Wilsons Creek residents have vented their anger at local Nationals MPs over what they say is an inadequate response to landslips in their valley, located west of Mullumbimby.
One resident, Andy Maclean, asked what had Ballina MP Don Page and Lismore MP Thomas George done on the residents’ behalf when contacted by many members of the community in 2013 ‘when we were restricted to a two tonne limit on the road and facing possible collapse with no access in or out?’
Mr Maclean said the residents formed an online action group, and then in collaboration with Byron Shire Council commenced a reference group of councillors, staff and residents, which eventually resulted in two of the seven landslips affecting the Wilsons Creek, Huonbrook, and Wanganui communities being completed, and the other five being fully funded.
‘Thanks should go to [councillors] Duncan Dey and Basil Cameron for their outstanding representation on our behalf, and to Phil Holloway, manager of community infrastructure and his staff.’
‘However the delays are still totally unacceptable. Our near neighbours at Upper Coopers Creek were totally isolated for months due to total collapse of their road, with total disruption to lifestyle.
‘The process of applying to the state government for disaster relief funding takes way too long in emergency situations such as these.
‘At the time of the action group Thomas George was our state member, and Don Page was the minister for local government. Both were invited to the Wilsons Creek Landslip Project Reference Group.
‘Both gave their apologies.
‘Don Page is now back to being our local member due to an electoral redistribution. Between now and the next election, Mr Page, what can we expect you to do to improve the speed in which disaster relief funding is allocated to isolated communities with no other access?’
In response Mr Page told The Echo, ‘It should be noted that both Wilsons Creek and Upper Coopers Creek are not in my electorate and were not at the time of the landslips.
‘Although due to a change in boundaries both locations will be in the Ballina Electorate from the next state election in March 2015.
‘Both these roads are a council responsibility.
‘Contrary to [Mr Maclean’s] views, Thomas George MP made a number of representations on behalf of constituents in the Wilsons Creek area to Byron Council and Roads & Maritime Services during the original landslip. He also worked with the Department of Education to help ensure children were able to safely get to and from school.
‘Unfortunately due to parliament sitting, Mr George was unable to attend reference group meetings; however, he received copies of minutes and acted upon any matters which needed his assistance.
‘As minister for the north coast at the time, I arranged for the Department of Premier and Cabinet to become involved as part of the Upper Coopers Creek Recovery Committee to work through the issues as they arose. This committee was chaired by mayor Richardson and also attended by residents and government department representatives.’
Mr Maclean also suggested the Byron Shire community as a whole, and the various pressure groups within it, ‘could keep in mind while they lobby hard for their various project funding that without our rural roads your farmers markets would dwindle to nothing, your hinterland tourism will become an unsafe joke, and you’ll need to find funds for a lot of helicopters. Allow the Council the funds they need to adequately maintain drains, reseal and fill potholes, as boring as that may sound.’