26 May, 2024

‘We’re living in limbo'

A decision on a new Bruce Highway Western Alternative route has been delayed, with Transport Minister Bart Mellish saying more time was needed to explore preferred alignments.

Jason Smith and Andrew Powell MP.
Jason Smith and Andrew Powell MP.

The Department of Transport has said it would look at alternative routes to the Bruce Highway Western Alternative Stage 4 following a public outcry over the original plans which would have required the resumption of dozens of homes across Caboolture, Elimbah and Moodlu.

Furious and worried residents organised a series of town hall meetings, sent in hundreds of public submissions and organised a 10,000-strong petition tabled in Parliament in February.

Mr Mellish said the government was now considering community submissions.

The Government had been expected to gazette its preferred route in mid 2024, but timelines have now been removed from the departmental website.

In a question on notice to Mr Mellish, Glasshouse MP, Andrew Powell, asked the Minister to “confirm the Department of Transport and Main Roads is no longer considering the routes previously provided to the community” and “provide an updated timeline for identifying and gazetting a Stage 4 route given timelines have been removed from the departmental project website?”

Mr Mellish responded this week, saying the department was reviewing feedback from community submissions and was considering routes further west of the two routes initially presented.

“Any viable alternate routes identified outside of the initial study area need to be considered alongside the two corridor options presented to the community to determine their ability to meet project objectives, including connecting communities, improving transport network efficiency and resilience, and supporting future growth,” Mr Mellish wrote.

“The new investigations will take additional time, and the outcomes of these investigations will help determine the revised project timelines, including when a preferred alignment is likely to be identified.

“TMR is currently preparing a summary of consultation outcomes to share with the community.”

Mr Powell said it was “galling” that timeframes and timelines had been removed.

“Why is it that Minister Bart Mellish can’t give a straight answer to a community that desperately deserves some honesty?” he said.

“We are almost halfway through 2024, after residents were told just before Christmas last year, that the government was planning to put a highway straight through their homes.

“Those residents are holding onto a sliver of hope that the route may be changed. What they need now is certainty on the plans moving forward.

“Being told there’s still no timeline for identifying and gazetting a Stage 4 route is just ridiculous and galling.”

Residents say their lives continue to be left in limbo, as TMR refuse to confirm project timelines or whether two unpopular alternative motorway routes, set to adversely impact hundreds of residents, will be taken off the table.

Residents are calling out TMR and the Transport Minister on a lack of transparency, saying their lives have been put on hold, with homes that are unsellable and no timeframe for a definitive outcome provided.

Kim Litchfield from the community opposition group (Objection to Current Bruce Highway Western Alternative) said the response from the Transport Minister was extremely disappointing, especially given the substantial level of objection to the two originally proposed TMR routes.

She said the fact that TMR will not release/provide new project timeframes now to the community, shows a complete lack of care and respect.

“There is no way they do not have project timelines internally. It shows a complete lack of care for this community that Bart Mellish has not demanded TMR provide the community some type of updated timeframes,” Ms Litchfield said.

“Do they not understand the level of stress that having no time frames has on so many of our community.”

Jason Smith said the response was simply not good enough, and clearly demonstrated that despite public outcry the Minister was unwilling to make a decision or provide direction to TMR.

He said the response provided by the Minster was “weak”.

“There has been no commitment from the current government to scrap the proposed routes in spite of all the community objections,” he said.

“You can’t tell the public that the only routes ever presented internally to committees within TMR only consisted of the original proposed routes. This is simply not good enough, and leaves me with the impression that people don’t matter to this government unless they meet specific criteria.”


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