Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Newnes Plateau Option Not Viable for Great Western Highway Upgrade

“Newnes Plateau is a natural wonderland just north Lithgow but one of the RTA's Great Western Highway Upgrade options would see it cut in half. Five Mt Victoria to Lithgow route options are on exhibition for public comment till the 22 nd of December,” said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

“The Newnes option should be thrown out on economic grounds alone. The Newnes option would cost $900 million to meet the maximum design grade of 6 per cent, as opposed to $450 million for the Hartley Vale options”, he said.

“If all the 800 people in the Hartley Vale were given $500,000 each in compensation for the road options there, taxpayers would still be $50 million better off than from building the Newnes road option,” he said.

“The Newnes road option cuts the Gardens of Stone reserve proposal in two. It requires a large bridge right across the Farmers Creek water storage dam, Lithgow's water supply. The option puts nationally endangered swamps at risk, and many endangered plants and animals, Mr Muir said.

“According to RTA's consultant, Cardno, the extra cost of cutting Newnes Plateau in half could be justified by the social and environmental benefits of the option,” he said.

“Can you imagine senior RTA bureaucrats arguing for a cost doubling with the Cabinet ministers of the Rees and Rudd Governments: “We need another $450 million save the environment and the community!,”” said Mr Muir tongue firmly in his cheek.

“In terms of environmental triage it's a bad deal. Cutting Newnes Plateau in half for $450 million extra could instead buy about ten good wilderness-sized national parks or run the entire NPWS estate in NSW for a year,” he said.

“It would help RTA's credibility if its public information brochure circulated last week showed the known and mapped nationally endangered ecological communities on the Newnes Plateau, not just those in the Hartley Valley, which are in a more cleared and fragmented environment. Why has RTA published information biased against Newnes Plateau?”, wonders Mr Muir.

If the Government wants to spend money on employing people that's one thing. But let's not waste money on bad road options and delude ourselves about saving the environment and the community by bulldozing very deep slots for roads through the highest forested sandstone plateau of the Blue Mountains . Newnes Plateau is a unique environment and meriting much better protection and management than its getting now”, he said.

For more information contact: Keith Muir , (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 0412 791 404 (mob)