The RTA was told in the year 2000 that human lives would be jeopardised with the RTA’s intended route at Bulahdelah; this is now happening – and construction has not yet begun!
But the RTA is not only continuing to pursue an avoidable route they know to be extremely dangerous, they’re lying about its deadly hazards: landslides; boulder falls; the distance of the mountain’s cliffs; and the sulphuric-acid-producing rock dust which would be generated during construction. This is more than reckless indifference to human life – it’s calculated intent to jeopardise human lives by multiple means.
The RTA claims to have carried out community consultation.
No community would knowingly support the following:-
- The route the RTA intends to use for construction of a new section of highway, six lanes in width, would entail excavation up to twenty five (25) metres deep and over 131 metres wide [a breadth equivalent to over thirty seven (37) 3.5 metre traffic lane widths] into the western foot of a historic mountain which is prone to *mass movement (landslides) and rock and boulder falls. (*Ref. Soil Landscapes of the Dungog 1:100 000 Sheet – Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney. L.E. Henderson, 2000.) Blasting and pile driving would take place during excavation.
- All of Bulahdelah’s eastern residential area, which includes two schools, is located on the western foot of this mountain – the Alum Mountain – which rises from 10 metres above sea level at Bulahdelah’s shopping centre to 292 metres at the summit.
- During blasting of another section of the Pacific Highway ‘upgrade’ between ten and six kilometres away from (south of) Bulahdelah, the mountain’s sub-vertical cliffs of porous rock have been crumbling and shedding boulders.
- The blasting has additionally caused two landslides in one of the mountain’s historic mining quarries and, on a separate occasion, an underground spring has also been damaged, creating massive water runoff down the mountain – a major mudslide hazard.
- Part of the roadway would be located in (13 metres below the surface of) an existent landslide. (Despite the existence of this landslide, the only mountain summit hazard listed in the so-called ‘Landslide Risk Assessment’ in the RTA’s Environmental Impact Statement for this project was that of boulder falls.) There would be over a quarter of a kilometre of mountain height above the proposed roadway, with the aforesaid cliffs being at a horizontal distance of only 500 or so metres.
- The roadway would have a hill where the speed limit for all traffic would be reduced at a crest. The hill would slow northbound laden trucks by ‘about’ 25 kilometres per hour over a distance of 900 metres; southbound laden trucks would be slowed by 20 kilometres per hour over a distance of 1 kilometre.
- During construction, Bulahdelah residents and some six hundred children in two schools would be put at risk of developing cancer, pneumoconiosis and silicosis through exposure to freshly pulverised volcanic rock dust. Additionally, much of this dust would be from acid sulphate rock which would produce sulphuric-acid on coming into contact with bodily fluids – a further cancer risk.
- A residential street, Scott Street, would be used as a haulage road where acid sulphate soils, acid sulphate clays, acid sulphate and other volcanic rocks – and dusts from all of these – would be transported only some 80 to 90 metres from – and at a level above – Bulahdelah Central School.
- A residential street – Crawford Street – where Bulahdelah’s nursing home and hospital are located would be used as a highway access road.
- Areas of Bulahdelah are already flood prone. The RTA’s intended route would cause increases in flood levels.
Route options were not publicised via ‘newsletter’ until after the RTA had established a ‘Community Focus Group’, closed its membership and barred the community from entering the group’s meetings.
Instead of route options, Newsletter 1 (March, 2000) had an orange blob over Bulahdelah. Newsletter 2, which was delivered in late July, 2000, revealed five route options, with Option A being, by $4 million, the cheapest of all.
A and B – to the west of Bulahdelah (but, with the northern and southern ends of B being close to the township), with Option A’s 2006 project cost being stated as $145 million and Option B’s 2006 project cost as $161 million;
C – following the entire length of the current through-Bulahdelah section of the Pacific Highway, with its 2006 project cost being stated as $165 million;
D – following the southern through-Bulahdelah section of the current highway but then curving in an easterly direction, through residential areas and encroaching upon the mid and northern sections of the Alum Mountain – the 2006 project cost of Option D being stated as $150 million; and
E – through the western foot of the Alum Mountain (a historic site of major cultural and environmental significance and the only tourism asset within Bulahdelah), hard against the township’s south-eastern residential area and then curving in a westerly direction to meet with the current northern in-Bulahdelah section of the Pacific Highway. The 2006 project cost of Option E was stated as $149 million.
Newsletter 2 claimed that, among other things, the ‘upgrade’ must:
- achieve a safer environment for everyone;
- incorporate community issues;
- minimise impacts on the environment;
- complement the existing community and landscape features; and
- achieve community satisfaction with the development of the route.
Option A met the above criteria; Option E did not.
Despite being cheaper than Option E by $4 million [this figure would now have escalated by $millions, not limited to but including for geotechnical and environmental reasons], Option A was advertised as being 9.8 kilometres in length, 1.1 kilometres longer than the ‘8.7 kilometres’ E.
These two route options were illustrated accordingly – with Option A made to appear longer than Option E.
The fact is that any difference in distance is miniscule – and even more so when compared to the route the RTA used immediately north of Bulahdelah for the Bulahdelah to Coolongolook ‘upgrade’:-
The five (Bulahdelah) route options were put on public display (at five rural locations) for less than three weeks – from 31st July, 2000, to 18th August, 2000 (reference Newsletter 2).
The submission period ended on Monday, 21st August, 2000, three days after the conclusion of the public display (the Bulahdelah ‘public display’ having been out of sight of the general community – in a tourist information centre and at a lawn bowling club). (Submissions had to be in writing.)
Eight days after the end of the submission period, an RTA ‘workshop’ – where, unbeknownst to the community of Bulahdelah, they were represented by three Community Focus Group members – was secretively held out of Bulahdelah at Bombah Point (on 29th and 30th August, 2000).
That workshop – the Value Management Workshop (VMW) – was conducted by:
PPK Environment and Infrastructure (PPK) – documented on the cover of the RTA’s Non-Indigenous Heritage Report of July, 2001, as being ‘A Parsons Brinkerhoff Partnership’ and ‘a NATA Certified Quality Company’ – now Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB).
Formerly Rust PPK (Rust), this company is documented in Hansard records as having had numerous complaints regarding their consultation process in the matter of an EIS for ‘Sydney’s second airport proposal’. At that time (1996) Rust PPK also published and distributed EIS-related maps with ‘at least’ three Sydney suburbs in the wrong location; and
the Australian Centre for Value Management (ACVM): ‘commissioned as a sub consultant to PPK to facilitate and report on the workshop’ (ref. the Value Management Workshop Report).
A company by the name of Wilkinson Murray was also involved in the VMW.
RTA officials presiding over the VMW were: Mark Eastwood, Rene Burkart, Roger Fenner and Wes Stevenson.
PPK employees facilitating the VMW for the RTA were: *Fiona Court, Hugh Donaldson, Brett Hawkins, Greg Milford and *David (Dave) Young.
*The then PPK employees Fiona Court and Dave Young were later in the direct employ of the RTA.
The ACVM employees facilitating the VMW were: Ross Prestipino and Chris Laird.
The Wilkinson Murray representative was George Jenner.
*Great Lakes Council representatives were: **Len Roberts, Mike Keegan and Darcy Peacock.
***Karuah Aboriginal Land Council was represented by David Feeney.
The National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) representative, Liam Dagg, was in a position with NPWS which had been created and was funded by the RTA.
The NSW Police representative was Stephen (Steve) Smith, son-in-law of a ****rural property owner who, with use of the Option E route, would sell part of his property to the RTA.
One of the three Community Focus Group members who underhandedly represented the community was John Smith, nephew-in-law of the above ****rural property owner.
At the VMW blatant lies and disproportionate criteria assessments regarding Options A and E were utilised to promote Option E (ref. pages 25, 26, 29, 30, 31 and 37 of the VMW Report).
The outcome of the VMW was that, despite recognition of Option A as being the safest route for road users (ref. VMW Report pages 30, 31 and 23), its attendees chose Option E as the route to be recommended to the [then] Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, as the ‘preferred option’.
Bar a cursory review of Option C (based on cronyism between the then Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, and a local resident), the RTA has dogmatically refused to consider any route other than Option E since the VMW.
(A link to further information regarding the VMW will be provided at a later date.)
At no time whatsoever did Great Lakes Council consult Bulahdelah residents/ratepayers as to which route they wanted the RTA to use. Instead, council undemocratically ‘backed’ the RTA, not only in clandestinely ‘signing off’ on Option E at the VMW but in a later newspaper statement as well.
On the 19th September, 2008, in a video interview at the Alum Mountain Park (which is ‘managed’ by State Forests, not council, and would be entirely obliterated) Great Lakes Council’s Parks and Recreation Manager, David Bortfeld, displayed that council’s use of underhanded, undemocratic practices remains unchanged.
David Bortfeld, who was in the company of a council navvy made manager, John Huckett, stated his purpose in being at the Alum Mountain Park as:
- “My role is to, with the C.O.D. project, have a look to see how the bypass affects community assets.”
- “I just have a vested interest in one of the cogs in the wheel.”
- “As part of the process my opinion is sought on some of the recreation assets for the Bulahdelah community and how that affects the Bulahdelah people. And what potential gains there could be had by having the bypass here.
- You offset the benefits that way.”
He additionally stated:
- “I’m absolutely positive that every aspect of the impact of the roadway’s been addressed. It’s been thoroughly investigated and the least course of resistance as far as impact on the community’s been chosen.”
David Bortfeld admitted that he had not read the Environmental Impact Statement; he showed unfamiliarity with the Alum Mountain Park; and he appeared vacuous regarding Scott Street and the fact that it would be used as a haulage road.
David Bortfeld’s ‘look’ to see ‘how’ community assets would be affected consisted of a cursory glance at a State Forests’ sign which does not provide details of the Alum Mountain Park and a brief stroll across the lower section of the park to the vicinity of the power line track. During the stroll, John Huckett’s hand gestures indicated that David Bortfeld was being grossly misinformed about the RTA’s proposal.
Just over 18 months after the VMW, where he, Mike Keegan and Darcy Peacock, as representatives of Great Lakes Council, ‘signed off’ on Option E, Len Roberts stated (in the Myall Coast Nota of 7th March, 2002):
“It must be noted despite opinion to the contrary that has been circulated in the media, Council [sic] has no say in the decisions regarding the upgrade.”
A quantity of land in the path of Option E is owned by Karuah Aboriginal Land Council.
The RTA has documented that Karuah Aboriginal Land Council (and the [then] DEC) ‘indicated a preference against the development of the western route options (including Option A) during the route evaluation phase’. (Ref. RTA response to Department of Planning comment 4. p. 4.14 on the EIS/SIS for the Pacific Highway Upgrade at Bulahdelah (letter dated 1 February 2005) Questions from the Main Report.)
****The rural property owner:-
Interviewer: “… did they just come and offer you a large sum of money to buy the land?”
Rural property owner:
- “… basically I just put a price on it and they agreed to pay it; and that was it.”
- “They’ve compensated me very well.”
Interviewer: “Are they going to build that [new access to property] for you?”
Rural property owner:
- “Oh yes. I couldn’t, couldn’t say one word against Main Roads or Abigroup or anybody else that [sic]; they’ve done what they said they would.”
- “And more than that in fact.”
This is in stark contrast to the RTA’s treatment of ‘many’ other citizens as described by Coffs Harbour M.P. Andrew Fraser:-
In a 1st February, 2007, statement titled Roads & Traffic Authority Making People's Lives Hell - Fraser, Andrew Fraser 'called on the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and the Iemma Government to stop playing with people’s lives and apply the Just Terms Compensation Act as is the intention of the Act and to stop making peoples lives a misery when the RTA is purchasing properties required for the Pacific Highway upgrade'. In the article Mr. Fraser also said that, in cases where individuals enter into Hardship Provisions with the RTA, “Valuations by the RTA are often well below ‘unblighted’ market value, Solatium (which is the payment made for the inconvenience of having to move) is denied and the cost of removal of commercial enterprises is not allowed." The link to this article is no longer working; it was: http://nsw.nationals.org.au/html/roads-traffic-authority-making-people-s-lives-hell.cfm
Informed citizens of Bulahdelah, Aboriginal people of cultural belief, environmentalists, authorities on Australian native orchids, people who use the Alum Mountain and the Alum Mountain Park for recreational and educational purposes, and other members of the broader community have been objecting to the use of ‘Option E’ for over eight years. This is primarily because ‘Option E’ would destroy much of and pollute all of Bulahdelah and would also obliterate a massive portion of the western foot of the Alum Mountain.
Yet, parroting and expanding upon the RTA’s ‘bypass’ propaganda, the Australian Government’s AusLink site describes the RTA’s intended internal deviation through the foot of the mountain as: ‘a full bypass’, ‘to the east of the town’ and ‘skirting the lower slopes of Bulahdelah ([the] Alum) Mountain’.
In addition to the loss of unique environmental and cultural assets and in addition to the inevitable health costs which would be incurred with the use of ‘Option E’, privately owned Bulahdelah properties could be devalued by some $30 million (thirty million dollars) or more.
And while citizens of this country are fighting to protect their own wellbeing and that of others because of the RTA’s intent to unnecessarily locate an extremely destructive and dangerous new section of highway in Bulahdelah, the Australian Government’s Transport webpage arrogantly asserts: ‘Safe, efficient and sustainable domestic and international transport systems are vital to Australias [sic] continuing prosperity’ and that the Australian Government ‘contributes to the prosperity of the economy and the wellbeing of all Australians by supporting and enhancing our transport systems’.