How a crusader was crushed by hell road
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.