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Byron Shire
May 18, 2024

Wanganui residents doing it for themselves

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Re the unfolding dramas in the aftermath of the Australia Day weekend storms : Along with others, I am finding increasingly disturbing the culture of apathy in Council regarding the lack of maintenance of our hinterland roads and other infrastructure, and the decision-making process that decides where our rates go.


I have history with Council over the lack of maintenance at Wanganui Road, in particular the vegetation blocking up to half the road. There was also the issue of road and drain maintenance, which is now being highlighted. Much of the damage, which is being labelled as a result of ‘natural disaster’ is in fact a ‘man-made disaster’ and avoidable. My own driveway is quite steep and gravelled but sustained no damage in the storms. Why? Because I got out there in the rain with my digging tools and ensured the water ran off my road, not along or down it.


I have been out cleaning the drains along Wanganui Road in case we get more heavy rain and have seen where the drains were blocked, which was the direct cause of at least one slip. A retired ex-RTA engineer, who happened to visit me last week, concurs. The water could not move along the drains and into culverts and pipes, so it found its own way off the road… and took a chunk of Wanganui Road with it into Coopers Creek. Also, the distance between the existing pipes and culverts is too great for an area of such high rainfall and many culverts and pipes are also blocked.


Historically, Byron Shire’s income and social fabric was of a rural nature and those in Council, and its employees, where much more ‘hands on’, and understood how to maintain this area’s infrastructure, despite having a much smaller ratebase. Our road was graded at least twice a year and work crews actually came along with things called ‘shovels’ to make sure the drains and pipes were clear and working. Of course now, the focus is on the towns, particularly Byron Bay, and hasn’t that been great! How much money got spent on that town’s NYE party bill alone this year?


I find it worrying that Council will increasingly label destruction of infrastructure as ‘disaster’-caused when possible, therefore being able to claim assistance from state government for the repair. Of course this will not be good for the affected residents as the bureaucratic process crawls along at snails pace. This culture does not encourage Council to be pre-emptive and do its proper maintenance. Remember, prevention is better than cure!


Since the event that caused the closure of Wanganui Road, Council has not lifted a finger to help us residents secure the road we still have, thus avoiding any further inconvenience, as we are seeing at Upper Coopers Creek, let alone expenditure. (By the way, we haven’t heard from one councillor yet to ask how are we going.) We have also, as reported previously, erected all our own safety posts, witches hats etc to alert people to the danger.


Who in Council makes these decisions? And how long has this neglect really been going on? And why did Council sell its side-arm slasher, the only machine that can effectively remove vegetation from the side of the road in this terrain? Council workers can’t clean drains if they can’t see them. And why is it that Council once had six graders and now has two? Another example that population increase is not a guarantee of wealth for all.


As I’ve said before, I don’t expect a lot for my rates out here, but I do expect a safe road home. If Council can’t provide that why should I continue to pay my rates. When the power goes off the meter stops ticking… Not so with our mis-spent rates.


And then there is good old Telstra, who still hasn’t had the decency to respond to repeated calls reporting damage to their phone line… but hey, ‘It’s how we connect!’


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  1. Couldn’t agree more with your comments Rosscoe. If a grader does scrape the gravel road most of the gravel ends up blocking the drains and the pipes beneath the roads. Our lives are greatly impeded by the condition of the road, real estate is not selling, visitors no longer want to travel the road and every time it rains we wonder which section of the road has slipped which may cut us off completely. Supervision of all road work should be mandatory and more good old fashioned real workers with shovels to clear the pipes. Incentives for land-holders to manually slash their road borders with-out the use of deadly herbicides and support for locals to start to take pride again in our high conservation areas.


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