Just days ago it was the federal government battling the state over highway funding. Now the council has turned on them as well, refusing to have the Sexton Hill section of the old highway foisted on it.
Tweed Shire Council has refused to accept the reclassification of the old highway as a local road by the NSW government.
The NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) classifies arterial and sub-arterial roads within urban centres with populations over 100,000 as state and regional roads and provides funding for their maintenance.
But the RMS has informed the council that with a population of just over 90,000 the Tweed does not qualify as a major urban centre and must maintain urban arterial roads within its boundaries.
To make matters worse, the RMS has also informed council staff that the next time they will review the situation is in 2019.
Tweed mayor Barry Longland said councillors are unanimous in the view that the Tweed forms a geographically continuous urban area with the Gold Coast with a population of more than 600,000.
‘The Tweed is the largest growth area in the state and no account is being given to already-approved developments which will take us well over the 100,000 mark,’ Councillor Longland said.
‘We have funded the expansion of our own arterial road network through section 94 developer contributions but these are proving to be insufficient to the growth we need, forcing us to delay projects such as the badly needed upgrade of Kennedy Drive.
‘We are also in the situation of having to build our own highway interchanges like the one at Kirkwood Road, which makes us unique across the state.’
Aspiring Labor council candidates have also jumped into the fray, blaming Tweed state MP Geoff Provest for the stuff-up.
‘Geoff Provest has failed the Tweed. It is his government that makes these decisions and to blame bureaucrats who are responsible to his government is simply weak,’ said Labor candidate Reece Byrnes in a media release.
Fellow Tweed Labor candidate Michael Armstrong agreed and said, ‘while locals are left waiting in heavily congested traffic on local arterial roads like Kennedy Drive, Geoff Provest has ignored his responsibility to deliver for the Tweed.’
Mayor Longland was barely more complimentary, saying council representatives had so far been frustrated in their attempts at working through local state members Geoff Provest and Thomas George to obtain a meeting with the minister for roads and ports, Duncan Gay.
‘We were quite surprised to learn after the fact that the minister was in the Tweed just the other day to open the northbound Pacific Highway bypass at Sexton Hill,’ Cr Longland said.
‘We know he is aware of this issue and that we have been seeking a meeting; it’s a real shame he didn’t take the opportunity while he was here.
‘Accepting the handover of the highway at Sexton Hill would represent a substantial maintenance cost without providing any real benefit to our road network and we simply don’t have the resources to agree to this.’
But Mr Provest has belatedly thrown his effort behind the push to keep the road a state road.
‘They use the comparison between us and the central coast of NSW, where a lot of the roads adjacent to the major highway are used as major transport routes,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
‘Just across the road there’s 600,000 people. We have daily fluctuations of 50,000 people. So I believe there should be special consideration.’