Newell snubbed Iemma
By PETER CATON
TWEED MP Neville Newell yesterday boycotted NSW Premier Morris Iemma ? the day his boss flew to the Tweed to give the green light to one of the region's biggest projects in years, the controversial Tugun bypass.
After five years of interstate wrangling, ongoing protests and heavy lobbying, Mr Iemma and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie yesterday jointly announced the bypass ? taking the C4 route option ? would go ahead.
Construction of the $360 million-plus highway project will begin in March.
The trip by the NSW Premier was his first to the Tweed since assuming the top job four months ago.
But as the two Labor premiers stood on a hilltop at West Tweed to announce the NSW government had given final planning approval, the local Labor member was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, he was sitting in his office at the Tweed City shopping centre.
Mr Newell, who has strongly opposed the C4 route for the bypass, avoided the event in favour of talking with Tweed locals.
Mr Newell's spokesperson said he was not prepared to "put off" constituents to attend the announcement for the road which was a "benefit to Queensland".
The spokesperson said after meeting locals, Mr Newell was due to go to a Christmas function yesterday afternoon. Mr Iemma said he would not wait to meet with Mr Newell.
"Mr Newell was informed. We just couldn't align our diaries," said Mr Iemma, who flew straight back to Sydney after the hilltop announcement.
While Mr Newell boycotted the announcement, other protesters against the bypass did not.
Two protesters against the C4 route who waved a banner during the announcement were disappointed Mr Newell did not show.
"It would have been nice if he had been here," said Tweed Heads Environment Group president Ole Lyngsted.
"There are alternatives which are cheaper.
"Mr Newell has been very supportive of our logic."
The cost of the bypass option is expected to blow out well beyond 2003 estimates of $360 million.
Queensland is paying $240 million, with the federal government promising $120 million.
"It mainly benefits Queenslanders," said Mr Iemma.
"We pulled our weight by getting the planning approvals done."
Mr Newell's spokesperson said the MP would continue fighting to help West Tweed residents affected by the new road and push for the fast-tracking of the Sexton Hill bypass.