Sean O’Meara, Brunswick Heads
Residents of Brunswick Heads may remember being alerted in 2016 to dormant (2005) plans to redesign, dig up and ‘calm’ traffic (using roundabouts, eliminating all turning lanes and planting centre trees) on its main thoroughfare, Tweed Street.
The instigators of the plan, the Tweed Street Taskforce (TST), dominated by members of the Chamber of Commerce, claimed this project had wide community support, that it was a priority for Brunswick and justified its multimillion-dollar price tag.
Alarmed by the implications of these plans the Brunswick Heads Progress Association held an open town meeting in Febuary 2016.
The meeting was well attended with over 150 residents who were outraged over any expenditure of scarce public monies on a project that had such low infrastructure priority. It was also obvious the plans to ‘calm’ traffic would not only aggravate existing drainage problems but turn residential streets into rat runs by diverting traffic into them. A vote was taken with those present unanimously opposed to the plans. Council was notified!
Two weeks after the town meeting, and in full knowledge of the community backlash, the TST successfully lobbied Council and were allocated $120k from s94 funds for the project. Further community backlash followed, and in response Council allocated $20k from this $120k to do a project feasibility study.
The independent report presented to Council in May was critical of any interference to Tweed Street’s highway-standard road pavement and warned of the high costs that would be involved in mitigating drainage issues.
It also identified safety concerns with the bike path and major problems with interference to existing underground services including water and telecommunications. Not included in the report was the recent laying of NBN cables directly below where many plantings are proposed.
Despite all the ‘non-feasibility’ evidence and community opposition, at the August 2 Council meeting, the TST was allocated the remaining $94,700 to advance the project.
The lack of community consultation of this project seems set to continue. At Council’s Strategic Planning Workshop in June 2017, the TST expressed concerns that any public consultation providing options for consideration and comment would be detrimental to their project as it would open up divisions within the community.
How projects are allocated s94 funding, proper community consultation and transparency are all questionable here. Having now allocated the TST these funds, will Council ensure genuine community input and appropriate oversight into how they are spent?