17th November, 2009
The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
Dear Mr Garrett
The Pacific Highway upgrade and Matters of National Environmental Significance.
Before launching into the reason for this letter, we wish to convey our heartfelt appreciation for your
Traveston Dam decision. The Clarence Environment Centre experienced disappointing outcomes
from the 2005 referral of the Shannon Creek dam project, a case where not a single matter of
national environmental significance was saved from destruction, despite clear options that could
have halved the impact. Therefore the Mary River decision has restored our faith in the ability of the
EPBC Act to fulfill its objectives, protection of the environment and conservation of biodiversity.
That leads to our current concern, a proposed motorway across the Clarence Valley, masquerading
as an “upgrade" of the Pacific Highway. In reality the existing road will remain for the entire 80
kilometres, with the new motorway meandering across the valley destroying some 800 hectares of
native vegetation including State listed endangered communities and high conservation value
forests (reference RTA's Wells Crossing to Iluka Road ecological assessment). A Northern Rivers
Catchment Management Authority officer has observed that: “The upgrade will have a greater
permanent environmental impact than all urban and rural residential development in the region put
together for the next 50 years."
Supported by your Government's economic stimulus package, the RTA has released an ecological
assessment for early construction of a 7 km section of motorway at Glenugie, south of Grafton. That
proposal was the subject of a Referral to your Department, owing to the planned destruction of a
large number (6,000 plus) of federally listed threatened Square-fruited Ironbarks (Eucalyptus
tetrapleura). The Clarence Environment Centre presented the only submission to that Referral.
We argued that there is no need for a motorway, suggesting instead that a 4 lane divided highway,
incorporating the current road corridor, would be adequate for the foreseeable future at a fraction of
the cost. In response, the RTA claimed that “working under traffic" would be expensive and
dangerous (page 13, Environmental Assessment Submissions Report, October 2009), completely
ignoring the common practice of constructing two new lanes first, then transferring traffic to the
new section while the old road is upgraded and straightened appropriately.
The proposal as it stands, will construct all 4 lanes, separate from the current highway, through the
Glenugie State Forest, clearing a corridor up to 150 metres wide. The RTA admits (page 12) the
road's footprint will measure only 40 and 80 metres, so why the need for a corridor of up to 150m.
The RTA responds to this criticism explaining the corridor will not all be cleared to 150 metres,
instead stating that only 85 hectares of forest will be cleared. Doing the maths over the 7km section,
CLARENCE ENVIRONMENT CENTRE
31 Skinner Street
South Grafton 2460
Phone/ Fax: 02 6643 1863