Don PageMember for Ballina- State Matters
Ballina bypass to start
On Friday, December 23, the Ballina community received an early Christmas present.
Federal Roads Minister Jim Lloyd and NSW Roads Minister Joe Tripodi announced that the Ballina bypass had been fully funded, with construction set to start as soon as possible.
Mr Lloyd and Mr Tripodi said $271 million of a new $960 million works project, jointly funded by the state and federal governments, will be used to completely fund the Ballina bypass.
In a joint media release, Mr Lloyd said the Ballina bypass was an engineering challenge, not a funding issue.
Mr Lloyd said building the Ballina bypass would be technically difficult to build and it would be a further six to seven years before a bypass could be completed across the soft soils of the Richmond River floodplain.
However, he said 20 of the 38 properties required for the bypass had been bought at market rates and the process of acquiring the remaining properties would be accelerated to allow construction to start as soon as possible.
Ballina is the only large town between Coffs Harbour and the Queensland border not to be bypassed. In the past funding has been the problem, but now we are advised this is not the case, which is great news for Ballina.
It is a just reward for the lobbying that has occurred at a local level to see the project advanced. Route selection started in the late 1990s and ministerial approval for the selected route was given in May 2003.
It has been a long process, but Ballina is finally set to get the bypass it needs.
Inquiry into highway upgrades
The Parliamentary Inquiry into Pacific Highway upgrades has recommended the State Government commission a cost/benefit study of the inland route between Tyagarah and Grafton.
The cost/benefit study was one of nine recommendations made by the Interim Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the upgrades from Tintenbar to Ewingsdale and Woodburn to Ballina.
The Inquiry recommended the cost/benefit study for the inland route between Tyagarah and Grafton incorporating the Summerland Way be conducted independently of the RTA and provide a basis for comparison with the RTAs current options for upgrading the Pacific Highway.
Importantly, the announcement of the complete funding for the Ballina bypass allays any fears the inland route could make the Ballina bypass less of a priority.
The recommendations also provided constructive policy direction for the RTA in relation to the process of determining preferred routes.
The Inquiry has recommended the RTA substantially improve its community consultation process through methods such as forewarning residents of route options and preferred route announcements and providing comprehensive information to all affected residents.
Recommendations also suggest reforming Community Liaison Groups (CLGs) to become more transparent and that the RTA develop a Policy and Procedures Manual for all future highway upgrades.
Other recommendations include the RTA reviewing its process for expanding the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale study area and publicising both the rationale for expanding the study area and the relevant documentation, and that the NSW Government establish a working party to explore ways to expedite the payment of financial compensation to property owners whose land has been acquired.
Importantly, the Inquiry also found that the State Government should consider establishing a Property Value Guarantee Scheme to assist people whose properties are very close to a preferred route but who are not eligible for financial compensation.
The two remaining recommendations stated that the RTA recognise the significance of State Significant farmland and avoid including it in route options and that Regionally Significant farmland be a substantial constraint in developing route options, and that the RTA ensure the various levels of surveys undertaken during the planning process are clearly explained to the community.
The recommendations represent an important voice involved with the upgrade of the highway the community members and residents who made submissions and had their say before the Inquiry. It is vital the State Government looks to implement these recommendations in their entirety.
The Interim Report is available online at http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au by clicking the Committees link and selecting General Purpose Standing Committee No 4.
Ballina rehab and transitory care units
Ballina Shire Council has approved the development application for an 18-bed transitory care unit and 24-bed rehabilitation unit at Ballina District Hospital.
Council expedited the DA in a period of one month and I thank them for such a rapid approval process.
Funding for the $4.8 million transitory care unit has also been approved, with $2 million from the Commonwealth Government and $2.8 million from the State Government. The transitory care unit will provide home-like units catering for people generally aged 60 to 70 years old who have had an acute care episode but can be kept out of a nursing home through transitory care prior to returning home.
2006 Premiers Seniors Week gala concerts
The dates for the 2006 Premiers Seniors Week Gala Concert series to be held in April have been finalised. Two concerts will be held on Monday, April 3, 2006 one at 10.30am and another at 2.30pm, at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
The concert series is always a popular production and those who have attended in previous years have commented on what an enjoyable experience it is.
Those interested in attending either concert can contact my office for tickets.
Phone: 6686 7522
Fax: 6686 7470
Address: PO Box 1018, Ballina, NSW, 2478