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Byron Shire
June 24, 2021

Byron’s roads are ‘a mess’, council admits

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Massive, spontaneous potholes like this one are a common occurrence in Byron Bay's Sunrise. Some residents claim they are sinkholes. Photo supplied
Not all potholes in Byron Shire are as massive as this one in Sunrise estate but there are plenty to choose from. Photo supplied

‘After weeks of heavy rainfall and flooding, many roads within Byron Shire are heavily pot-holed and falling apart.’

That unlikely confession is an official admission from Byron Shire Council that it has failed over many years to keep up with its road maintenance obligations.

But there’s a sting in the tail. The state of the roads is the reason the council sought and obtained a significant rate increase over the next three years, which, after the state of the roads themselves, is the second-biggest thing residents complain about.

‘Roads that were built many years ago on poor alignments and on poor sub-base, were never going to withstand such a harsh climate and intensification of vehicular traffic, an official council media release reads.

‘Chronic under-funding of essential road maintenance and renewal by successive councils has well and truly come home to roost,’ its mea culpa continues.

Council’s GM Ken Gainger said it has been ‘facing and dealing with the harsh reality that the only way to fix the potholes is to reconstruct many kilometres of sealed roads across the shire,’ which he adds is an expensive solution at $715,000 per kilometre.

‘A Band Aid approach of cyclic pothole repair is a road to nowhere,’ Mr Gainger ironically acknowledged.

‘It is for this reason that the council had no alternative but to push for a special rate rise through the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in order to make significant inroads [sic] into the council’s inherited infrastructure renewal backlog,’ he said.

‘This was a tough decision for the elected council to make and it is a credit to them that they recognised the significance of the roads problem and took what they knew would be an unpopular decision,’ he added.

Mr Gainger said a condition of IPART’s approval of the rate increase was that it would be dedicated to infrastructure renewal, which will be be audited by the Auditor General.

The council will place its annual roadworks schedule on its website so that the community can see which roads will be reconstructed and renewed across the shire and when.

‘This is all part of the council wanting to be open and transparent in its decision-making and being more respectful to its community.’

Mr Gainger said roads selected for upgrading were ‘not chosen based on political or community advocacy imperatives but rather they were selected as part of a sophisticated strategic asset management approach which analyses and prioritises works based on their condition, usage and expected lifespan.’

‘Council understands the community’s frustration with the current unsatisfactory state of our roads and has already increased annual roads expenditure from $4 million in 2012 to $16 million in 2016,’ he said.

‘Council asks that people be a little patient with the increasing number of potholes following recent heavy rains – potholes can’t be properly repaired until the wet weather subsides but rest assured that we are putting on extra crews to do this urgent work.

‘Hopefully our residents can see the efforts that we are making to provide roads that better meet community expectations,’ Mr Gainger said.

Current large roads projects in the shire include a new two-lane roundabout at Sunrise Boulevard on Ewingsdale Road, repairs to the Belongil Creek Bridge, and a tender about to be advertised for a new two-lane roundabout at the Ewingsdale Road/Bayshore Drive intersection at the Byron Industrial Estate.

The council is also moving closer construction the Byron Bay Town Centre Bypass following its successful defence of a recent Land and Environment Court appeal by Butler Street residents.

Mr Gainger added that the council was actively lobbying the NSW State Government for further roads funding and was pursuing legislative change that would support the collection of a bed tax from visitors to the area staying in Byron accommodation facilities; and enable Council to charge business rates for holiday-let establishments.

‘If our lobbying is successful, the additional revenue created would help to ease the burden of ratepayers in funding infrastructure damaged by two million tourists each year,’ he said.

 


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12 COMMENTS

  1. While I have no reason to doubt GM Gaingers costs estimate of $715,000 per km to reconstruct our shire roads as currently arranged I think its time BSC took road construction and repair back “in house”.

    Years ago Councils employed road gangs as “day labour” for this purpose. It has
    since been out sourced to the private sector. I believe, like a lot of other government privatisations, it has failed.

    A road construction company must factor into their costing’s, the costs of preparing a tender (including the costs of other failed tenders), supervising the construction, and responding to requirements of auditors and engineers from both State and Local Government, and perhaps the Commonwealth as well if federal funding is involved. This all adds substantially to the costs of such infrastructure projects. All they are doing is being employed to tick boxes.

    Bring back local road construction within council. Locals will be employed which benefits our local economy, instead of the FIFO workers as witnessed recently at Bangalow. Costs will be significantly improved. Local knowledge will prioritise and facilitate appropriate construction.

    • You cant be serious thinking that council should self perform roadwork. Take a look at the productivity levels and quality that the single in house crew completes now….. the standard of their is so poor that contractors then come and fix it. The bus bay at Wilsons Creek School for example they rebuilt the retaining wall twice and the pavement design failed after the first rainfall. Possum Creek Rd Bridge is another that comes to mind. There are thousands of examples of councils in house work that fail after taking forever to construct.

      While you may bag the FIFO workers at least they know what there doing and come here to work. Not bludge, call in sick, not work weekends, whinge, complain, want to go home if the surfs up, fail drug testing.

  2. What a load of council doublespeak. Mr Gainger should have been aware that the roads were falling apart BEFORE the heavy rain and linking improved roads to the inordinate and unnecessary rate increase is a further nonsense. He states: “Council understands the community’s frustration with the current unsatisfactory state of our roads and has already increased annual roads expenditure from $4 million in 2012 to $16 million in 2016”. Do they?? What has council been spending the rates collected on, $4 million is a very small proportion of their revenue. MAYBE it was spent on poor investments and lost in the GFC, maybe it has been spent on confidential settlements with minority pressure groups, maybe it has been spent on a litany of expensive court cases, or even an electric car refuelling station [First world concept but even electric cars have to drive on our 3rd world goat tracks]. What is clear is that the correct allocation to roads has not been made nor have they been considered a priority. Also if the engineering problems outlined by Mr Gainger exist then it is a pretty safe bet that council has been aware of them for a long time and done nothing to address them other than blaming unfortunate weather events. Don’t blame the rain [although it has had a significant effect] consider the inept management by a succession of ideological driven, Byron-centric councils who have lacked the vision and motivation to ensure that the roads were maintained across all the shire.

  3. It’s not just roads … it’s all about drainage too. For decades Council has been pouring loads of roadbase onto a crossing on Wanganui Road, which immediatly washes into the Coopers Creek system, covering platypus feeding grounds and causing many other environmental problems downstream.
    It’s nothing short of environmental vandalism, and to blame it now on a lack of funds is bull****. This is a culture that’s been going on inside Council for too long. “Just do a quick fix and shut them up”. I invite all Councillors and staff for a tour of Wanganui Road, get some local knowledge and input (yes, I know where the water flows after 37 bloody years fixing their stuffups) and I’ll save you money and time and I’ll help save the environment. Seems it’s a low priority on a supposedly Green council’s agenda.

  4. I grew up in Hong Kong where they use concrete instead of bitumen to build roads to avoid potholes. It costs more to start with but is surely more cost effective in the long term.

    Geopolymer concrete would perhaps be the more sustainable solution until you get the monorails up and running 🙂

  5. Beyond a joke and it is no surprise the roads are so bad .
    Thanks Byron Council for the buckled Rim and split tyre after hitting a massive pothole near the relatively New Roundabout you constructed at Cavanbah Sports Centre , my car is currently on a jack waiting for the $450 repair to be completed .

    A local for 38 years and the roads have always been bad in Byron Shire but why should we the rate payers have to foot the bill for Councils Poor planning and failed maintance programs .

    It is not rocket science building a road that actually lasts , please call ballina council for instructions on construction methods as their roads appear to be in good shape.

    Small tip , when you build on wetlands or very wet ground you must install appropriate drainage or even better bridge the area with precast concrete interlocking sections and never waste another cent on BLOODY POTHOLES AGAIN .

    HumeDeck® modular precast bridge system

    The HumeDeck® modular bridge system is the perfect solution for small to medium size bridges; commonly used in regional areas where council timber bridge renewal programmes are undertaken.

    Whether the unit is installed onto an existing substructure, or combined with precast concrete piles, abutments and headstocks for a total precast solution, this reinforced concrete modular bridge system is a cost effective decking system with minimal design costs, quick installation and minimal maintenance. This low cost precast bridge solution is ideal for the upgrade of many of Australia’s older small span timber bridges or ROADS .

    The HumeDeck® modular bridge system delivers significant benefits:

    Just hurry up and fix the BLOODY ROADS MATE !!!!

  6. Council has not yet been out with machinery to fix the Tickles Road creek crossing following the large flood a couple of months ago! It would be classed as 4WD only since then!

    You bet they are not meeting their road maintenance commitments

  7. No excuses, negligence, failure of duty of care, call it what you will. This will really “come home to roost” if one of the unfilled pots is a direct cause of a serious accident, or death, a motorcyclist for instance. Then they will really be scrambling for funds.
    There has already been one very successful case against a council in SA (I think) where a motorcyclist died as a result of poor/improper road maintenance, the family sued and won.
    I am fortunate to live in Tweed Shire where we have a more responsible council, who address road maintenance as they arise. The conditions of roads in Byron Shire are a travesty and a danger to all who travel on them.
    Byron rate payers need to make better choices and make their council pull their heads out of the sand on this.

  8. Drainage, blocked under road pipes, poisoning along road and creek edges, inadequate up keep over all. Coral tree poisoning along side Wilson Creek road and creek is a disaster in the making, not dissimilar to the Wilson Creek school/hall washout a few years ago.

    Contractors sent up to the valleys are ignorant on local conditions and just want to get their job done. Mesh that has been laid down in the past, to ease gravel run off, now clumped usually near the creeks. Piles of gravel along creek banks.

    Private land holders should be given incentive to maintain their road frontages. Many introduced plants are playing a major roll in inhibiting erosion.

    Volunteer Saturdays ( as our road-side herbicide free weeding group does) could see a few of us out there filling the potholes from the piles of washed off gravel near the edges. The spray and sprinkle filling of pot holes is a total waste of money in the long run.

  9. If we had regular rail services that would cut traffic on the roads especially if freight went by rail it would significantly cut the extreme damage to the roads caused by trucks. The State govt has dumped huge costs onto ratepayers and taxpayers in this area by removing rail services.

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