Byron Shire Council staff have warned councillors against exploring whether the unused rail corridor in Byron CBD can be used as a bypass, claiming it would result in the forfeiture of the $10.5m in Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) funding ‘which was provided exclusively for a bypass constructed on the Butler Street alignment’.
The staff response comes from a motion by Cr Paul Spooner in the upcoming June 22 meeting, which calls for Council to be ‘fully informed of the relevant costs associated with the two viable options now possible for constructing a bypass around the Byron Bay CBD.’
Cr Spooner writes that a letter to Tamara Smith MP, written on behalf of the NSW minister for transport and infrastructure, ‘provides confirmation from the NSW government that the unused rail corridor within Byron Bay could be used as a roadway.’
His motion ‘will inform Council of both the costs and budget available to proceed with the construction of the Byron Bay bypass,’ Cr Spooner writes.
Staff have replied in the agenda that the current estimate for the bypass built on the Butler Street alignment is $20m; originally the project was expected to cost much less.
They say, ‘Available funding sources at this time are $10.5m funding from the RMS, and $4m collected to date in Section 94 Developer Contributions specifically for the bypass.’
Waste of money
‘Approximately $2m of these funds have already been spent in preparing the EIS, BioBanking Statement and detailed design.
‘A further $450k has been spent defending the Land and Environment Court legal challenge instigated by the Butler Street Community Network (BSCN).
‘In order for the full bypass project to proceed the shortfall in funding would have to be addressed and would have to be sourced from either the state or federal governments.’
Staff say proceeding with a roadway in the rail corridor would also mean: ‘Wasting the $2.45m already spent in getting the current proposal to the construction stage; a significant opportunity cost due to thousands of hours of Council staff time spent on the project to date having to be duplicated – this would have significant consequences for the capacity of staff to focus on other significant Council projects and service delivery.’
But the Butler Street Community Network have replied to the staff comments, claiming that the ‘Moree bypass has been completed utilising the rail corridor [and] retaining the operational rail line.’
Among one of the many counterarguments is that ‘Council [staff are] making completely unsubstantiated claims about the cost of a Crown land transfer of rail corridor land to Council.’
‘The biggest lie Council has perpetrated is that the state funding for the Byron Bay CBD bypass was predicated on the Butler Street route.
‘The Butler Street Community Network undertook a GIPA freedom of information request for TforNSW Strategic Business Case study that is the approval document for the $10.5m funding.
‘That document specifically states that there is no recommended route option other than noting that Council strongly favoured the Butler Street route. Funds were provided on the basis of further development of a recommended option.
‘No excuse should be allowed or perpetuated for a council misleading the community and its councillors.
‘Any money wasted is entirely Council management’s responsibility and to perpetuate the error can only lead to more waste of resources.
‘A significant decision is to be made here regarding an expensive, dangerous and highly destructive road proposal in the face of an obviously superior, safer, cost-effective solution. This is the last chance for councillors to get fully informed…’