THE current debate over the Berry bypass has been dismissed by NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay.
On Friday, Mr Gay told radio station 2ST the debate had been driven by a “small section of the chattering class who had picked up on a tame journalist who seemed to believe that there was something ethereal, something fantastic in wall-to-wall roadblock traffic through the middle of town”.
Mr Gay was referring to Sydney Morning Herald journalist Elizabeth Farrelly, whose opinion column last month reignited furious debate in Berry about the government’s decision to go ahead with the northern route.
“Come on. You can’t be serious when you’re basing an argument on doing nothing or going south on an article that praised the fact that in holiday periods we had a chicane that blocked traffic – and there was wall-to-wall traffic,” Mr Gay said.
“We’ve done the studies, we’ve spent the money. We’ve done the consultation with the community. A couple of months ago I said it was time to move on.
“We’ve had a third party appraisal of all the studies. These people just don’t want anything to happen quite frankly. The situation currently is unacceptable. We’ve got a community that wants us to get on with this. We’ve got communities on both sides that want us to get on with this. And we’re determined to do it.
“They can sit there and they can chatter amongst themselves but we’ve consulted and we’ve already done the right thing, as we should have, but everyone has to accept that at some stage it’s time to move on. And that stage is now,” he said.
“We’ve listened, we’ve changed it as we should have but at some stage this small group has to get over it.”
Mr Gay’s comments are at odds with an online poll on the South Coast Register’s website, which showed two-thirds of more than 1600 respondents supported the southern route over the northern option.
Philip Thorniley, a Broughton Vale resident who has campaigned against the northern option, said Mr Gay’s comments could be seen as compromising the environmental assessment process that was currently under way.
“It’s conducted by a completely different department and his comments could be seen to compromise that process,” he said.
Mr Thorniley also took issue with Mr Gay’s dismissal of opponents of the northern route.
“This isn’t a small group. One thousand people signed a petition calling for a southern option. This is supported by the Register’s own polling, which shows the majority of residents favour the southern route.
“More importantly, the Minister does not accept that the process to date has been corrupted. Examples of that corruption have been pointed out.
“The so-called independent review of the latest southern bypass proposition initiated at our request was conducted by people already involved in the existing process. Putting it kindly, that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
“When in opposition and shortly after taking up the post of Roads Minister, Mr Gay described the then RTA as arrogant. Nothing has changed. In fact, Mr Gay manifests the same arrogance with the comments he has just made.”