At Ballina Council’s February meeting I moved for an urgent report that would outline the current state of Ballina’s road network and explore funding options for increasing our road resealing program. Sad to report, this timely proposal was not supported by a single councillor.
Yet Council’s own engineering staff (April 2011) have reported that funding for the resealing program is insufficient. If road resealing is not done in time it results in the need for costly road reconstructions
One thing is clear: unless Ballina dramatically increases its road resealing program, and discontinues the practice of ‘contracting out’ its crew and equipment to complete private roadworks, our road network will continue to deteriorate.
The good news is that the NSW government has a mechanism for councils to borrow money at concessional interest rates for this specific purpose. Given that road reconstruction raises the costs to a shire ten- to twelvefold (up to 1200 per cent) we have to ask why this council isn’t exploring all the options to reduce this future cost burden?
Don Page, minister for local government, in a recent a press release highlighted the NSW government’s Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme. He pointed out how it will ‘pay the first four per cent of the interest on loans that NSW councils take out specifically to pay for the maintenance of infrastructure projects such as roads’
Don also explained that ‘the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme is a key aspect of the NSW government’s local infrastructure backlog policy’ and how it will ‘help NSW councils get on with the task of reducing the vast backlog of infrastructure projects in their communities’.
Ballina Council is currently not adequately funding and maintaining our existing infrastructure. Instead I believe it is diverting much-needed funds into speculative commercial property investments that are providing the community will a very low return on the funds invested. A much higher return is possible if these assets are sold, and used to attract grant funding for infrastructure programs. Present activities are deferring substantial costs for a future council and Ballina ratepayers.
Jeff Johnson, Ballina councillor