Residents 'overjoyed' as plan to build road through community 'scrapped'

The road project threatened to tear apart the Queensland community but the government reconsidered the plan after it copped significant backlash.

An Aussie community battling to save their properties from a new road development are celebrating Christmas early this year after the developer announced the plan had been “scrapped”.

“It doesn’t get much better than how I feel today,” an excited Sophie Oliver said from her home in Toowoomba. “People are crying with happy tears.”

Her elation was in stark contrast to when she first spoke with Yahoo News Australia in July. That was just days after residents received a letterbox drop revealing the Queensland government had proposed building a major road through their backyards.

Sophie Oliver (left) looking happy. And Sophie's house with gum trees towering over it (right).
Sophie Oliver (left) and her community have celebrated after the Queensland government dumped plans to build a major road through their properties. Source: Supplied

It's given me hope in journalism, it's given me hope in fighting government, it's given me hope in the environmental movement. Because it can be pretty grim.Sophie Oliver

How locals defeated controversial road plan

Locals put their lives on hold and took up the fight against Transport and Main Roads' (TMR) proposed 54km-long Toowoomba North-South Transport Corridor.

It wasn’t just land values they're concerned about. Residents on Leahy Road said the project would have torn apart their peaceful community in the northern Toowoomba suburb of Kleinton.

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There were also concerns the road would displace an entire colony of koalas and greater gliders, as well as countless other species.

“I would have been sad if we had to move of course, but it's easy for us to go and build another house or buy another property. As humans, we can move, we can adapt really easily,” Sophie told Yahoo News. “I was most concerned about our wildlife.”

Determined to protect their community and their koalas, the people of Leahy Road and their neighbours took their fight to government.

They started community WhatsApp group chats with their neighbours, shared their cause on social media and spoke to media.

Left - the proposed route. Right and centre - Koalas in trees.
The proposed road would have cut through known koala habitat. Source: TMR/Supplied

“People can say a lot of negative things about social media… but this highlights there are good things as well,” Sophie said.

“If this had of happened 20 years ago, it probably would have gone through because only a few people would have been aware of it. But because of social media and the few journalists like you who spoke with us, hundreds of thousands of people found out.

“Governments are pretty powerful, and they'll do what they want to do a lot of the time, but when there's that much backlash, they have to listen. And this has highlighted the importance of community.”

Government says it listened to community after thousands respond

Thousands signed their petition and more than 4,000 filed responses and submissions during the three-month consultation phase.

“We couldn’t believe the response… we were really surprised and overjoyed. Things were looking grim and now we get to go into Christmas and we get to relax, but also plan for the future knowing the road isn’t going to go ahead,” Sophie said.

“We’ve got to take these wins, celebrate them, and it just ramps you up for the next fight even more.”

On Monday, TMR issued a statement revealing it had "scrapped" the plan "based on extensive public opposition to the proposed route".

Roads minister Mark Bailey thanked the community for its response to the proposal and said the government had listened.

“Now that consultation has closed, TMR will work with Toowoomba Regional Council to identify alternate transport solutions that maximise the use of existing road infrastructure," he said.

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