Tunnel blasts drive St Helena couple to despair

WITS END: Albert and Winsome Ormsby’s home is only metres away from major construction on the Pacific Highway upgrade at St. Helena.
WITS END: Albert and Winsome Ormsby’s home is only metres away from major construction on the Pacific Highway upgrade at St. Helena. Patrick Gorbunovs

WHEN Winsome and Albert Ormsby built their home at St Helena 13 years ago, they planned to hand it down to the next generation of their family.

Unfortunately the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade has crushed those dreams.

Now, the couple are desperate to sell their property after months of blasts to the rock beneath St Helena has taken a toll on their mental and physical health.

Since the construction of the tunnel began in May, the dust, noise, shaking and pollution have caused Winsome to experience panic attacks and hypertension and her husband has become increasingly frail.

Albert said when the upgrade began the couple thought everything would "be okay" after they were told by Roads and Maritime Services they lived in an area "not affected" by the blasts.

However after being unable to open their window for months due to dust and noise they are at their wits end.

"We thought we'd be able to wear it, but after a while it just gets to you; the noise and the dust and the shaking and the stress of it really," Winsome said.

After raising concerns with RMS, the pair has been offered respite in Ballina, but they are yet to receive written confirmation of this offer and are reluctant to leave their home unless acquired by the RMS.

Winsome and Albert Ormsby have been reluctant to speak about their experience of living in such close proximity to the St Helena upgrade, but they said they wanted to make the community aware of the unnoticed mental and physical impacts large infrastructure projects can have on residents.

"We're just at the point where we can't go on," Albert said.

When asked about compensation provided to residents, a RMS spokesperson said if a resident reported suspected damage caused by the work, an inspection will be carried out and repairs will be completed.

He also said RMS was "working closely with residents to reduce any disturbance from controlled blasting for the St Helena Tunnel".

Site contractor Baulderstone refused to comment for this story.

Topics:  pacific highway pacific highway upgrade st helena

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