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Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

Byron Council’s road investment failure exposed

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The state of Byron Shire roads is officially beyond a joke. Photo supplied

A stark assessment of Byron Shire Council’s road funding record has been delivered by Byron Council staff, declaring in a new report that continued failure to invest adequately in the road network will negatively affect road safety, travel times and the environment.

But mayor Simon Richardson says Council is doing its best to improve the region’s roads given its extremely tight budget, the impact of tourism, and the near-total lack of support from the state government.

The staff report examines the amount of road resealing and reconstruction work undertaken by Council compared to the targets it adopted in its Transport Asset Management Plan (TAMP).

Council has not come close to reaching its annual target of resealing 39km of roads and completely reconstructing 6km of roads in each of the past three years, according to the report.

In the 2017/18 financial year, for example, Council had resealed 16km of roads – less than half the target distance.

During the same period, it reconstructed 1.3km of the road network – less than a quarter of the target.

‘Council is not improving the overall condition of the road network,’ Council’s asset management co-ordinator Blyth Short said in the report.

‘It is not addressing the increasing number of potholes and rough patches on top of patches.

‘If Council does not begin to invest in the road pavement, further declining levels of service will result in terms of higher risk, reduced safety, increased vehicle operating costs, worse travel times, more vehicle accidents, increased noise, and adverse impacts on the environment.’

The report states that Council’s 2019/20 budget for road resealing and reconstruction would need to increase dramatically to $9.8m to improve the quality of the Shire’s roads.

Even maintaining the current standard of the network would require an increase in spending to $6m in the next budget.

‘This could be considered the absolute minimum starting point for the 2019/20 budget with a view to progressive annual increases until the TAMP targets can be achieved,’ the report states.  

But Cr Richardson said it was easy to use such reports to play ‘kick the council’, and that the organisation had been ‘focused on trying to get local roads in shape’.

Mayor’s view

‘What this report doesn’t show is that we’re actually spending more on roads than we ever have,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘It talks about really major spending… The difficulty is how to pay for that.’

‘As a council we’re pretty frugal – there isn’t a lot of fat to cut. Do we want to stop funding our libraries or our community halls or parks to pay for this?’

Cr Richardson also said the report needed to be considered in the broader context of the ever-increasing demands on Council’s budget and the difficulties of generating more revenue.

‘You have the state government shifting more and more responsibility onto councils, and at the same time limiting our potential to generate more revenue from rate increases.  

‘My question for the state government is, “When are you going to fund roads in regional areas to a reasonable level?”’

He said Council had also been repeatedly stymied in its attempts to obtain more revenue from the nearly two million tourists who visited the Shire each year. ‘We tried to introduce paid parking in Bruns to obtain some revenue from the thousands of day visitors and other tourists who go there, and I think there was a large proportion of the community who agreed with that.

‘Unfortunately there was a loud backlash from a vocal part of the community and so some councillors felt they couldn’t go ahead and make some of the tough decisions.

‘There is a vocal part of our community that simply don’t want to pay extra to improve our roads, whether it be through parking meters or increased rates or any other measure we might propose.’

Nats MLC responds

The state government’s parliamentary secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin, said the report demonstrated that Byron Council should have invested more on road infrastructure.

However, he said that the government should also be taking more responsibility to assist communities that experienced very large influxes of tourism each year.

‘I believe that those communities, like the Byron Shire, that deliver most to the state’s economy through tourists should be considered for extra support,’ Mr Franklin said.

‘Obviously Council should have done more, but the state should too.’

According to the report, ‘every customer survey conducted by Byron Shire highlights that the very poor condition of the road network is the issue of greatest concern to the community and is causing the highest dissatisfaction rating’.

The report concludes that progressive increases in road funding should be included in Council’s Long Term Financial Plan and its 10-year capital plan to ensure that target levels are achieved within three years.

Road resealing and reconstruction in Byron – 2017/18 financial year

Road resealed: 16km (target: 39km).
Amount spent: $878,666 (target: $3.8m)

Road reconstructed: 1.3km (target: 6km).
Amount spent: $2.38m (target: $6-7.2m)


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11 COMMENTS

  1. What absolutely ridiculous responses from Simon Richardson. He says: “What this report doesn’t show is that we’re actually spending more on roads than we ever have”.

    Of course they are – they need to because there are more road users than ever before and they keep patching up roads that should be resurfaced.

    “It talks about really major spending… The difficulty is how to pay for that.”

    “As a council we’re pretty frugal – there isn’t a lot of fat to cut. Do we want to stop funding our libraries or our community halls or parks to pay for this?”

    How you about they stop wasting our money on pursuing court cases that council know and have received advice on that they are going to lose. A recent boundary adjustment request for a residential property owner cost the council (and us!) more than half a million.

    He also says: “You have the state government shifting more and more responsibility onto councils, and at the same time limiting our potential to generate more revenue from rate increases.”

    How about you focus on your charter instead of sticking council’s nose in issues that don’t concern you, like ‘changing the date’?

    Stop making excuses and get on with the job.

  2. Wider issues like ‘changing the date’ are also the realm of local government; however I don’t see paying a consultancy firm to run a duplicate (unelected) Council as frugal. All because Council believed it had a trust problem and blamed the ignorance of its constituents. Might a better way of overcoming a trust problem be displaying more trustworthiness?

    The State Govt is foisting more onto local government but I don’t know that it’s fair to say it has restricted the rate revenue too much after approving the largest variation in the state. Has this made no difference?

    What happened to the citizens committee we were promised at the time of the rate rise debate, designed to look at ways of generating non-rate revenue? Add to its charter a waste watch function and you never know what might emerge.

  3. Perhaps a moratorium on more tourist development might be a start.

    We get more tourists per capta of our population that Amsterdam, Barcelona and Ibiza in Spain. Those places try and manage demand on infrastructure made by tourists.

    Our roads are parlous as we get two million tourists a year using them, not just the 35,000 who live here.

    • Tourists make little difference to the state of roads Chris. At any one time they are only a small part of th e population and its traffic. They generally drive private cars which add to congestion but do little damage to the roads. Heavy vehicles, particularly those traveling at speed are the main contributor to broken roads and those vehicles are largely local.

      The dilemma for the Byron Shire is that once roads break up they cost far more to fix, and it is unfair on others in NSW to pay for neglect occasions by councils that the Byron Shire people chose. . Lismore Greens candidate Sue Higginson gives some clue in a emails to me and others to the source of he problem when she refers to: “…the only existing (very valuable) public transport asset we have in the region, namely the rail corridor”. When leaders do not regard the much larger transport network – the road system – as valuable, then we cannot be surprise when they let it deteriorate. This is ironic when I had pointed out that the Labor Greens government in the ACT was providing road transport that runs on 100% renewable power.

      I would urge residents of Ballina State Electorate to consider the commitment from parties to providing and funding the roads needed to provide private and public passenger and freight transport in our region, . I urge them too, to consider preferencing last those whose priorities show they do not unequivocally support maintaining our road system, and using it to provide the sustainable public transport we need..

  4. The workmanship when the roads are getting repaired is questionable. A crew of three have spent four full days on patching about 2.5km of a one lane road up Mullum Creek. The job is being done really badly, no dust and rubble is being removed beforehand. A dodgy job that no one would want to pay for privately. The contractor must be laughing all the way to the bank as he knows he’ll be back in no time. Is there anyone checking the job after the road has been repaired, Simon?? Huge amounts of money must be disappearing that way. Please go for a drive and check it out. Have a look at what you’re getting billed for. I believe you’re spending more than ever, omg.

  5. A roundabout that costs more than a hospital doesn’t sound too frugal. If the same mob are doing the bypass to nowhere its lack of traffic relevance will cost a fortune.

  6. Does anyone still believe in ” simple Simon” ? Doesn’t anybody notice the significant changes since he was elected to “local government “. Unfortunately, it seems some of the longer term ” locals” have had the wool pulled over their eyes, and have been fooled by Simon’s constant appearances in photo opportunities, just like “Tourism Australia’s latest poster person, Chris Hemsworth”. These sort of people, who originate from Melbourne or Phillip Island, are the worst sort of people for the town of Byron Bay to come since Hoges and his mates redeveloped the “Top Pub”. Simon is ruining Byron Bay. Don’t vote for him next time. As destructive as T Abbott in the seat of Warringah.

  7. As a regular visitor to Mullumbimbi and what should be a pleasant arrival at my friend,turns into a nightmare.
    Trying to avoid cavernous potholes and other traffic trying to do the same.
    Tourists cannot be blamed for the roads near my friend as this is a suburban area if Mullum.
    Shameful third world conditions.

  8. How about the un-necessary and no doubt expensive renovation of the council foyer for starters. I asked council staff why the work was being carried out, their reply was that it would enhance my customer experience. I asked in what way would my experience be enhanced when paying rates or making DA enquires compared to the old foyer ………… the staff were unable to reply and suggested the decision lay with the same bloke who ordered the trees cut down in Railway Park.
    Also Nicole is spot on regarding the quality of pot hole repairs, tarmac needs to be rolled or compressed to have any strength and there are more issues here than I can be bothered to document, except to say the excellent new road surface that was put into one half of Pine Avenue some time ago in Mullum, has yet to produced a pot hole and was done, I was told by a Ballina company.

  9. The council workers are shit at repairing roads ,they have no duty of care ,and that truck that spits out tar and cracker dust is an absolute joke you carn’t get a level surface with that thing when it does the shoulders of the road you end up with an equivalent of a cobbled road only its tar ,so people drive in the middle of the road and risk head on collisions ,by using this type of substandard way of repairing the roads has started to bite them and the community on the arse and oww thanks to the state government for doubling the tourism in the area ,which they vowed to do without putting there’re money towards the roads only towards advertising the area attracting more tourists, the base of the roads in this area where for farmers just a bare minimum of tar over gravel roads ,they are not built for heavy traffic loads which they are experiencing now ,the state don’t mind funding large amounts of police that come to town in wolf packs all under the excuse of the large amounts of traffic accidents in the area ,but for some reason the conditions of the roads is never mentioned,which is a major factor in causing these accidents, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of cuts the council can make to add more funds to the roads which in turn will ultimately save lives ,and ps get boral in to fix the roads as they always do a good job ,sick of seeing money wasted by fools that have no idea on how to fix a road

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