How a cru­sader was crushed by hell road

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

SUE El­liott was the pub­lic face of the fight to stop nightly road­works on one of the Gold Coast busiest roads. She was trolled on­line, taken to a po­lice sta­tion. The fi­nal chap­ter in her life needs to be told.

Ms El­liott wrote nu­mer­ous emails on be­half of sleep­less res­i­dents to the Main Roads Depart­ment as the aroundthe-clock con­struc­tion as part of the South­port-Burleigh Road up­grade ripped through the Sor­rento shop­ping strip.

The 58-year-old grand­mother needed rest to stop fa­tigue as she fought leukaemia. Surfers Par­adise MP John-Paul Lang­broek told Par­lia­ment of her frus­tra­tion.

What Ms El­liott and her part­ner Steve Pons­ford dis­cov­ered was a con­trac­tor had to com­plete a noise com­pli­ance plan. TMR sim­ply ticks off on it.

The con­trac­tor then mon­i­tors its own com­pli­ance. All noise lev­els are kept se­cret.

Mr Pons­ford would find his part­ner out­side their home at night ar­gu­ing with hefty con­trac­tors about turn­ing off a ma­chine which was sta­tion­ary, mo­tor idling in their street.

What hap­pened to Ms El­liott and Mr Pons­ford? They sold their Coast home and moved to Bris­bane but the dam­age was done.

The toll had been wit­nessed be­fore. At Queen Street, South­port, in 2011 a fam­ily sold their orig­i­nal tim­ber home af­ter their ill grand­mother, Ruby, could get only two hours sleep a night due to light rail works.

We all now get to ben­e­fit from much-im­proved trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. Neigh­bour­hoods re­turn to nor­mal. But at Queen Street, and now Boomerang Cres­cent, there is an un­writ­ten cost.

Mr Pons­ford phoned late last week to ex­plain how Sue died on April 20: “It was quick, she fought it tooth and nail. We did ev­ery­thing we could. In two-and-half weeks in hospi­tal she had nine lots of ra­di­a­tion and three lots of chemo­ther­apy.”

His voice, full of emo­tion, drifts off. But when he re­sumes talk­ing, you hear the anger from the pit of his belly.

“We were ha­rassed. She was trolled on­line (for speak­ing out). She was driven to Broad­beach in a po­lice car (for protest­ing),” Mr Pons­ford said.

“It was a pretty hor­ren­dous af­fair. I was try­ing to calm her down. I was sleep­ing bet­ter than her, and she would go out on the street with­out me know­ing about it.

“I’m still gob­s­macked that they (the con­trac­tor) could de­ter­mine any noise level they liked within the cur­rent prac­tice.”

Mr Pons­ford has cre­ated a me­mo­rial in their new home, of a smil­ing Sue. But as he sits back, he has this nag­ging thought, can­not prove it as he works through his grief.

Sue’s death was from sec­ondary breast can­cer. She beat it in 1992, af­ter hav­ing had a mas­tec­tomy.

“I do not, of course, have any proof be­cause noise, sleep de­pri­va­tion and as­so­ci­ated stress does not tend to leave proof be­hind, but I very much be­lieve that Sue’s death was a direct re­sult of her im­mune sys­tem be­ing im­paired,” Mr Pons­ford said.

If road or rail works are con­tem­plated, can­not au­thor­i­ties as part of com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion knock on the doors of those most im­pacted?

Why not talk to the frail, meet with those in poor health, ar­range for them to be re­lo­cated for a few weeks through the worst of it?

Can we set rea­son­able lim­its on hours for split­ting the bi­tu­men out­side front doors, make pub­lic the data from noise mon­i­tors?

Af­ter a month with no sleep Sue El­liott told John-Paul Lang­broek: “If a truck goes by, my heart just breaks. We await the nights with dread.”

Some­thing quite spe­cial broke here, the spirit of a fighter. Bridges, not roads, need to be re­built with our com­mu­nity.

The late Sue El­liott was scorned for lob­by­ing au­thor­i­ties about noisy road­works near her home.

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