Consultation process cannot be extended

Pleas to extend the consultation period for the highway upgrade through Medlow Bath have fallen on deaf ears, with submissions now closed.

State and federal Labor MPs, Trish Doyle and Susan Templeman, and the mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, wrote to the relevant federal and state ministers at the end of July requesting a pause on the consultation until people were out of lockdown and able to have face-to-face meetings.

But NSW regional transport and roads minister Paul Toole said Transport for NSW could not postpone consultation sessions.

Medlow Bath sign: Residents express their preferences.

Medlow Bath sign: Residents express their preferences.

"The minister [Paul Toole] reports to us that consultation sessions have been more than adequate and extensive but this is not lining up with what we're being told by the residents of Medlow Bath," said Ms Doyle. "We're hearing that locals are deeply unhappy with the current plans. Many feel as though their points of view are being ignored and that the consultation process to date has been unjust and demoralising."

Medlow Residents Association president, Deb Brown, said the whole process had been "cruel and unfair".

"The insistence ... to push on with this project consultation in 2020 and 2021 appears indicative of a lack of commitment to true and honest consultation, prioritising its 2022 construction schedule over proper process," Ms Brown said.

Ms Templeman said the NSW government had put the entire Parliament on hold due to COVID, "yet it can't seem to hold back the bulldozers that are bearing down on Medlow Bath".

The mayor said residents in the Mid and Lower Mountains were also entitled to be consulted as the highway upgrade would allow trucks up to 30 metres to travel through the area, which would significantly affect quality of life.

Many in the Medlow community are pushing for the proposed 11-kilometre Hartley-Blackheath tunnel to be extended to their village.

Mr Brown said it would deliver "improved travel times, improved resilience to natural disasters, give Medlow Bath back its local road and reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 150,000 tonnes per annum".

Meanwhile, a tender has been awarded to AECOM Australia for environmental assessment of the Blackheath to Hartley tunnel. Regional transport and roads minister, Paul Toole, said AECOM would have to ensure that the project includes measures to protect the natural heritage of the Mountains.

"This critical work will focus on continuing the detailed environmental investigations to confirm the feasibility of a tunnel in this location and will provide the basis for the environmental impact statement, due to extensive community consultation next year."

Artist's impression of one of the tunnel portals in the Upper Mountains.

Artist's impression of one of the tunnel portals in the Upper Mountains.