Premier, what more will it take?

The wreckage of a ute involved in a collision on the Pacific Highway about 2km north of Ulmarra.
The wreckage of a ute involved in a collision on the Pacific Highway about 2km north of Ulmarra. Adam Hourigan

JUST 24 hours after snubbing an invitation to take a look at the state of the Pacific Highway from Coffs Harbour to Ballina, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally has again been asked to review her decision following a near fatal accident early yesterday morning.

A 28-year-old Victorian man is fighting for his life after a shocking crash at Ulmarra, north of Grafton, closed the Pacific Highway for several hours.

Thick fog prevented the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue helicopter attending the scene and the man, suffering major multiple injuries, was taken by road to Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

He was later airlifted to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle where his condition last night was described as ‘critical’.

The latest in a spate of horror north coast smashes prompted Liberal opposition leader Barry O’Farrell to contact The Advocate from his trip to China to confirm he will travel north from Sydney to make an inspection.

“Local members constantly bring to my attention the poor state of the Pacific Highway,” he said.

“I’ve witnessed it first hand many times and continue to be astounded by its shocking condition. I accept the invitation to inspect the Pacific Highway again and will do so as soon as my schedule permits.”

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman from Transport Minister Ian Macdonald’s office in Sydney said the Premier was unavailable.

“The Minister will be travelling to Coffs Harbour to meet all the regional mayors regarding the Pacific Highway upgrades,” she said.

She did not indicate when the meeting would occur.

Cr Keith Rhoades and Ballina mayor Phillip Silver said they were deeply disappointed the Premier would not personally inspect the deadly stretch of highway.

“I can understand their time scheduling and priorities, however, I am deeply disappointed,” he said. “The point of this exercise was to impart just how diabolical this section of the road is.”

NRMA audit reports from 2003 and 2007 show the stretch between Ballina and Coffs Harbour comprises almost a third of the highway distance from Hexham to the Queensland border.

Almost 90 per cent of this distance is two lanes. Despite having the lowest traffic rate of any of the highway, a third of the highway deaths have occurred here.

Richmond Valley Council mayor Col Sullivan shared the sentiment. “I’m disappointed the Premier can’t come herself,” he said.

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