Funding commitments for Byron Shire Council that have been ignored by the state government are causing ‘reputational damage,’ according to the council’s general manager (GM) Ken Gainger.
Describing them as ‘hollow promises’, Mr Gainger says there is yet to be action over promises by Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to construct a ‘multi-million-dollar bus interchange for Byron Bay.’
Meanwhile he says a National Party commitment to repair the crumbling Belongil Creek Bridge on Ewingsdale Road is yet to be addressed and a promise from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is yet to materialise for an upgrade of the St Helena lookout.
While these projects fall under the authority of government departments, the relevant coalition ministers who are responsible for those departments are RMS minister Melinda Pavey (Nationals) and minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance (Liberal). They were recently appointed after a cabinet reshuffle.
Mr Gainger’s comments come just as NSW minister for tourism and major events Adam Marshall (Nationals) visited the shire on Monday to announce a $95,000 package for local events.
Mayor Simon Richardson told The Echo he was disappointed that the minister failed to contact him and staff over the visit and supported Mr Gainger’s views on state government inaction.
Mr Gainger said, ‘Byron Shire contributes significantly to the state and regional economy, yet we are largely ignored when it comes to receiving any financial support.’.
‘Byron ratepayers are becoming increasingly annoyed that they are being asked to fund infrastructure that is damaged and degraded by millions of visitors. 15,300 ratepayers cannot continue to support two million visitors without significant government support,’ he said.
Parliamentary secretary for northern NSW Ben Franklin (Nationals) told The Echo he was ‘surprised by the media release from Byron Council about their concerns.’
‘Council made representations to me regarding the bus interchange issue. As they know, I have had formal communication with both the minister for transport’s office and the minister for lands. Discussions have been constructive and we are working towards a positive outcome,’ he said.
‘Similarly, they also raised with me the Belongil Creek Bridge issue. Although this is a federal matter and outside of my purview, I have formally raised the issue with the federal minister for transport and am awaiting his response.
‘Byron Council know that these issues are being examined. I would have thought they should await the outcomes of these representations before running to the media to complain.
‘They are welcome to raise their other issues of concern with me if they wish and I will try to assist there too. Unfortunately, Byron Council have jumped the gun and appear to be playing politics with important local infrastructure issues rather than constructively trying to solve them,’ Mr Franklin said.
Mr Franklin also took the opportunity to try and gain political points against local MP Tamara Smith (Greens).
He said, ‘Everybody knows the local member is not a member of the government and has very little influence in Macquarie Street. So, as a local resident and government MP, I am always happy to step in, pick up the slack and help our region.
‘I am proud to represent the concerns of local individuals and organisations – particularly where it is clear that the local member cannot achieve an outcome – and I will continue to do so,’ he said.
In reply to the GM’s claims, an RMS spokesperson said they are committed to upgrading the lookout at the intersection of Hinterland Way and Coolamon Scenic Drive. ‘A safety audit and line marking at the intersection was completed before Christmas last year.
‘In correspondence received from Byron Shire Council on March 1, 2017, Council advised it had agreed to carry out an engineering survey to progress the project. RMS will continue to work with Council towards an outcome.’
Additionally a TfNSW spokesperson told The Echo that ‘TfNSW and Sydney Trains has been working with Byron Bay [sic] Council and Crown Lands to determine an appropriate site for a bus interchange at Byron Bay.’
‘The first concept designs were presented to Council in December 2015; however, at Council’s request, the proposed site for the interchange has been changed on a number of occasions, which has led to a delay in finalising plans.’
No mention was made of the critical Belongil Creek Bridge repairs that are needed.
Additionally neither department refuted the GM’s claims of a lack of communication.
I wonder, why Council cries foul now at this convenient time, when a total of 33.5% rate increase over 4 years is sought form the rate payers and residents. Timing is everything.
Are ratepayers to pay for the “crumbling Belongil Creek bridge”?
Council still needs State aproval from IPART for the special rate increase. The deadline for submissions is the 13th of March.
Check out IPART’ s website for monre info.
Belongil bridge definitely needs repair, as concrete cancer of its piers, is an eye popper.
Grab a kayak and have a look.
It does one’s head in, to think that that bridge is the ONLY way in to Byron’s north, and if it collapses, image how long it’ll be out for…