By LUIS FELIU
A TOLL on Tweed residents to use the Pacific Highway is not on under any circumstances.
That's the position of NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner who was on the Tweed yesterday.
The NSW government is exploring the option of forcing all motorists to pay a series of electronic tolls on a a motorway stretching from Sydney to the Queensland border if it is privately funded.
But the proposed motorway is expected to have a toll-free alternative route for local traffic under a memorandum of understand-ing between the federal and state governments to fast-track the motorway which was announced late last year.
Under the plan, private corporations would build sections of the motorway in return for tolls because the governments cannot meet the hefty $8 billion price tag.
Mr Stoner, the shadow roads minister, yesterday rejected a claim by NSW Roads Minister Joe Tripodi that he was "scaremongering" about the Pacific Highway upgrade by saying locals would have no option but to pay the toll.
"We never said that ? we said we didn't want to see the Pacific Highway becoming a toll road for local communities and we'll stand on our digs on that," Mr Stoner said.
The Nationals, he said, opposed a local toll, but not necessarily tolls for long-distance travellers.
"This has actually drawn him (Mr Tripodi) out to admit that there would be a toll on locals wanting to use the highway ... before, they were only talking about heavy vehicles being tolled.
"And what is a free alternative option for locals ? a goat track through a village which would only encourage rat-running?
"We're expressing concerns of all people on the North Coast who have already paid for their local road network through taxes and registration charges ? they shouldn't be slugged again," Mr Stoner said.
Mr Tripodi said there would be no tolls on sections of the Paci-fic Highway that have already been upgraded or were about to be constructed and promised free alternative routes would be maintained for local traffic.
Any toll therefore would not apply to the Tweed where most of the highway upgrade has been completed. It would also not apply to the Yelgun-Brunswick Heads section currently under construction but could apply to proposed new sections such as the Ewingsdale-to-Tintenbar upgrade south of Byron Bay.
Tweed MP Neville Newell also hit out at the state Nationals, saying "toll roads and back roads" was the Coalition agenda for the Chinderah-to-Yelgun motorway when the Coalition was last in government in NSW.
"The Labor government binned that plan for the taxpayer-funded motorway we have today," Mr Newell said.