To protect our natural environment and engage with local communities, Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts is pushing for a federal inquiry into the proposed Coomera Connector project. This controversial initiative aims to construct a 45km motorway connecting the Gold Coast to Logan and Brisbane, and it has sparked heated debates due to its potential impact on wetlands and environmentally sensitive sites.
As reported in Quest Community Papers, the Courier Mail, and the Gold Coast Bulletin by journalist Judith Kerr, Senator Roberts recently met with residents of Eagleby. This suburb will be significantly affected by the planned highway. Within this context, he announced his intention to advocate for a federal investigation, with the proposal for the inquiry set to be presented before the Senate by December.
While the specific terms of reference for the inquiry are yet to be drafted, it's expected to encompass various crucial aspects, including flooding concerns, alternative routes around Eagleby, environmental considerations, and potential land resumptions by the state government. Additionally, Senator Roberts expressed concern about whether Transurban, Queensland’s privatised toll company, might have influenced the route selection to maximize toll road customers.
"The Queensland government's gazetted proposal is for a highway through pristine wetlands that could make flooding on the Logan River even worse," Senator Roberts asserted. He highlighted that a viable alternative route, located just 4.5 kilometres to the east, exists that would spare the Eagleby Wetlands, a habitat for migrating birds and the rare Latham Snipe.
Senator Roberts underscored the apparent paradox of governments claiming to care about the environment while seemingly disregarding it when it conflicts with large-scale infrastructure projects. However, a spokesperson from the Transport Department clarified that Transurban had no involvement in the Coomera Connector project.
This contentious issue also involves a clash of viewpoints from various stakeholders. Former state Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon justified the route through koala habitat, citing overwhelming support for the six-lane Coomera Connector. According to Scanlon, independent experts had identified this route as having the most negligible impact on properties and the environment. Labour has genuinely abandoned the people of Eagleby if Meaghan Scanlon thinks she can get away with bulldozing these crucial areas of environmental significance.
State Transport Minister Mark Bailey disappointingly echoed Scanlon’s sentiments, although he expressed his willingness to subject the project to a federal environmental impact assessment. While some residents support the highway, others like Robert Livingstone and cane farmer Michael Herse have proposed a cheaper alternative route that requires fewer bridges and avoids destroying the Eagleby wetlands.
Livingstone, who played a role in designing the alternative route, emphasized that their plan does not traverse environmentally sensitive areas and aims to minimize disruptions to both homes and nature. However, state government engineers have argued that their proposed route is more expensive.
Gold Coast resident Gary Lindsay voiced the belief that the new road could significantly benefit those living in the northern Gold Coast and Logan, appealing for support for the project.
In summary, the Coomera Connector project is at the centre of a passionate debate, with Senator Malcolm Roberts leading the charge for a federal inquiry. While infrastructure development is crucial for regional growth, it is equally essential to consider the potential environmental and community impacts. This proposed inquiry seeks to balance progress and preservation, ensuring that local communities and our natural surroundings are not harmed in the pursuit of development.
Construction of the first stage of the Coomera Connector began in March, with both federal and state governments contributing to the funding. The second stage, which encompasses the Eagleby area and beyond, is currently in the early stages of development, focusing on a business case and environmental approvals. Once completed, the Coomera Connector is expected to alleviate traffic congestion on the M1 Pacific Motorway, benefiting the region from 2025 onward.