Rainforest remnant saved with no extra cost or time delays to Coffs Harbour Bypass construction

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway with Mackay family members, for whom The Scrub holds special significance.

PERHAPS we’ll never know when someone in the NSW Government set in motion the process to find an alternative to bulldozing through an ancient patch of rainforest off Mackays Road, Coffs Harbour known as The (Grandpa’s) Scrub, and found a solution to realigning the Coffs Bypass route with no extra cost or time delays.

Locally we have Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh to thank for hearing the local environmentalists, conservationists and residents who advocated to save The Scrub and for working with
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway, who collaborated with Transport for NSW and the Joint Venture construction group for a solution.

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Mr Farraway was in Coffs Harbour on Friday 17 February 2023 to make the announcement that 100 percent of The Scrub and the nearby creek would be saved, and the bypass would be realigned within time and budget.

“It’s a big win for people power, a win-win for the people and for the bypass project,” he said.

Until the announcement on Friday, the State Government and Transport for NSW had held the position that saving The Scrub would cost some $50 million and delay the bypass project prohibitively.

“Until we went back to the drawing board with engineers, and with our Joint Venture delivery partners who are building this bypass, we had to go and scope it, we had to go and see if we could deliver it and we had to make sure we would not delay this project,” said Mr Farraway.

Mr Singh said that key decision makers had heard the concerns of locals regarding the significance of the site.

“Transport for NSW has a consultation process, including the Aboriginal community, and during our visit with the Minister at The Scrub we did meet and have conversations with an Indigenous elder on site, who talked us through the significance of the site.

“That does inform the way we make decisions and the decisions we make after that,” Mr Singh said.

“This is a couple of months of work in the background with Transport for NSW and with the (Joint Venture) contractor to look at what possible engineering solutions could be put in place, and then write it into the contract so it could be done.”
The consultation process included a site visit where Mr Singh, Mr Farraway and a number of Transport for NSW staff, including Bypass Project Director Greg Nash, were joined by Kevin Mackay, Aunty Yvette and The Scrub advocates Charlie England, Ashley Love and Dave Wood.

“Transport for NSW went away and worked through the different options that could be done,” said Mr Singh.

The refined design will include moving the alignment north, bringing the carriageways closer together and moving the Mackays Road underpass north, away from the forest, thereby adjusting the footprint of the motorway to avoid the remnant rainforest.

“We didn’t want to see any delays to the bypass project as congestion during peak hours is choking our town.

“We didn’t want the speed limit to change,” said Mr Singh.

Speaking at the announcement, Mr Singh highlighted the key role of the Mackay family in the development of the bypass.

“The Mackay family has given up their home of 117 years for this bypass project,” said Mr Singh.

“For the family, one of Coffs Harbour’s pioneer families, to have something that they can hold on to after this project is complete, is a great legacy for Kevin’s kids and grandkids and for future generations.

“That they can point to Mackays Road, which is named after their family, and this scrub as something they were able to save through their hard work and their advocacy, I think is really good for our community and really good for our history and storytelling in this area, along with the indigenous history and storytelling of that place.

“It is one of the continuing things we are trying to do as a government, to get better at helping people like this, making sure that decisions are in line with community expectations.

“I think we’ve done that with this decision and it’s something we’re really happy about,” said Mr Singh.


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