ about 2,500 people directly and provide for another 6,500 indirect jobs in the broader community,’ Mr Page said.
Applications for tender must be submitted by 2:30pm, Tuesday 3 February 2015. More information can be found at https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/.
Meanwhile, Greens Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson, who is also the coordinator of Save Ballina’s Koalas campaign, said while the overall project has been approved by the NSW and Federal governments, ‘it may not be possible to meet the Federal minister’s conditions of consent relating to the koala in the section from Broadwater to Wardell.
Cr Johnson is organising a public meeting for 6.30pm on 28 January at the Ballina RSL to update the community on developments in the ‘No Highway Deviation ‘campaign.