Highway upgrade leaves locals in limbo

Newrybar resident Margaret Eugarde and her son Lee outside their family home, which they will have to leave to make way for the Pacific Highway upgrade.

When Margaret and Jeffrey Eugarde moved to Newrybar 13 years ago, they bought a rundown house and started up their business, Bangalow Upholstery, with just $50 in the bank.

The couple worked day and night to build their operation into a thriving little business, turned the old building into their dream home and raised three children. But in the last 48 hours, since the NSW Government announced its preferred route for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade, their entire life has been turned upside down.

The preferred route will cut right through the Eugardes property, and while Margaret said she prepared herself in case this moment arrived, the reality of leaving the business and the family home is tough to swallow.

We were stunned and quite devastated theres an incredible sense of loss, said Margaret. I really tried to prepare myself rather than getting angry but deep down this is where our kids have grown up and you cant place a value on that. We have to accept that its happening, but it means a lot of upheaval.

Margaret and Jeffrey are among 63 landowners who will be affected by Tuesdays announcement.

With an Environmental Impact Statement and more consultation yet to be done, it could be some years before construction gets underway. Margaret and Jeffrey are now awaiting advice from the RTA about compensation and the next step in the process.

We feel like were in limbo and wed really like to know whos going to pay for this, said Margaret. To buy another house in the area were looking at big money and then theres all the relocation costs. We cant move on with our lives until we know exactly whats going to happen.

Ballina MP Don Page has now called on the NSW Government to provide adequate compensation and says residents should not be forced to wait years for recompense.

He says under current legislation the NSW Government has no obligation to compensate people until the Minister for Planning gives final approval a process which could take several years.

The Just Terms legislation needs to be amended to allow compensation to be delivered within a reasonable timeframe so affected residents arent entombed in their properties, Mr Page said. Moreover, residents whose properties are not acquired but affected by the preferred route are generally not currently eligible for compensation. This needs to be addressed as the indirect effects of the highway upgrade such as noise and emissions must be taken into account and compensation duly allocated.

RTA staff will be available to discuss the upgrade at the following locations:

Newrybar Hall on October 5, 12 and 19 from 10am-6pm; October 6, 13 and 20 from 10am-4pm; and October 7 from 9am-2pm.

Bangalow Hall on October 14 from 9am-2pm.

Ewingsdale Hall on October 21 from 9am-2pm.

The preferred route will be publicly exhibited until November 3. You can view it at the Newrybar Hall, Ballina Shire Council and Ballina and Lismore RTA offices.

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