Bypass plan hits speed bump

Elise Van Aken & Shannon VerhagenCountryman
Ian with Walkaway bypass opposition group members Claire Parker and Sarah Thurkle presenting the petition.
Camera IconIan with Walkaway bypass opposition group members Claire Parker and Sarah Thurkle presenting the petition. Credit: Supplied

A small but mighty Mid West community has made its voice heard in Parliament after rallying together to oppose a major road development residents say will destroy homes and devastate the town.

The Walkaway Bypass Opposition Group managed to get nearly 2000 signatures in support of a petition to oppose Main Roads’ preferred route for the Dongara to Geraldton bypass.

Last Wednesday, the Member for Geraldton Ian Blayney presented it to the Legislative Assembly on behalf of the community, which has requested the Government endorse the use of the existing Brand Highway as far as Rudd’s Gully in relation to the southern section of the bypass.

Despite Walkaway having a population of just 270 people — according to the 2016 Census — the petition garnered 1809 signatures, which he said pointed to it affecting the greater Mid West region.

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“There’s a broader community issue here,” Mr Blayney said. “It’s more than just the people of Walkaway.”

He said the community’s outrage at Main Roads’ preferred route for the Geraldton-Dongara-Northampton bypass had forced the State Government to extend the freight route’s consultation period by two months.

“For such a small community, Walkaway residents have an extremely strong voice,” he said.

“It’s great to see the petition has already prompted the Labor Government to extend the consultation period until the end of March, but it’s imperative the minister (for transport, Rita Saffioti) provides more direct engagement opportunities for the community within this period.”

Opposition group committee member and local mother Sarah Thurkle said the extension of the consultation period did not provide much in the way of comfort, considering her home could be flattened or within 400m of a heavy haulage highway if the route was approved.

“That’s obviously happened because we’ve made a lot of noise,” she said. “But that doesn’t give me much comfort, I’d rather have a decision.”

While a decision on the route will not be made until after next year’s State election, Mr Blayney hoped the government of the day would listen to the plight of the tight-knit community.

“I hope they take on board the fact that the locals aren’t happy about it,” he said.

“It is clear the community are committed to engaging with the minister and her department to ensure a more suitable route is chosen.”

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