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Coffs Harbour Bypass Concept Plan –Climate Change Issues

Coffs Harbour Bypass Concept Plan –Climate Change Issues

Sue Higginson at Brunswick Heads August 2008

Sue Higginson from EDO Lismore, has written a paper entitled "Considerations of ESD, BASIX, Climate change and offsets (Bio banking) into the Environmental Assessment process. I think it's a fantastic summary of where we are with Part 3A and Climate Change

I've also included some notes below from a submission to the Coffs Harbour Bypass Concept Plan which comes under Part 3A Critical Infrastructure.

Harbour Bypass Concept Plan – Part 3A Critical Infrastructure Project
Proponent NSW RTA – 6 lane motorway - Pacific Highway

The Coffs Harbour Bypass Concept Plan fails to take into account economic and social impacts of rising oil prices and predicted falling supply (Peak Oil), as a matter of public interest.


The Concept Plan also fails to take into account Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles, including the Precautionary Principle and intergenerational equity, by allowing sections of the Coffs Harbour Motorway to pass through coastal floodplains, likely to suffer flooding from coastal inundation as a result of Climate Change, as a matter of public interest.

In general, The Coffs Harbour Bypass Concept Plan, as a matter of public interest:
  1. Ignores Climate Change Risks from Coastal Inundation
  2. Fails to address Greenhouse Emissions in the Transport Industry
  3. Fails to address Peak Oil impacts likely to affect economic viability of project.
  4. Leaves the community with no rights of appeal and reduced input into planning.
  5. Increases the risk to public health in the future from fine particle emissions as more urban development occurs along the motorway route.
  6. Threatens biodiversity through the clearing of native vegetation and the substantial disturbance of coastal floodplains.
  7. Fails to pass the triple bottom line test of economic, social and environmental sustainability and in particular ignores the need for responsible government spending at a time of global economic downturn.

It is widely accepted throughout the scientific community that the world needs to keep CO2 emissions to less than 450 parts per million to avoid a rise of more than 1 degree Celsius in the Earth’s temperature. According to NASA scientist and climatologist, Dr James Hansen, if temperatures are allowed to rise above 1 degree Celsius to 2 or 3 degrees we could face a meltdown of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets and a sea level rise of 1 metre every 20 years.

Global carbon emissions are rising rapidly despite worldwide efforts to curb them according to the findings of the Global Carbon Project (2008) Carbon budget and trends 2007 report which is supported by the International Council for Science, the umbrella body for all national academies of science.

Professor Barry Brook, director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide in Australia said the rise in CO2 emissions would speed up global warming. He said CO2 concentrations could hit 450 ppm by 2030 instead of 2040 as currently predicted.

According to the Global Carbon Project, emissions from transport make up 13% of global emissions.

It is estimated that the Coffs Harbour Motorway construction will generate 60 kilo tonnes of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (RTA Report).


It will require 14 million litres of diesel to construct the Sapphire to Woolgoolga section according to the RTA but no figures have been produced for the Coffs Harbour Bypass.


The Fuel for Thought Report (CSIRO – 11th July 2008) addresses two serious issues – the need to dramatically reduce the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and, how to deal with the economic risks associated with increasingly costly and scarce oil supplies.


The “worst case” scenario in this report is based on the assumption that Peak Oil will be reached in 5 years, in 2013. It suggests that if the decline in oil production was abrupt, petrol would hit $8 a litre by 2018 and there would be a drop in passenger and freight travel by up to 40%.

Other experts on Peak Oil have different views on when Peak Oil will be reached.
2008                CEO General Motors U.S. Rick Wagoner
2008-2010      ASPO founder Dr Colin Campbell
2010                Editor Petroleum Review, Chris Skrebowski
2015                CEO of ShellJeroen van der Veer

In light of Climate Change, Peak Oil and a prolonged global recession long distance road freight corridors such as the Pacific Highway make no sense economically, socially and environmentally and should not be considered for AusLink funding by the Federal Government nor considered as “Critical Infrastructure” by the NSW Government.


The Sydney to Brisbane rail line needs infrastructure investment to run passenger trains at 160 kph and freight trains at an average of 80 kph as a matter of priority over Pacific motorway spending.


Ecologically Sustainable Development, supported by NSW Courts, is defined as “development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends”.

The Coffs Harbour Bypass does not fit that definition at this point in time.
Wayne Evans
Pacific Highway Alliance


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