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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Meerschaum Vale misses out on low-noise highway surface

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Ballina MP Tamara Smith (Greens) with some of the Meerschaum Vale residents affected by highway noise. Photo supplied

Residents of the once-sleepy area of Meerschaum Vale never expected noisy freeway construction within earshot of their homes, let alone suffering extra ongoing noise from the road that other nearby residents will miss out on.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith  (Greens) visited the construction site on Wednesday (July 11) to discuss residents’ concerns about the proposed road surface for the highway being built near their houses.

While the RMS confirmed last week that ‘a low noise or stone mastic asphalt pavement’ will be used on other parts of the new Pacific Highway, Meerschaum Vale residents have not been told what the surface will be like in their area, despite numerous requests dating back 18 months.

People living near the Woodburn interchange, the area east of the Broadwater township and the area near Coolgardie were given the good news about their quieter road surface by RMS last week after it released an ‘operational noise review’ for the Woolgoolga to Ballina stretch of the highway.

But, Meerschaum Vale residents have received no such assurances.

‘Many Coolgardie residents live near the existing Pacific Highway and have experienced noise from it for years and will get the low noise road surface. It seems only fair that Meerschaum Vale residents should also get the same low noise pavement, especially since until recently none of them expected to be living near a highway,’ Ms Smith said.

‘Most Meerschaum Vale residents bought their houses in the expectation of a very quiet life or perhaps to retire there. Residents have had to cope with the decision to put the upgrade through their neighbourhood and this year a massive increase in dust, vibration, construction noise and heavy machinery traffic.’

‘A noise-reducing pavement is the least the RMS can do for these residents,’ said Ms Smith

Dust and noise

One resident, Col McAndrew, lives just 200 metres away from where the finished highway will be.

His house currently looks out at a batch site, a huge pile of dirt being used as foundation for the highway, that trucks start hauling at 6am each day.

Mr McAndrew has recorded noise levels within his house and says it is way above the permitted decibel level.

He’s also had dust contaminating his drinking tanks and almost disabling the solar panels on his roof.

He told Echonetdaily that back in February 2017 RMS highway manager Bob Higgins told a public meeting that he’d ‘look into’ the possibility of a low-noise surface for Meerschaum Vale and get back to us’.

‘One of our members wrote to him recently and asked what was happening.

‘He said it was still in the planning stages,’ Mr McAndrew said.

‘Next thing we heard that Lend-Lease had got the contract for concrete pavement past our house.’

Flawed reports

Mr McAndrew said the post-construction noise reports for several locations have been proven to be flawed, including one for Valla Beach, where there is a similar concrete section.

He added that ‘they’re diamond grinding the concrete road [there] and it hasn’t reduced the noise levels at all’.

‘Once the concrete’s in, for rural properties to get any further mitigation, there’s got to be 3 houses in 50 metres of each other. That rules us out.

‘We have more people within the high-decibel zone than Coolgardie.

‘We’re hoping raising the issue now will get Bob Higgins back to the table – to fulfil his promise to us before he retires at the end of August,’ Mr McAndrew said

But, he added, ‘they’ve come back and said they want to conduct a one-hour information session at their base at Pimlico’.

‘That’s not an information session, it’s an intimidation session.’


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