Councillors have voted to save scores of native trees in a wildlife corridor earmarked to be felled by Council staff as part of the rebuilding of a section of Broken Head Road which sparked an outcry from the mayor and community.
Staff had upset mayor Jan Barham last month when 20 large trees were felled and around 60 more were planned to be chopped down for the road widening and she didn’t know a thing about it.
Then last week, only days after she succeeded with an urgency motion to halt the works, staff further angered her by recommending the roadworks south of Broken Head Reserve continue, including the felling of more mature trees.
Staff in their report had warned that funding from the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for half the budgeted $570,000 project was tied and could be lost if they did not proceed.
They also said the road’s poor pavement condition exposed Council to a risk of accident-insurance claims and that Council had a duty of care as a roads authority to maintain and improve the road for public safety.
But Cr Barham successfully moved for council to carry on with the works but without having to finalise the road widening or remove any more trees.
The move was opposed by Crs Ross Tucker, Diane Woods and Tony Heeson.
Half the costs of the project was being funded under the government’s REPAIR program for regional roads.
The Council will now proceed with the rehabilitation of the road using developer-contribution (section 94) funds and will ask the RMS if the grant funding can be used for other road improvements along a greater stretch of Broken Head Road.
A report has also been sought on the environmental repair work now needed for the areas being cleared and to see what improvements or mitigation works for wildlife conservation along the road can be carried out.
Cr Barham told media before last week’s meeting that widening the road by removing vegetation in a wildlife corridor was unnecessary to improve safety and she’d rather Council spend the money ‘on the surface people drive on, rather than three metres either side’.
Cr Barham had also asked Council staff on notice why the co-funded road project was not subject to tender and therefore reported to Council.
The mayor was referred to the staff report, which said the project was not required to go to tender under Local Government Act regulations.
They also said that as one of the components of the project was foamed bitumen stabilisation, which was also planned for two other road projects in the shire, the combined value of the works was over the tender threshold and had to go to tender. Council has already tendered the works and awarded a panel contract for them.