Residents of Elimbah are tapping strong community support as they fight against a four-lane highway planned to cut a swathe through their village and surrounding district.
ILocals started to organise a grassroots response after notices from the Transport and Main Roads Department (TMR) landed in the letterboxes of 120 landholders in early December.
The notices show two routes as options, with either option set to split the district, and directly impact around 140 families.
Hundreds of other landholders fear they will be affected by noise, dust, decreased amenity and a slide in land values, and receive inadequate or no compensation.
A large public meeting in December, followed up with a series of town meetings at the Elimbah Soldiers Memorial Hall has produced a working group that is creating and refining strategies to combat the proposed highway corridor.
Two petitions to parliament, one of them accessible online and the other on paper, have garnered a total of around 5000 signatures so far, and Elimbah’s battle has been aired on print media, online, TV, radio and roadside signage.
Lead coordinator of the grassroots campaign and administrator of the Objection to Current Bruce Highway Alternative - Stage 4 route option Facebook page, Jason Smith, says the whole community would be better served if the new highway went further west.
“Instead of smashing up and disrupting the lives of 140 families by resuming their homes, the TMR should look for a better way, a less destructive path for the road,” Mr Smith says. “It might add a couple of kilometres to the length of the road, but it’s not ripping through residential and rural residential areas and tipping people out of their homes.”
Mr Smith points to a possible route further west, utilising existing easements and public land, significantly reducing the impact on farms and homes.
Thousands of followers have taken to Mr Smith’s ‘Objection to…’ Facebook page, with a solid cohort of locals immediately jumping on board to offer practical help. Prominent among the many active supporters are Janine Aitkin, Jodie Kinsella, Michael Hayes, Kim Litchfield and Kaz Smith.
While some posters on the Facebook page are suggesting alternatives to the proposed corridor, others are expressing their hurt.
One contributor, Michelle Chapple, says her place, “will probably be one of the homes they will not take,” but she will likely end up with the highway and its fencing on her boundary. She fears there will be no compensation, “just car fumes, noise and an ugly eye-saw (sic) of a fence.”
Elaine Bebb Davis posted that the proposed route was a “band-aid”. “It should at least come back to the Bruce up near the Sunshine Motorway. It’s just going to cause another bottleneck at SIW (Steve Irwin Way),” she says.
Another contributor to the Facebook page, Rob Davis, recalled the “western corridor” proposed from Jindalee to the Sunshine Coast some 40 years ago, which never eventuated.
“What is abundantly clear is that the TMR’s current proposal falls far short of what should happen. It’s a short-term band-aid approach which is doomed to create more problems than it would solve,” he says.
Other residents agree, with many pointing out that the TMR’s proposed route also affects a significant population of wildlife.
As the lead campaigner, Jason Smith says the TMR’s route “does not take into account any ecological overlays, and in fact, disregards them completely.”
Despite having “Bruce Highway Alternative” in its name, the proposed new motorway will likely serve as a link between local suburbs and Brisbane, rather than a convenient and time-saving alternative to the Bruce Highway.
According to TMR, the new highway, also known as the Moreton Motorway, will be needed to support future major population growth in suburbs such as Morayfield South, Waraba, Pine Valley, Petrie and Elimbah.
The largest of these planned developments, Caboolture West (Waraba), will eventually house 70,000 people who will use the new motorway to access surrounding suburbs and Brisbane.
Just as the new route is in the process of being gazetted in four separate stages, it could also be built in separate parts.
With the bulk of the larger new housing estates lying south of the D’Aguilar highway at Moodlu, stages one, two and three may be completed before stage four.
TMR says there are no funds or timelines for designing and building the 55-kilometre highway, only a sum of $20 million put aside for determining a corridor.
With no funds available, landowners affected by the new corridor will wait for an indefinite period of time for detailed planning and resumptions.
“Property resumption generally occurs just before construction starts,” TMR says.
But affected property owners may be able to consider “owner-initiated early acquisition,” a process that is different to the formal acquisition process, according to TMR.
With the State Government election scheduled for October this year, voters will be alert to promises around the TMR’s plans and the provision of funds for building the new highway. The State Government is responsible for financing the building of the new road and will look to the Federal Government to pay a portion of the cost.
Those affected by the proposed corridor can object or provide feedback on the Transport and Main Roads online consultation page at www.yoursay-projects.tmr.qld.gov.au/bhwa/stage-4 or by phone on 1800 955 799, or by emailing NCR_Planning_Comms@tmr.qld.gov.au before 9 February.
Jason Smith’s Facebook page, Objection to Current Bruce Highway Alternative - Stage 4 route option has attracted almost 2000 members so far.