100% Locally Owned, Independent and Free

100% Locally Owned, Independent and Free

'Our Eureka Stockade': when the Tollbusters drove a road rebellion

Do you have a news tip? Click here to send to our news team.

Photo of the day: morning treat

"Early morning beach walkers were treated to a glorious show of colour," said Prue Henschke, who captured this photo at Coolum Beach. If you have More

Coast company to build seawall in Pacific Islands

A Sunshine Coast company has been appointed to deliver a 1.81km coastal protection system in the Pacific Islands. Buderim-based dredging, civil and marine construction company More

All aboard? Funding for rail gains momentum

The state government could soon bolster its funding for a rail upgrade on the Sunshine Coast, after the federal government announced it would provide More

Jane Stephens: off-leash dogs a divisive topic

Debate around off-leash dogs quickly runs off the chain. It brings out the animal, making us whine and barking mad. Any topic around animals is sure More

Roads closed as event draws record number of runners

Roads will be closed this weekend when a record number of runners contest a growing marathon festival. There will be changed traffic conditions around Noosa, More

Multi-level building and car park proposed to replace shops

Plans are afoot to redevelop a popular shopping hub at Maroochydore. Fernco Pty Ltd wants to build a three-storey commercial and mixed-use building at 86-94 More

There was never any doubt that the Sunshine Coast was ready for a road network, but the idea that motorists would be penalised with a toll to fund the proposed Sunshine Way was outrageous.

State and Local Government first got together to talk roads in 1984, but it would be another six years before an 18km link from the Bruce Highway to Pacific Paradise opened on January 21, 1990.

And motorists would have to pay a toll to use it. From the beginning there was a storm of protest and politics that would last a decade.

When Member for Fisher Michael Lavarch proposed in August 1988, that the tollway be called the Sunshine Motorway, there were hopes it might be funded by the federal government. It was not to be. Users would have to pay.

The base camp for rebellion: Tollbuster Park.

The community rallied and Residents Opposed to Road Tolls (RORT) went into battle. The group pointed out that Caloundra City’s new four-lane Nicklin Way was to be completed within two years and tolls had never been mentioned.

It questioned why there would be three tolls on the motorway through Maroochy Shire.

The Sunshine Coast project office opened on December 9, 1988, and deputy premier and Main Roads Minister, Bill Gunn, said resumptions and construction that included six interchanges, bridges over the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers, the capability to be upgraded to four lanes – and two toll plazas – would cost $45 million.

Tolls were the only way it could be afforded and only those who chose to use the motorway would have to pay for it.

It took RORT less than five days to collect about 10,000 signatures of residents opposed to any tolls.

The map that showed motorists how to avoid the tolls.

The first section of the Sunshine Motorway, the Maroochydore bypass, was officially opened near the Wises Road roundabout in October 1989, but more importantly, an election was coming up on December 2.

In the dying days of the Bjelke-Petersen government’s 32-year reign, tolls were just as important to the Sunshine Coast as the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and candidates were promising the tolls would go.

The Goss government was installed – but so too was the Mooloolaba toll plaza. Motorists travelling the length of the first stage of the motorway would have to stop at three toll stations, to pay 50 cents each time and $1.50 to cross the new Maroochy River bridge.

The betrayal by those who had opposed tollways during the election campaign hit hard and within a month Tollbusters swung into action.

Led by Suzelie Connelly (pictured above), who likened it to the Eureka Stockade – they would be manning the barricades against unjust taxes. Some local residents were not given a choice as roads linking their suburbs were cut and integrated into the motorway.

Love nostalgia? So do we. Help keep more great Coast memories alive by subscribing to our free daily news feed. Go to Subscribe at the top of this story and add your name and email. It’s that simple.

A Tollbusters campaign urging motorists to avoid the toll was so successful that the state government decided to close side roads and force traffic through the toll plazas.

In October, more than 700 people attended an emergency meeting at Kawana Community Hall and the next day, a cavalcade of 500 cars met at the Mooloolaba TAFE and drove to the worksite on a bypass loop at the Mooloolaba Toll Plaza which would become known as Tollbuster Park.

The group had set up camp on the site and would remain there 24/7 for two years, until the September 1992 state election.

A week before the poll, they stormed the Mooloolaba Toll Plaza, wrapped the toll booths in black plastic and removed the boom gates so residents could experience driving on the motorway for free.

How Sunshine Coast Sunday reported the dramatic event. Image: Janine Hill, who wrote the story.

Two were arrested but the tolls stayed.

A new campaign “Return Roads to the Residents” was launched for the July 1995 state election. This time the Labor government won by only one seat and after a by-election the following year, the Coalition gained majority. Within two weeks the new Treasurer, Member for Caloundra Joan Sheldon, announced the tolls would be removed.

After 1940 days of active protest, the Tollbusters had won and the tolls were finally lifted at midnight on March 8, 1996.

The old administration building at the Mooloolaba Toll plaza which was later used as a Counter Disaster and Emergency Services headquarters, fell into disuse in 2013 and was demolished in 2018.

Stage Two of the motorway from Pacific Paradise to Peregian Springs, opened on December 29, 1993 and never had any toll booths.

This flashback is brought to you by Sunshine Coast journalist and history writer Dot Whittington, also the editor of Your Time Magazine.

[scn_go_back_button] Return Home

Subscribe to SCN’s daily news email

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.